Thoughts on Parents and the Parented

Thoughts on Parents and the Parented

On the occasion of my High School graduation, when I was 17, my minister gave me a copy of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. Already knowing I would be taking psychology courses at university, and that I was interested in figuring everything out, everything that still puzzled me, such as why my father was so angry much of the time, I found in The Prophet, a passage that my minister had earlier quoted from the pulpit.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you they belong not to you.

I found this liberating. I knew that I, and other boys I knew, had been damaged by their parents, frightened, and misled, almost always by their fathers, but I knew that mothers could harm their children, because my father talked about what his mother had done to him, beginning with favoring his younger brother, but more, and worse.

As I went along, I picked up other quotations about parenting.

“Children don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are, and how you made them feel.”

Jim Henson

I had been working on my psychological problem for 10 years, when I met Deborah, my future wife. As we got closer, we talked about family, and whereas her family had some peculiarities, it was essentially loving. Mine had some peculiarities too, but also a kind of tyranny, and belittlement. I recognized that and shared with her my promise to myself that I would break the chain of inheritance on my side. I believed that one’s inheritance usually contains the gifts necessary to overcome the deficits. And that turned out to be partly true, but I was unable to prevent part of my not-so-good inheritance from being passed on.

And yet,

“Anyone who has raised more than one child knows full well that kids turn out the way they turn out–astonishingly, for the most part, and usually quite unlike their siblings, even their twins, raised under the same flawed rooftree. Little we have done or said, or left undone, or unsaid, seems to have make much mark. It’s hubris to suppose ourselves so influential; a casual remark on the playground is as likely to change their lives as any campaign of ours.” 

Barbara Holland

I wish that were true in more cases. But Ralph Waldo Emerson observed:

“I suffer whenever I see that common sight of a parent or senior imposing his opinion and way of thinking and being on a young soul to which they are totally unfit. Cannot we let people be themselves, and enjoy life in their own way?  You are trying to make another you. One’s enough.“

I was never physically violent with my four children, but excessive correction, and impatience are forms of emotional violence, and I regret having done as much of that as I did. They are happy with many of the things I taught them, especially how to drive stick shift, and double-clutch, and how to build a campfire strong enough to dry out rain-soaked wood.

Rev. Leland Bond-Upson

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2 Comments

  1. Susan Manago

    As a Preschool Teacher, I can relate to these insights. Myself, and several of my Co-teachers have commented that they concentrate their prayers on patience.

    • Leland Bond-Upson

      Thank you for writing. Yes, patience is an important form of love (and impatience, a form of violence). I am glad you and your colleagues are emphasizing patience.

      —Leland

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