Jan 07

Being a Parent: the Joys and Tests

In Brief — A look at what it’s like to be a parent or a grandparent, and when being one of those is both a test and a joy. [Written in May/June 2017.]

It’s Not as Easy as It Seems —

Some are a snap. Others will give you sleepless nights. I’m referring to children, mainly ours but occasionally the children of others. Caring parents are certain to experience some sleepless nights. Whether pleasure or pain, our children and even our own parents add to our inner growth. The kids’ inner growth — whether good or ill — are guaranteed.

I’ve already written about my parents: My father who was often absent, who was an alcoholic shunned by his own father, but was a kind and loving man. A distant mother who grew up in arid wealth and was sent to a strict religious boarding school. She was a lovely and talented social butterfly, but she was meaner than a cornered badger.

Before all the arguments and meanness tore them apart, our parents produced two of us. I was an asthmatic son who was also sent away to a distant religious boarding school where I learned self-sufficiency and honed perfection. I learned to avoid meanness, found what it was like to be “The Other” and struggled for years to overcome insecurity.  My sister was almost a stranger to me. My sister and I are miles apart and different in many ways.

Joys and Tests —

A friend has two children and several grandchildren. Both the parents and children are bright. The parents and one child are successful, but one child is a test who periodically leads his parents and his own family to sleepless nights. Taking after both parents, he is talented and productive the majority of the time, but on those occasions when he causes sleepless nights for parents and his own family, he descends to a dark place that shuts him off from the bright sunshine of love and acceptance. It’s a test for all of them. At the moment, he’s in the sunshine. It’s easy to say he should believe in himself, but it’s another to make this a constant in his life.

In another case, a supremely intelligent friend (recently deceased) had a son from whom she was estranged. Despite many warm and wonderful get-togethers with this couple, I don’t know the cause of that estrangement other than it grew out of an earlier divorce. She and her current husband have never spoken of it, but it had to be a painful scar deep within the woman. This is one of those tests that never healed, but it affected the person I cared for.

Another friend, an informed and politically active man married to an equally informed and active woman, has a son who rejects reasonable and rational discussions in favor of right-wing irrationality. The son possesses a closed and locked mind under the influence of a domineering wife who has been allowed to build an impregnable wall around her spouse’s otherwise healthy but submissive mind.

That friend’s wife has buried her adult child. She doesn’t talk about her loss, but it’s a test no parent ever expects to experience. Parents expect that their children will survive them, so this is a test that must be particularly painful.

Last but not least, there’s me. My children have taught me more than they will ever know requiring adjustment to new ways of thinking and concomitant positive growth. Now that I’m in the twilight of my life, my youngest daughter just gave birth to their first child, a child I had assumed would never brighten my life. Although my wife and I secretly kept our fingers crossed for an easy birth and healthy baby, we are now supremely happy that being grandparents has at last become a reality. We see only the joys. No doubt tests will be part of the package waiting around the corner…for the parents as well as the grandparents.

Those are some of the parental experiences I’ve encountered. Tell us about the joys and tests in your life.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on September 2017


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  1. Thanks for being willing to share the joys and tests in your life. In our extended family there is some of almost everything you revealed about yours. As I read I said over and over, “that sounds like us.” There are some differences of course, and things that I won’t mention because it would reveal something about someone who might not want that to happen.

    When I listen to the stories of the perfect families of some of our friends I wonder if their stories are true. Maybe some are, maybe some just don’t reveal. And then there are the time factors. If I was writing this forty years ago I would tell stories of difficulties and unhappiness. Writing today I am luckiest man in the universe, meaning that time changes most things and often relationships. People get smarter or dumber, nicer or meaner, more or less truthful, etc. And old relationships remain in our lives or disappear from them, and that can bring worlds of change.

    Anyway, thanks for this. It’s good to hear some things I didn’t know.

    1. As readers of this blog know, I have shared many of the elements of my life. After all, they’ve made me the person I am today. As usual, I figured honesty is the best way to approach this…one of the lessons I learned (painfully) along the way. Many families have secrets that they’re rarely going to let out…unless they’re celebs who can make money out of their revelations. [How’s that for cynicism!?]

      Like you, Jim, some don’t want to reveal family secrets because they might hurt someone else. I have to admit I wonder if not wanting to hurt someone else might actually be more injurious in the long run because that someone might benefit from the truth being revealed. Worth thinking about.

      Thanks again for stirring my synapses.

      1. I think we have to be as open as possible with each other. But that’s only about ourselves. We can’t choose to reveal private issues for another person because they have to make those choices for themselves. Sometimes it takes a long time to share for some people.

        1. I assume you are responding to my observation about the possibility that someone else might be hurt by the revelation. Yes, someone else might be hurt by the revelation, but that person might also think about why he/she feels hurt and grow.

          You have raised a good question. Essentially, it’s a matter of whether the truth will help or not. Are you assuming that the truth should not be told because it might not result in positive growth? That’s presumptuous isn’t it? Looked at from the truth-teller’s p.o.v., it’s simply a statement of the truth-teller’s belief. Ultimately, it’s up to the other person to feel hurt or not.

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