Back in Canada, I knew a lovely Spanish lady whose kids were in the same school as mine. We were talking about parenting one day, and she said the secret to a happy life was to raise children with all your heart and expect nothing in return. It sounded like wise advice, and given the genuine peace and joy that she radiated, I decided to use her words as my own True North.
In the years since, it’s not been a perfect journey by any means, but for the most part I’ve managed to hang in there. Lately though, I’ve begun to wonder whether the advice now needs a bit of tweaking.
We all have our share of moments where we question what we do. For me, one such moment was a couple of weeks ago. I had been feeling unwell, and not seeing the level of care and compassion from my children that I would’ve wanted, I began to feel rather hurt. Give the mind an inch and it’ll take a mile. It took advantage of a weak moment and instantly presented me with a legal case of my endless giving and their general ingratitude. Needless to say, the hurt soon turned into anger.
True, they had upcoming exams and a lot on their plates. Also true that they had tried to show real concern in certain ways. But I could see that it was not easy for them and I began to question my friend’s advice. By being indifferent to reciprocity, was I making them less kindhearted people? By not expecting gentle words and caring gestures, was I blinding them to the joy that comes from being truly human? Was I, in my quest for inner peace, limiting their strength of compassion and thus their ability to live a full and happy life?
Making peace within
It was then that I began to realize that reciprocity was not about me. It was about them. In my urge to curb it, I had not been true to my responsibility of nurturing empathy. And now stuck in this gap between teenage selfishness and my visions of truly compassionate children, I was yo-yoing between acceptance and despair.
Slowly, the a third way has begun to emerge – one that takes me back to the essence of faithfulness. I have a responsibility to help my children exercise the muscle that connects them to their family and to a larger humanity. I have a duty to make them responsible for the emotion that brings out the best in them and makes them a part of the larger whole. Wishing for reciprocity may be the most selfless act if done for the right reasons.
The essence of faithfulness
I like this tweaked version of my friend’s advice. In Diane Ackerman’s befitting description of life as a “beautiful and savage country”, parenting is an ever unfolding journey of reflection and growth where our lives are intricately entwined with those of the young people we cherish. And while we mold and nurture their hearts so they find fulfillment, they constantly take us back to our own.
My children show me that parenthood is about open hearts of living in the hope that the seeds we plant today will bear fruit even if we never live to see them. And that it is also about broken hearts that we sew back over and over again with the forgiving threads of faithfulness.
About the Author: Homaira Kabir is a positive psychology coach, a cognitive behavioral therapist and a writer who specializes in the area of self-worth. She helps women break free from the grip of low self-confidence through scientifically backed strategies, programs and courses, so that they show up fully in their relationships and rise to their full potential at work and in life. You can read more about her at www.homairakabir.com