"Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist" – Michael Levine
Parenting takes practice. As a matter of fact, even though I’ve only been at it for a few years, I think it may not only take practice, but in the grand scheme of it all, it IS a practice. Just as doctors and lawyers have practices, I consider myself to be a parenting practioner, for life.
Which brings me to a sermon I heard a couple of weeks ago, about parents disowning their grown children because of their sexual orientation. It is not the only reason parents disown children – racial, religious, political, and other lifestyle choices also result in kin disowning kin. While you may legally be able to disown a child, I’m not quite sure how you direct your heart to do the same – the heart trades in different social currency.
It made me think, and think hard about my ongoing parenting practice. As a matter of fact, I’m still thinking – especially about the concept of ownership and disownership.
I can see where some parents might get the wrong idea and assume they do, in fact, ‘own’ their children. From the beginning, one way or another they are handed to you, and entrusted into your care. You are responsible for their basic and not so basic needs. Much of this is transitory in nature - is it merely a coincidence that parent contains the word “rent”? I think not.
It depends what you mean. Own as property? I thought we had abolished the idea that anyone could own another human being more than a few years ago? However, there are many ways “own” can be used, in a positive and nurturing way. Like all the times a child runs to a parent to show them something they accomplished – on their “own” – a profound moment for both parent and child. A moment where the parent acknowledges their practice will undergo a shift in focus – one in a long line of future shifts required to keep the practice viable over time.
As our kids grow, we encourage them to take responsibility for their choices and actions. We tell them not to make excuses, or lay blame on anyone else, or to bend to the pressure of peers. In fact, we tell them they need to “own up” to their actions. The parenting practice requires us to teach them these things; sometimes by example, sometimes by encouragement, and yes, even sometimes by enforcement.
Further down the road we extol to our children the virtue of learning to stand on their “own” two feet. We want them to be happy, successful, productive and independent in the world. And so, along the way, we practice giving them opportunities to stand on their own, and we are there to catch them when needed, lean on if required, pick them up a time or two when warranted, or watch and encourage them to get back up on their own when the time is right. After all, you have to own up before you become a grown up, right?
So many joys and struggles; triumphs and defeats; opportunities and lessons.
So much practice.
Why then, after all that, when your child comes to tell you something about themselves that they know and own – because you’ve taught them to do just that – would you turn away from them?
Why in the world would you not stand in awe of the fact that your amazing child, has developed into a strong, confident, truth-living and seeking individual – owning their life completely?
Isn’t that what we want? Isn’t that what we’ve taught? Isn’t that being a grown up?
If you do turn away, then maybe your child has outgrown you, and perhaps you want to contemplate your parenting. Or you may need more, much more, practice.