I have raised two children – now 23 and 18 years old – and am sitting in my empty nest considering if and how they honor us. Honor is not the same as obey. Your children will struggle for their power in the world and will push away. They will partake in the natural process of preparing to leave you by being non-compliant. That propensity to do the opposite of what you wish begins when they are infants and lasts…well…a long time. That doesn’t mean they don’t honor you.
This weekend, my younger son and his friend visited my older son in his new apartment. They spent last night and today together. No one forced them together. They chose to make time for each other. Texts from them indicate that they enjoyed their time together. They have honored us. My husband and I don’t need to be included in their time together. In fact, when they seek each other, they honor what we have taught them about the value of family.
When they were young, they argued sometimes. They argued with each other and with my husband and me. They didn’t always do what we asked. They did things that they had to know were not going to go over well. They were typical. They knew, however, that there were lines and boundaries for behavior and reactions. When they crossed those boundaries, they knew they had gone too far. They went back to the “do the right thing” side of the line. Sometimes, they didn’t agree with where that line existed but they stepped back anyway.
I miss the sound of them laughing together in a bedroom down the hall. I can still see in my mind’s eye two little boys walking together on the sidewalk. I can feel their hugs even when they are not here. I feel their hugs in their texts, emails and calls.
They honor us by coming home for Passover this year. They don’t have to agree with all of our religious beliefs and practices but they honor us with respectful participation in tradition as well as their fondness for larger family gathering.
My husband and I will not agree with all of their choices. We will not understand everything about them. Children never become our dreams for them. They chase their own dreams. Honoring us does not mean being who I wish they would become. Both of my children are productive and ambitious members of society. They boldly and bravely seek their paths. That’s all we can ask.
There are people who talk about their children being a pain. Well, sometimes parents with their emotional baggage are a pain, too. There are people unable to have children or who have lost children who I know would trade with so many of us even on the worst day. I honor my role as parent and am humbled by the opportunity I have been given to live past my lifetime through future generations. Maybe, just maybe, my boys sensed that I also honor them and so they learned it….
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