AUTHOR: Carolyn Savage | POSTED: 10/20/14 1:32 PM
CATEGORIES: Blog, compassionate parenting, perspective, Resilience
Sean and I have spent our entire parenting careers trying to instill certain values in our children. They are the same values that were instilled in us by our own parents and to us they are platitudes to live by and remember. And, my guess is, they aren’t all that unique. Good people don’t become good people without walking a certain talk and sharing certain values.
The values of dedication and diligence; honesty and integrity; and compassion and humility have always been common threads of our parent-speak. Those lessons are so well-intended but, I fear there is one lesson about reality we forgot to instill in our kids.
An unpleasant one at that.
Teaching our kids to live a good life–to be a good person–always includes the aforementioned virtues. But somewhere down the line, I allowed my children to assume that if you live a certain way; if you walk a certain talk; if you work hard and consistently; if you tell the truth and live honorably; if you are kind to others putting their needs ahead of your own the people around you will value your efforts. You will be rewarded.
And that isn’t always the case.
Because life is often unfair.
I suppose teaching our children about the unfairness of the world is something that we, as protective parents, have a hard time doing. We want to shield our children from pain, and we fear that if we lift the veil on the randomness of loss, we’ll scare them–or discourage them. Teaching about unfairness is also kind of tricky. I can tell a six year old that if she practices her piano her teacher will be happy; or explain to a fifteen year old that his academic efforts will be rewarded when it comes college admissions time. Those lessons are fairly objective. But the world isn’t always black and white.
Subjectivity can be confusing.
We all know that unfairness always comes. Sometimes because of random acts of nature. Other times at the hands of people. And what makes it scary is that we can’t explain it. The “why” is absent. So we struggle.
Struggling is difficult. Watching your child struggle is excruciating.
Obviously, Sean and I are currently experiencing a situation with one of our children that has rattled us. I think one of the reasons it’s been so unsettling is because the rationale behind the situation flys in the face of the virtues we’ve worked so hard to instill. In this case, our child’s dedication and diligence; honesty and integrity; and compassion and humility was completely disregarded. The situation was a blindside and like everything unfair–the “why” is absent.
Kids are resilient, though. I keep telling myself this. I will admit my child isn’t handling the situation the way I would handle it. But—that’s okay. My child isn’t me. I have to honor that. All I can do is be present; be respectful; and be willing to listen and guide if the need presents itself. I also have to repress my urge to rip the face off of the person who has led us down this path. That, my friends, is a feat. (Ahem…I am nine months pregnant. I’m guessing I might be able to plea temporary insanity in the event of losing control.)
Of course, that would help no one.
Last week Sean and I were recounting times in our lives where the virtues we live by didn’t seem to matter. As a result, the lesson about life being unfair came up. I also confided in my dad. He reminded me that unfairness usually leads to valuable life lessons. Of course, at the time, I didn’t really want to hear it—sometimes I need to wallow a bit— but deep down I knew he was right.
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.“
Being screwed over always hurts. Watching your child get screwed over is even more painful, but time does manage to heal. If there is healthy support the lessons of suffering can pave the way to a deeper understanding of the world and the people around us. Suffering builds strength and, if channeled positively, can give the gifts of compassion and perspective. Good can come of this. It still hurts, though.
Of course, this won’t be the first unfair thing that happens to my child. It also, probably–and sadly–won’t be the worst. It’s an important lesson. One that I hope causes a double down of efforts to be dedicated and diligent in work; to live honestly and with integrity in life; and treat others with compassion while remembering the importance of humility.
That’s where I’m hanging my hat this morning.
I know, I know. This was a heavier than normal post for me. Rest assured, tomorrow I’ll return as my normal, silly self. Just needed to get this off my chest. There. I feel better now.