I look now at my parents from a parent’s perspective. I see more clearly the adult issues that they lived through while parenting me. I have a better idea of how hard it is to maintain stability in the midst of change or heartache or grief or crises of faith. I see now how far a paycheck goes (or doesn’t go). I glimpse the baggage they brought into parenthood and I admire the efforts they made to save me from it, though they couldn’t wholly save me from it (nor could they prevent me from developing my own to bring with me).
To some degree, as much as we may try not to, we will all pass on to our children pieces of our own dysfunction; and to some degree, they will develop their own dysfunctions, maybe even in an effort to combat ours.
I never read a baby book that warned me of this, but it’s the truth. We are the arrows our parents shot out into the world and we bring with us pieces of the places from which we came, from which they came, and so on.
A life’s legacy is not merely its ancestry. Each life gets to create their own piece of the legacy.
This point is not lost on parents. In fact, we are often obsessed with the idea of making an incredible (perfect) legacy our of our life and our children’s lives, to all of our own detriment.
The goal of parenting is not to be perfect or to raise perfect children or to give them a perfect childhood. It’s not possible, so the sooner we can accept that and move forward, the better.
What we can do is create for our children a childhood that reflects our values, hopes, and dreams for them. We can bring into their childhood a light of love to shine over them, filling them up so they can also pour out. We can display forgiveness, mercy, gratitude, grace. We can model kindness, perseverance, generosity, self-care, and a sense of humor. We can let them see us be human, so they can know that they are free to be human too. So they can know that everybody gets scraped up living life; everyone bleeds, everyone needs, nobody’s perfect, and nobody can be.
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”