Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Smooth Sea Never Made a Skilled Sailor

When a child cries, a parent cries... my father once told me, when I was going through a hard time in my mid-20s. It was uncharacteristic of him to express feelings of that nature.

I mentioned it in my father's eulogy. Later my brother came over and asked: Dad said that?!

Yes, once.

Dad was always afraid that we wouldn't be tough enough to survive in the "real world." He had been left to make it on his own (at age 4) after the death of his father in World War I. The oldest child of a widowed mother, by age 5 he was supplementing their family income by herding geese for a neighbor.

I never had anyone to stick up for me, he told me more than once, so I was usually blamed when my friends and I got into trouble.

I had to make it on my own, and I did. A lot of people I knew - who started with a lot more support - didn't. I wonder if life has been too easy for you, and you won't survive.

I didn't know what to say - but, in response, I asked for very little help. I had to prove to him that I could do it on my own.

As a parent, I chose a very different parenting style from my parents'. I chose to be there for my kids, helping them as much as I could. Was I - like many in my generation - guilty of being overly involved in "helping"?

We criticized ourselves for over-organizing their sports and after-school activities ... (When we were young, we had been left to fend for ourselves in the playground after school.) We questioned the wisdom of what we were doing... yet we didn't stop. With our help, we expected them to achieve much more than we ever did ...

Now that they are young adults, do we expect perfect jobs, perfect homes and perfect lives for our children...? (After all, we've given them all they should ever need... )

But some - are struggling - like we did. And I confess I am dismayed to see my children struggle... I want to jump in and help...!

But today I came across an enlightening proverb:

A Smooth Sea Never Made a Skilled Sailor.

Yes, they do have to struggle, making their own choices, because that's the only way any of us ever learn. There simply are no short-cuts. Like those of us who have gone before, they need the bumps and bruises of experience to develop the strength and the skill they need.

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