Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Growing Up Again

It was about 15 years ago right before my cousin, Michael, got married. My husband and I met Michael for dinner. He spoke of the wedding and how he wanted to have kids so that he "could grow up all over again." Being a few years older and a parent already, I found that sentence fascinating. The conversation turned before I could pursue it, but the sentence stayed with me. I've often wondered what Michael meant by the sentence, if he knew the truth of what he was saying.

As my child grew up, I did grow up all over again, but not in the way that most might imagine. I was the parent but could still remember being the child. I was living both points of view. Suddenly what our family calls the mother's curse,
'I hope you have one just like you," became a plea for understanding. I realized that parents are people finding their way as much as children are.

It was quite humbling to stand before my child and not know the answer.

I had judged my mother as lacking when she couldn't read my mind. But there I would stand unable to tell whether my own child really didn't understand what I was saying, or he just didn't want to do what I asked. How did I choose the right response? Wrong one way, and I hurt his feelings; wrong the other, and I let him get away with something; wrong at all, and I lost his respect. At each turn, my forgiveness for my parents grew as I began to understand their humanness and their humanity. I had known that I was not blessed with perfect parents. I had not considered how unfair it was to expect that I should be.

Then as my son grew older and spoke of his thoughts, I saw a young man who was more and more becoming who he is--a strong, deeply caring, intelligent person, a decent human being. He is a friend who brings laughter and perception to all of his endeavors. I remember thinking how much his friends must enjoy his company, how much I enjoy his company. I know exactly where I was sitting when I realized that that he got some of those traits from his father and me. That day I started to learn about myself by looking at how my son is like me.

I thought I knew what having a child would be like. Almost immediately, I learned that you don't get the child you order, you get the child who is part of you. Soon after my son arrived, I learned that thinking I knew how this would go was at best naivete at worst the arrogance of youth.

Children are the best teachers a parent could hope for. He taught me about my parents. My son taught me about myself. He taught me patience, flexilibility, and problem solving. He taught me about life by the way he lives his life. He taught me about a whole new kind of love. I realized soon after he was born that children were put on earth to humble their parents.

I did grow up again through my son, this time with a lot more humility.

—me strauss Letting me be

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