All week I’ve been thinking about what it is I want for my children. What would I need as a parent to feel successful? More importantly what do they need as children to be “successful” as adults?” In the midst of my pondering we had a small scare that really got me thinking. On Tuesday night Lisa dropped Kirsten off at Hula. Yes, she has a hula class where she learns to use a hula hoop with other like minded girls. I haven’t seen her use a hula hoop since she began lessons last semester. I imagine she is quite good at it now. Perhaps I can convince her to share a video sometime.
The plan was for Lisa to walk over with the dogs to pick Kirsten up and walk back. The wellness centre where Kirsten practices is about a kilometre from here. Lilli volunteered to make the walk over instead. She left about 15 minutes before Kirsten’s class was due to end. 20 minutes later Lisa jumped in the car to meet the girls over there and see if they’d like to walk back or get a ride. In another 20 minutes Kirsten showed up at the house alone. She hadn’t seen Lilli or Lisa. Another five minutes passed and Lisa returned home, again without Lilli. This is when I started to get nervous.
Lilli left the house with the dogs 40 minutes earlier and no one knew where she was. So much can happen in 40 minutes. I forced those thoughts down and reasoned that some miscommunication had taken place. I jumped in the car and drove to Lilli’s friends home down the street… she was not there. As I entered the first of several round-abouts on my way to the wellness centre I was finding it more difficult to suppress thoughts of worst case scenarios. Strangely the emotion I was feeling most was anger. There is not much between the wellness centre and our home that could happen to a person to put them in danger so thoughts of the ill designs of depraved men kept rattling around in my skull. My parental defensive instincts were fully charged but I had no child to defend, and no target to set my sites on.
Just as I emerged from the second round-about there was Lilli walking down the street with the dogs in the lead. When she opened the car door and hopped in I could tell she was on the verge of tears. It turned out she had gone to the wrong side of the building. It was, after all, simply a little miscommunication. As we reentered the round-about on the way home I spotted Lisa walking down the sidewalk in search of Lilli. I could see the worry written across her face and then the instant relief as she saw Lilli in the passenger seat. The door was soon flung open and Lilli’s tears she’d so valiantly kept at bay spilled out to mingle with Lisa’s. The crisis had passed, the storm abated and all was well. There was never any danger only the fear of possibilities.
This little incident, something every parent likely experiences at least once, pushed me to consider whether I should fear those possibilities at all? Could something horrible and terrifying happen to my children my wife or me? Yes. Will I make reasonable and consistent efforts to lessen those possibilities? Absolutely. Should I fear them? If they occur how should I respond; how would I respond? These are more difficult questions to answer.
One of my favourite fairy tales is Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. I tend to like other tellings of it too. The idea of good fairies that bestow gifts on the fair princess has always been a source of contemplation for me. In the LDS church we perform an ordinance of naming and blessing our newborn babes. I always think of Sleeping Beauty every time a baby is blessed. If I could bestow a single gift on each of my children would it be protection (insulation) from the evil designs of others? I imagine my children growing to then become wealthy and powerful which are the two things (wealth and power) I believe have more potential for spiritual and mental harm than anything else. The reasons for that belief are too many for this post though. Let it suffice that wealth and power are not high on the list of things I hope for my children if they make the list at all.
Ultimately I cannot protect my children from all the dangers of the world. What then would I “bestow” upon my children if I could? To answer that I’ve mulled over what would give me the most pleasure to see develop in my children as they grow. Would I like to see Kirsten become a renowned artist, Lilli an esteemed academic and Jaron a fine athlete? How about simple health and happiness? Trophies, awards and accolades for feats of determination, perseverance and consistent good work would all be quite gratifying. Certainly I would be pleased to see them raise wonderful families with a person they love. All of these things would be nice but not necessary.
I picture Jaron at school one day and a boy prompting him to play a small trick on another student and Jaron declining to do so because he knows it would hurt the others feelings. I picture Lilli seeing a little girl every lunch hour without a lunch and Lilli sharing hers quietly with her each day. I picture Kirsten being bullied by a girl at school but sensing this girls’ motivations learns all she can about the “bully” and after considerable effort discovers her true motivations and makes a lifelong friend rather than an enemy. In other words, I wish for my children a generous portion of charity. Should they be called to drink deep from bitter cups may they not in turn become bitter. Should their lives prove a cornucopia of wealth, power and riches may they determinedly resist gluttony and instead willingly and generously share their wealth with all. This is my fondest hope and desire for them.
Would it not be lovely if we could invite a few fairies to visit the cradles of our children and bestow such a gift upon them? Sadly it does not work that way. When LDS children are given a name and a blessing their fathers ought not suppose that the blessings they pronounce are granted by God in some magical fairy like way. No, the words those fathers utter in blessing may instead be called upon as evidence in their future judgement (either for or against). I am convinced that by our examples we daily wave our magic wands over the fates and the lives of our children.
Lisa shared a poignant commercial on the power of example on Facebook the other day. It shows parents acting poorly and kids mimicking their behaviour. I think the message would have been better served had they depicted parents acting nobly and their children acting accordingly. Consider the power of these two videos with similar messages but different approaches:
This next video is actually a Coca-Cola advertisement (the use of which may be my mind’s deep desire to break my personal cola ban) but I think that while both messages are similar (clearly not exactly the same) the positive approach of the second will more likely inspire people to positive action than the negative approach of the first. (Certainly Coca-Cola believes drinking their product would be positive).
This too long post has finally brought me to the conclusion of this weeks pondering. What I want for my children is ultimately what I want for myself to live a charitable life regardless of the circumstances. If I can live a life of charity and focus that example in a positive way I believe that is the most likely way to pass the blessings of a charitable life on to my children.
So I suppose, in the end, if my life is a Coke commercial I’ll feel that I’ve succeeded.