My mother told me you get the kids you deserve. She wasn’t rebuking me (at least I don’t think so). She was saying your kids are here to teach you something. Something that you would never learn (or would be harder to learn) on your own.
My kids have clearly driven me crazy at times. By crazy, I mean the crazy Bill Cosby refers to, when a parent starts talking, out loud, to…nobody. I’ve had many conversations with my kids and they’re not even in the room. (My wife seems to bring a similar effect. Funny.)
There are many days where I want to blame my kids for my problems, as if they are the cause of my problems.
Ok, let’s go down this path. What if they are the cause of my problems? Well, maybe I shouldn’t be around them anymore. After all, they are the problem. So I’ll spend more time away from them. Spend more time with friends, or at work. Maybe indulge in things I like. Watch more TV, drink a little more. (I don’t drink, but parents have confessed this to me as a desire.) Or how about finding a better spiritual place. Go on a long individual retreat, or meditate everyday. Then I can get away from this life. Then I’ll have no more problems.
Perhaps this is not the answer.
We can renounce our kids, but nothing comes of that. We certainly don’t grow and evolve. Our lives, trust me, are not better at the absence of our children. Time away from children, which can be healthy, is not the same as trying to get away from parenting. Our problems are our problems, wherever we go. A true life is, well, about life. Not getting away from life.
So, what on earth are these crazy kids trying to teach us? Let’s start with a simple one: to pay attention to them. Which means paying more attention to the things around us. Which also means paying less attention to ourselves.
This can be tricky to notice. Most parents feel they spend most of their time, too much of their time, paying attention to their kids’ needs and ignoring their own. In closer look, however, many times the focus on the kids is a mask; it blurs the work parents should be doing in taking care of their spiritual needs. I was recently talking to a mom who complained about being tired all the time; because of this, her doctor suggested taking a vacation. She refused this idea, though, because “who would take care of the kids?” Keep in mind that both kids are in high school, and would be able to stay with their father, her divorced husband. The idea of not being available to her children (and let’s note, her children not being available for her) was enough to prevent her from good self-care, prompted by her doctor.
So let’s pay real, actual attention. Which means seeing your kids for who they are and meeting them there. It means being attached to, not detached from, parenting and children. It means having a discipline of self – taking care of our interior so that we are healthy enough to parent. It means doing the job. And it may mean going crazy every once in awhile.