I just have to share this story as it was so heartfelt, and although small in nature, it was huge in impact! As I was teaching a recent Creating Positive Energy Workshop, one of the participants was struggling with something. I didn’t really know what, but could tell that things were uneasy.
We were talking about the struggles of parenting and how we all have these expectations of our children. We would like to think that we don’t, but if we are truly honest, most of us want certain things for our children. We have an image in our mind of them going to university, getting a great career, finding that one true love and eventually having a family.
What’s interesting is we don’t actually think much about what our children really want. What is their passion, who do they want to become and how can we support them in their endeavours? So, what happens when our child wants something totally different than what we had envisioned?
As usual I ask the audience some simple questions. That’s my job, to make us think. How did you feel when you were 18 or even 23 and your parents tried to direct you to do things? Maybe your parents tried hard to put pressure on you to do certain things. How did that make you feel? Most of us would say we hated it, it was uncomfortable and often made us feel that if we didn’t do as requested we would be letting them down. But then we become parents and we do exactly the same thing to our children as our parents did to us. We logically know it doesn’t work but we do it anyway. I ask the question, “why?”
We also want to believe that we are the providers of Unconditional Love. But the reality is that most of us are not. We love our children deeply but we love them more when they are doing what we expect of them. I know this sounds harsh but for many of us this is true, especially if we are really honest with ourselves. We are certainly much happier when the kids are towing the line.
So back to my story! On the break this lovely gentleman approaches me and begins to talk about his daughter. A 24 year old who lives in Calgary and who does not have a lot of contact with mom and dad. You could see the sadness in his eyes as he tells the story. He goes on to say that when she was a young teenager she began to get tattoos. She is covered with brightly colored tattoos on her arms and back. He spoke about her piercings and choice of friends. She was always doing very strange things, like purchasing exotic pets, specifically iguanas. Her iguana’s name was Chuck. I asked him if his daughter made him live with the reptile. The answer was no. I asked how much contact he and his wife had with her and he said that he texts her all of the time but doesn’t get much response. They have a relationship, but it is strained at the best of times.
I asked him if his daughter was a nice person. Did she have friends and a job she liked? Did she seem happy? He said that for the most part he thought his daughter was happy, but that it would be so nice if she decided to go to university and get a better career and make more money. I asked him if he thought his daughter sensed his disappointment. He knew the answer immediately. Of course she did. I asked him if he loved her and of course the answer was yes. I asked him what it would be like if he simply accepted her exactly the way she was with no other expectations or conditions to the relationship. What would happen if he made it about her and not about him? What if he took an interest in her life with no strings attached. You could tell that all of my questions had him thinking.
As the afternoon progressed, we found ourselves at the next break. He came up to me and stated that he had texted his daughter an hour earlier and simply asked, “How is Chuck?”Within an hour his daughter had called him just to see how he was. They hadn’t spoken in weeks.
Our children are unique individuals with their own unique personalities, interests and desires. I can’t believe that we actually want our children to be like us. Why can’t we simply accept them as they are? When we begin to realize that our children simply want to find their true nature, become who they are meant to be, and be loved for exactly who they are, then we can begin to have healthy and loving relationships based on unconditional love. We become less of a parent and more of a friend.
When a child of any age receives true unconditional love, they begin to shine in ways we never imagined. They come into their own and find their true self knowing that no matter what they will be accepted for who they truly are.