Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Parental sacrifices

How many of us parents wear our sacrifices like badges of honor? And then, in turn, hope for appreciation from our kids.

I’ve fallen into that trap too many times lately. Of course, sometimes it’s sparked by outrageous comments by my two teenagers, but just the same, I shouldn’t rise to that bait.

My son happened to mention recently that because he empties the dishwasher, takes out the trash and waters the lawn, he “does all the work around here.” This led to an immediate major regrettable “you have no idea what I do” flare up from Mom. Not one of our finest exchanges.

It’s undeniable, though, that most parents put their children’s best interests ahead of their own instinctively. It’s not even given a second thought—it’s just what we do. And this is right and good. We get into trouble when we want the recipients of all this goodness to understand and appreciate it. As my best friend said to me a few days ago, “They won’t appreciate it until they have children of their own.”

My spiritual study brought me some peace on this issue. Take a look at these verses from Psalm 51 (a favorite of mine):

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

--Psalm 51

This really spoke to me. It’s not the sacrifice of things that counts. It’s not that I can’t buy that black leather couch or go on that trip to Europe because the kids need other things. It’s not that I don’t go out with friends but instead stay home. I shouldn’t mentally whine about these decisions or expect the kids to appreciate it. It just comes with the territory.

But that broken heart—that’s the sacrifice God wants from me as a parent. What does that mean? To me lately, it’s meant being humble enough to listen to my children when they tell me things about our relationship that bother them. It’s meant being willing to see things from their perspective, and to admit my own failings. It’s meant accepting responsibility for some of their bad feelings in order to help them release resentment.

For example, several years ago we took a nine-day road trip around the Southwest—the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, the Vermillion Cliffs, Death Valley, Lake Isabella, Sequoia, Yosemite, the works. The kids were twelve and seven or so. I had an absolute blast. I loved discovering things, seeing the incredible grandeur of the setting, taking millions of pictures, hiking all over.

Funny thing is, though, they don’t remember it that way. In recent weeks, they’ve both said little things that made me realize they didn’t have the same experience I did. They remember mostly dreary hours of driving in the car.

And when I think about it, all those years were on my terms. I was calling the shots, and they had to just come along. I wanted to do things that were enriching and fun, and the things were, but they were also my decisions all the time.

This is the nature of parenting. You get to call the shots and the kids are along for the ride. The same experience, no matter how enriching, can have a totally different impact on the different participants.

So my sacrifice today is of my own point of view. To give up my own perspective and try to see theirs. This is a healing thought for me and it fills their needs today better.

And there’s one other thing I need to do. I need to call my own mom and let her know—now, I get it.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 5/03/2006 04:12:00 PM, Blogger Vicki said...

Hi Laura, Thanks for your timely words. I discovered a while ago that if I listened carefully to the words of chastisement that
I spoke/whined/shouted at the kids - they really were exactly what I needed someone to say to me.
And I expect them to be better than the example I set! Am I taking S.& H. out of context if I apply to this situation:
"The fountain can rise no higher than its source."?
This is one of the things about C.S. I love - putting it all into daily practice!
Regards, Vicki

At 5/03/2006 04:14:00 PM, Anonymous Mom said...

Dear Laura,
You are precious to me.I am your #1 fan. You have given me wonderful memories, and I am proud and grateful to be your mom.
Love, Mom


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