I have a friend who is a narrative therapist. I met her when my children were still very young and over the years I have phoned her up and cried “HELP!”
On one particular day she listened to me ramble on and on about my insecurities about being a mother, my incessant worry over my children and the fact that I ‘carried’ their hurt all the time. If they were lonely or felt that they didn’t fit in with their peers or if a friend had been nasty to them I would jump in and try and ‘fix’ things or I would try and compensate in other ways for their being hurt or sad.
Eventually my friend stopped me rambling and asked “Noel, what do you want for your children?”
My immediate response was “I want them to be happy!”
AND then she said something that changed the course of how I viewed motherhood. She said “You cannot want that for your children. If they never experience unhappiness, how will they know what happiness feels like? If they never experience failure, how will they ever know the joy of success? If they were never bullied or hurt or lonely or depressed, how will they be able to develop empathy for others who are experiencing these feelings?”
In other words how will we or our children be able to grow into our full potential as human beings if we do not experience pain, hurt and disappointment. It is what we do with these emotions that is important.
I realized then that if my children were to grow and develop into compassionate and caring individuals they would need to experience failure, sadness, depression, and loneliness to appreciate success, happiness, a good mental attitude and to learn the value of friendship.
My responsibility was to allow them to experience, feel and express the full gamut of these emotions. One of the biggest gifts I could give them was the gift of listening without trying to jump in and fix everything for them. To advise them, to guide them and then to let them have the freedom to manage and own their emotions.
If I am asked the same question today “What do you want for your children?” my response is “I want them to grow up with a sense of their own self-worth. With the knowledge that no matter what happens to them in life they will be able to overcome any difficulty. I want them to grow up in the knowledge that God loves them and desires the best for them”.
I want them to grow up believing and living the second greatest commandment that Jesus gave us.
“Love your neighbour as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:39)
I want them to be able to love themselves in order that they can love others.