How to find Joy without getting stuck in the Pleasure Principle
Just Kidding. God help me, if my blog has come off like a “how-to,” then I missed the mark I was aiming for. Well sure, I play Dear Abby with my friends, when they ask for my opinion, and I ask them for theirs. This has rarely worked for me (probably them as well) because no one really knows what is best for someone else. Usually when I do take someone else’s advice it turns out wrong, and when I don’t, I look back in hindsight and say, “Shoulda listened to that one.”
Two things came up that put me on this line of thought. One is parenting a teenager, which is the 13-18 age range, when the search for identity and autonomy is paramount, and they vaguely remember doing what Mom said to do when they were 12 and under but now don’t really think that Mom knows what she’s talking about, or why they listened to her at all, so long ago. (Big breath)
The other was a Christian family’s ceremony to dedicate their child to God. No, it’s not like sacrificing a virgin into a fire for a god’s blessing. Nor was it done in an Abrahamic sense of laying a kid on an altar to prove faithfulness to God. It’s a promise to bring them up in the values of a faith. I say values of the faith because the point isn’t to indoctrinate them into a religious way of thinking, but to pass down the noble values said faith espouses. To love, to honor, to be faithful, to sacrifice, to meet felt needs, that sort of thing. After the official ceremony, the Nuns asked the long-time parents to share some advice to the newbies. There were some silly ones, all in fun. For the life of me I couldn’t encapsulate all the thoughts that ran through my head at that moment. The reams of parenting books I had read passed through my mind, the psychology articles, the memory of times when I know I had blown it big with my kids…”Um, don’t try to remove medical staples with an office stapler remover.” “Count to ten instead of snapping a Nerf gun over your knee.” “Don’t leave the liquid Motrin cap off where the four-year old can reach it.”
I still don’t really know what I would say, but do know the best advice I’ve gotten over the years has been in the form of encouragement. Words like, “You can do this.” (Unless they truly can’t because then you just set them up for a fall, American idol auditions, anyone)?
Or, “It’s not just a mistake, it is a learning experience.” This one is hard, because sometimes ya just wish they hadn’t done it, cause you love ‘em and don’t want them to suffer, but you also know that they have to suffer the consequences. But, damn, it’s too late anyway, and you know you’ve made a 1,001 mistakes yourself. So why bother drive home how much of mistake it was, ’cause they probably already know? And, damn, if we all learned from our mistakes, what a better people we would be.
So to the new parents, when life gets hard, I hope you will remember these words, “You can do it.” And when little babygirl isn’t so little anymore, tell her too.
“Do not forget that the value and interest of life is not so much to do conspicuous things…as to do ordinary things with the perception of their enormous value.”
– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin