I recently got together with a woman regarding a project I want to start and at some point, she told me that her parents were too busy to give her a middle name. For some reason, this seemed important to me (and it seemed she wanted to share some things) so I began to listen.
Her parents were both professionals. They didn’t have much time for kids but felt obligated to have a few. Her parents never asked how school was going. She learned that the only way to get attention was to be perfect … but she admitted that even that wasn’t enough. Her parents never spent any time with her as a young adult. Never visited her in college and when they died, my friend felt a sense of relief — she no longer had to work so hard to have parents.
I often wonder what my children will take from their childhood. The crazy italian behaviors I have? The dancing in the kitchen, shower, grocery store or movie theatre? Will they think that I was working too hard to make ends meet? Will they feel worried about money? Will they feel the total love and openness (to a fault) that I base my life on? Will they do good in the world where I couldn’t?
I have another friend whose childhood was also really tough, yet he’s learned to look at it, understand that some of his behaviors come from that time and he’s become a very different person and partner than his parents.
In listening the other night, I found a commonality that I couldn’t ignore:
Both my friends found people in their lives to use as role models. Sure, they weren’t their parents, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that learned, by watching others, how to have grace, joy and love in their lives.
My friends found causes bigger than themselves. They invested their lives in helping others and in turn, that’s helped them grow as people and as partners. They also both intentionally set their sights on building chains of days filled with compassion and grace.
As I was driving home I felt two things. First, I was thankful for my childhood (as wacky as it was) because it made me who I am today. Second, I felt sad that so many people are not like my friends. They never figure out how to find that love or “fix” that childhood and they end up doing things that have horrible, horrible results.
How can we ignore that there is nothing more precious and important than figuring out how to help our (collective “our”) children? How can we help those blank slates, find that which many of us know in our hearts — that there is love for all of us and we can all fit in? I’m not sure of the answer, but now it’s on my mind …
I hope you all have a wonderful day!