Letting our kids (family & friends) walk their own path
Last Sunday my oldest child Lachlan became a teenager. Born on February 13th… just one day short of the “Day of Love.” But I was two weeks overdue, with a belly about to burst, and when the doctor asked if I wanted to wait one a day longer so he could be born on Valentine’s day I replied, “Hell no, let’s get this baby out!” Or maybe I didn’t put it quite that way, but that was how I felt. Eager to meet the baby that had been keeping me awake for nights on end with his acrobatic maneuvers.
And I remember the moment he finally arrived in the world – 13 long hours of painful labor and one emergency cesarean section later – crying so hard that the doctors became alarmed that my spinal block was wearing off. But they were not tears of pain. They were tears of sheer and, pure joy. I get a lump just recalling that moment.
Of course I tried to retell Lachlan this story on his birthday. He wasn’t really interested in the “gory” bits. Just the bit about how he screamed really loudly on arrival and, at 9 pounds, was the largest baby born that day. He was proud of that. But then there are lots of things I try to tell Lachlan, my quick witted, insanely untidy and extremely social newbie teenager. Things that will help him navigate his way through life, avoid some of the potholes I landed in, and make wise choices in his friends and free time and study and everything else. And hopefully some of what I have to say he takes in. Even if distractedly. But what I’ve come to accept more and more as a parent is that my kids have their own path to walk, and while I can help giving e them some pointers along the way, I can’t walk it for them. I can just let them know that I’m here cheering for them, and happy to be a sounding board, taxi driver, birthday cake maker, or whatever else they need me to be in the process of becoming the amazing adults I know they will become.
Which makes gets me thinking about how I got to where I am today. Through lots of falling down and getting back up. But also with a deep knowing that I was loved and lovable even when I acted in ways that weren’t so endearing to my own parents or anyone else.
And what about you? What lessons have you learned t on the way to where you are now? And while I’m sure you could look back and think how, if some things had been different during your own teen years and early adulthood, it would have been easier, I’m hopeful that you are ultimately grateful for all that you have learned t about yourself and about life as you getting got to the place you sit at today, reading this email… After all, you would not be you, had you not had to fall down, get up and learn how to move on as you did – whether in your friendships, marriage, career or any other area of your life.
If there is a lesson from all of this for me… and hopefully for you… it is that we ultimately need to let other people figure out life for themselves. I’m sure there are people in your life whom you see acting in ways that upset you. People you care about who are making choices that you don’t think are going to will serve them. Or worse, could really hurt them or others. They’re saying things that will damage relationships, and burn bridges, and cause heart ache. They’re taking risks that you think are far more reckless than courageous. But in the end, you can’t live their life for them. All you can do is live your own life the very best you can, be a friend, a sounding board, and hopefully, by living the values you hold most dear, inspiring those around you to do the same.
I love my kids, all four of them. Fiercely. And I hope with all my heart they grow up to lives that are self-expressed and rewarding, lives rich in joy, and love and adventure. But I know that along the way they are going to have to deal with their own adversities… in some form or another. I just pray I will have done a good job imparting to them the courage and confidence they need to emerge out the other side of their setbacks, sorrows and struggles that much more stronger, wiser, more grateful and better off than they were before.
Ultimately we all learn more from life from the times when things don’t go our way, than when from the times they do. And so [pullquote]just as you have wisdom to gain from the challenges you are facing in your life today, so too do those around you have lessons to learn along their journey through life.[/pullquote]Be the change you want to see in the world. Be the adult you’d like your kids to become. And accept that everyone around you has their own path to follow, even if it diverges from that which you would follow yourself.