that the seedling
is also greatly responsible for
Before my parenting journey began, I often imagined that I would raise my future children to be issue free. Please reread that sentence and soak in its absurdity. I thought I could protect my children from every –ism, every mistake, every heartache.
By the time I actually became a parent I had accepted that things might not be perfect, but I was hell bent on keeping things asperfectandpainlessaspossible for my child. After all, I had learned some hard lessons and felt I could make a pretty close to perfect life for my child. Why would she need to struggle when I already had? All I had to do was teach her how to avoid the pitfalls that I had experienced. Easy!
Little by little, and 3 kids later, I am learning and relearning that I can’t keep my children pain free. Recently, I was talking to two members of my village about how to help one of my children with some school troubles. We bounced around ideas and then one of them pressed pause on the whole conversation and said: “These are good ideas, but nothing is going to teach him quite like struggling through it.” My heart sank. I didn’t want him to feel less than what I knew he was: Enough Just As He Is.
But as I let the thought of his struggle being important percolate, I began to breathe easier. Maybe it wasn’t my job to prevent hurt feelings on the playground, a less than perfect student-teacher fit, consequences of unmet responsibilities, hurting someone else, self-doubt and negative self-talk, any and everything that would break his heart.
Think of the hardest experiences you’ve had. Think of the lessons you’ve learned from them. Now imagine that someone just told you those lessons, asked you to take notes, and then shielded you from ever learning it for yourself. I don’t know about you, but I just wouldn’t have learned. I wouldn’t have learned that by shutting down from pain, I also shut down from joy. I wouldn’t have learned what love isn’t. And, so, by logic, I wouldn’t have learned what love is. I wouldn’t have learned that I can bear two miscarriages and the anxiety that came with my subsequent pregnancies. I wouldn’t have learned that I can survive the grief of losing a loved one. I wouldn’t have learned that she is still with me every day. And I wouldn’t have learned that the grief I survived will come back and burn as fiercely as the first time and then recede again. If I hadn’t first hated my faults, I wouldn’t have learned to love them. I wouldn’t have learned that everything is my teacher. Nothing matches experiential learning. Traveling through my struggle is the only way to my next lesson, my next burst of creativity, or my next way to give.
As it turns out, I can’t make my kids’ lives perfect. I can plant seeds, add nutrients to the soil, and water consistently. Their struggle, that soil that they are pushing through, is their teacher and friend. Their struggle will have more impact than any protective bubble and life-instruction-sheet I can hand them. I can’t deny my children their right to the struggle. How else will they blossom into who they were meant to be?