Monday, November 13, 2006

The Humanity of Parents and Children

It’s a weird fact of nature that draws from how our brains develop. As children we’re concrete, literal thinkers, sort of binary computers. We construct meaning by find out what things are and are not. We point to colors and ask what is that. People tell us until we have our own concept. That’s why we love the game of opposites.

As children we find reality in false opposites. To a child’s mind, dog is the opposite of cat. Mom is the opposite of Dad, and brother is the opposite of sister. We also think that grown-ups know everything − that because they answer our questions, we assume they hold the answer to every question. We endow them with complete information.

Those definitions make sense at young ages. In fact, they are vital to our sense of security.

The problem is that those definitions stay with us. Most of us become grown-ups who unconsciously believe that our parents are not human, but one of two opposites − a god or a shell of a being. That happens when we can’t untangle their very human flaws and fears. Like a child does, we take responsibility. Whatever they feel must be our fault. Whatever they did in some way we were the cause. Will we remember that?

I was 26 when my mom died. I was 27, when I first began to see her as a woman, not my mother. It took her death for the words and roles, daughter, mother, to move out of the way so that I could see the person. Things that I thought she thought about me, things that I thought were my failings, I finally realized were really her human, natural, oh so forgivable, responses to losing a baby. I had constructed to many ideas on a child’s interpretations of her actions, and once those roles were forged, we both thought we knew. We didn’t.

Parents are people. Children can’t see that. It’s true the other way as well.

Forgiveness. Compassion. Distance. Seeing.

If only we could shed our roles and our histories to meet again with the generosity we give to strangers.

−me strauss Letting me be


Tell No One said...

My heart is racing.

Thank you for writing this tonight.


"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Hi Dear One,
I'm glad to know you heard what I was saying. We don't see each anymore when only the roles and past pains are there. i'm glad you got to go to sleep.:)

Anonymous said...

Your post finds me nodding my head and acknowledging how that same dynamic plays out over and over in so many of our human relationships beyond parent-child. Although that one is the primary one.

Your post makes me stop and wonder about relationships and how they need to grow and mature, just as we do.

Thanks Liz.

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

What a good point you make about relationships needing to grow and mature. It's sad that some don't. As Steve Farber said, "I can't hear you if I don't hear myself first."

dsnake1 said...

when i was younger i looked upon my parents as someone who knows more and knows what's best for us, their children. only when we were older, and later when they were gone, do we see the flaws and failings that they have. but this does not diminish the fact that i still love them, even more so as i grow older.

yeah, how did you come out with post after quality post? :)

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Thank you, Dsnake,
I worry so that this post won't be as well-written, well-thought or interesting as the last. I try so to listen to what people say so that I can bring a genuine life experience to the thoughts I write about. I owe to you,

Lorelie said...

wow. thanks for sharing this.

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

thank you,dragonfly.
for saying so.