What is the Greatest Gift a Child can Give?

Our sons and daughters never stop teaching us who we are and who we are not. We hone our skills of patience, diplomacy and faith on these unfolding lives. Did we do it right? In this chapter from my book Exhilarated Life I share a Mother's Day celebration and the lesson I learned that year.

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Photo Credit: Sophie Dale on Unsplash
Photo Credit: Sophie Dale on Unsplash

Excerpt from Exhilarated Life: Discovering Inner Happiness

Long after we’ve stopped being mommies, we are forever Mother.

Motherhood is 360° x 365 x Eternity

No chocolate chip pancakes with jellybeans in bed for me today. Nope.
This evening I am assured of a very special menu: Homemade pasta
with a sauce or stuffing (not sure which, but I know it will be a culinary
delight). I am to bring wine and a brick of Parmesan (my treat because
the good stuff is beyond the budget of two young men forging their
way in the music business).

Part of the pleasure of the evening with my two princes will be to
watch them cook.
They are a choreographed team in a small apartment
kitchen. Today, the younger one will be in charge and the older one
will act as sous chef. One will rinse a dish, and without turning his
back, pass it over his shoulder where the other will scoop it up and put
it in the dishwasher. What the…? I don’t recall that at home!

They will finely chop, stir, and taste, rub a soupçon of spice between
thumb and finger, and taste again.
The candles will be lit, the table set
with cloth napkins and mats. Stevie Ray Vaughan or another favorite
will be providing the soundtrack to the festivities. Over dinner we’ll
watch a film that has been dubbed “for Mother’s eyes”—so many aren’t
these days.

This last year I have learned the very biggest lesson about motherhood.
It is this: If we want our children to do well in the world—and by that
I mean be happy, productive, and develop loving relationships—we
must see them for who they really are, and love and respect them for
that. And let them be.

When I was seventeen, I handed my mother The Prophet by Kahlil
Gibran, open to the page on children. My mother started to cry. I will
quote parts here because it is, in my estimation, one of the most simple
but pivotal treatises on parenting ever written:

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
yet they belong not to you.


Today, as you celebrate Mother’s Day, remember that at the moment of
their birth, you literally laid down your life and allowed another soul
to come forth.
Whatever pain and suffering we might have endured in
the moment evaporated as we gazed for the first time on that newborn
face.

We’ve been ecstatic and we’ve been frantic. We’ve been exhausted
by their demands and we’ve rejoiced at their accomplishments. And
ultimately we’ve learned more about our own strengths and weaknesses
at the hands of our tiny teachers than we have taught them.

I have been buffed and honed into a more enlightened adult by witnessing
my sons grow in confidence, accomplishment, sensibility, and awareness.

The final polishing comes when we are willing to let go and trust in who
they are. We really develop our personal strength when we can be witness
in silence as their lives unfold.

Jobs, education, relationships, talents, are just the brushes and paint with
which any of us completes our own canvas as fulfilled human beings.
We can
offer perspective, but to think we know better is to grab the brush from their hand.
Their dad taught me: If you instill in a child self-love, they will never
harm themselves or another. He also believed our parental role was to
give our children roots and then to give them wings.

My sons are rock musicians and they look every bit the part.
Long hair,
earrings, be-ringed fingers, a wide brimmed hat with silver medallions.
When flying they are “randomly selected” going through customs.
They are cool. I’m a fairly straight and cultured looking dame and I
must say the looks we get on the street when we walk arm in arm are
quite amusing. They do cut a swath.

Would I rather they were doctors or lawyers in suits more readily acceptable
to the neighbors?
Not if it was in exchange for their individuality and authenticity.
It is only through being who they truly are and experiencing life on their own
terms that they are prepared for whatever the future might hold.

This year since we all flew the nest of our family home to find ourselves,
I have watched these fabulous kids become absolutely amazing and
accomplished young men.
As I’ve watched them develop in maturity,
I have realized so clearly that an authentic, rich life is all about the
journey and not the destination. They have attained a practical PhD in
Life. I am not only proud of who they are, I also deeply admire them as
individuals. I value their perspective on my life questions. I appreciate
their confidence, honesty, and clarity.

I haven’t been a brilliant mother. I’ve been overwhelmed. I’ve been uncertain.
I’ve made good decisions and I’ve made…well let’s call them decisions that
taught me deeper lessons. But the other day, when I apologized to my
youngest for not being as wise at a time that I might have been, he lovingly
replied, “Mom, if you knew then what you know now, you would have
acted differently, that’s all.” Wow, isn’t that the truth!

When my son was less than a day old and being treated in an incubator for a
slight case of jaundice, I went for a walk around the hall that encircled
the hospital nursery.
At the farthest point out, I heard my son cry. I
hurried back as fast as my postpartum legs could carry me and went
right to my babe’s cot in the incubator. Sure enough, he was crying. It
took only half a heartbeat to realize that I had never heard my son cry
before, but I had somehow recognized his voice—even at a distance. To
me this was a stark realization that every human relationship is unique.

A child really and truly is Life’s longing for itself. And as we all grow
from child to adult we grow in the light of One who knows us. We
grow into mastery of our own unique voice.

I think along with the red wine, I’ll grab a bottle of champagne
t
o celebrate a Mother’s greatest gift: Her child’s self-actualization.

~mh

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