Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
I read Everyday Blessings when Soren was two, and I've picked it up again because a dear friend and I heard the authors speak a few months ago. I'm surprised at how relevant this book is to me now, as a different kind of parent. I love that these truths still stand.
Here are a few snippets that caught my eye again, from the list of twelve exercises for mindful parenting.
#1: Try to imagine the world from your child's point of view, purposely letting go of your own. Do this every day for at least a few moments to remind you of who this child is and what he or she faces in the world.
#3. Practice seeing your children as perfect just the way they are. See if you can stay mindful of their sovereignty from moment to moment, and work at accepting them as they are when is it hardest for you to do so.
I can't help but counterpose Everyday Blessings with another book I've just started, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, by Andrew Solomon. They complement each other well, at least through my filter as a mom of an atypical child.
Solomon uses "horizontal identity" to describe what happens when a child has a trait that is foreign to his or parents (such as hearing parents' having a deaf child). Instead of relying on the vertical identity passed down through generations, the child acquires horizontal identity from a peer group of those with similar traits.
Because prospective parents have ever-increasing options to choose against having children with horizontal challenges, the experiences of those who have such children are critical to our larger understanding of difference....These parents are profoundly changed by their experiences. Such parents tend to view aberrance as illness until habituation and love enable them to cope with their odd new reality--often by introducing the language of identity. Intimacy with difference fosters its accommodation....
The parental predisposition to love prevails in the most harrowing of circumstances. There is more imagination in the world than one might think.
What strikes me is that our children are not extensions of ourselves, and they shouldn't be. They are sovereign, as the Kabat-Zinns would say. We can have incredible love for our children, but they might have real differences that we may never (or could not ever) truly understand or take on. Having a child with special needs reminds me of this truth. The difference broadens us, however. We can't rely on how much our children are like us; we are forced to see their whole person, including their differences, and we love them in spite of and because of and alongside of those differences.
It makes sense that I contemplate difference and aberrance a lot, as I have just one child, who has special needs. I wonder if these truths would still apply if I had a typical child. For you parents who do, does this issue of sovereignty and difference in our children resonate with you, too?