Sunday, August 12, 2007

Are We Children of Our Children?

I had one of those WOW moments the other day as I was talking with a long-time friend about our relationships with our children. She had just returned from visiting her daughter, who is a very successful professional. She had experienced a lack of clarity in her conversations with her daughter. The daughter seemed impatient and unwilling to talk about the unpleasantness both felt.

My friend called me, first to inquire about my well-being, since she was aware of the difficulty I was having with my own children, especially my son. Then she shared her own experience with her daughter and asked the question, rhetorically, “Why do they act this way toward us?”

As we mature and as our bodies change, becoming a little less agile, hearing a little less clearly, and our responses generally a little slower, we may be seen differently by our children. While we were raising them we may have been seen as all-powerful, all knowing and as a protecting refuge from the difficulties of life. Now, suddenly, our own vulnerabilities are exposed. Where we may have been seen as strong, now we appear weak. Where we appeared to be wise, we may now be seen as foolish. Our children may not be prepared for this. Unconsciously, most children realize the time will come when their parents begin to decline in some ways. I suspect, however, that there are few who are really ready for it when it happens.

As I look back on the last years of my mother’s life, especially after I had asked her to move in with me so I could better provide some care where she needed it, I now realize I was unprepared for the experience. My sense of who she was and how she had managed her life and provided for her children turned out to be quite different from who she was now. Or, was it that I just didn’t know her as I thought I did? Without attempting to judge her or myself it is clear that I was impatient because she could not seem to respond as I expected her to. She was not able to do or be at that late stage in her life the same as in younger years. I was not clear about these changes and I just did not manage well the effect that brought about in our relationship.

There is an inverse scale to the relationship between adult children and aging parents. As the child matures into his or her own life the parent is beginning to experience a decline. At the crossing point of these two lifelines everything is still copasetic. However, at the same time our experiences begin to grow apart and differences begin to appear. I do not think this is as fully understood by either the parent or the child as may be necessary if challenges in the relationship are to be successfully handled.

That WOW moment that I experienced was this realization: Our children suddenly feel they are “raising” us and they are impatient because we are no longer, in their minds, who they thought we were. We are not perfect. We are not invincible. Even though we may be functioning perfectly well for our own lives, we may not be seen that way by our children, who now have their own value system, their own priorities, and their own needs for fulfillment. These will inevitably be different from our own.

For me, it was a moment of enlightenment that helped me to understand not only my relationship to my mother, but also my relationship to my son. Though I cannot be certain as to what is going on in his own mind in this regard, it seems clear to me through our discussions (or lack of them), that the measure of his impatience and critical view of my behavior is largely influenced by the “sudden” realization that I am not who he thought I was. I am in some degree of natural decline, which he may not be prepared for or willing to accept. My own values and priorities may not be what he assumed they were. It is also true that his emerging values and priorities are not what I assumed they were. This changes the whole dynamic of a relationship. For the relationship to survive there must be a willingness to consider these possibilities and to find ways to communicate about them. As these differences develop without the benefit of conversations we may be getting farther apart than we realize until some strategic event explodes in our faces.

We need to understand the broader issue of individual growth and our growth as a society. If our children do not surpass us in their understanding, in compassion and in creativity, then our whole world experiences the beginning of a decline. As parents we must let our children be who they are becoming. The major period of our influence over them may well be past and they must build upon the foundation they have been given. At the same time our children must realize that we, as their parents, are now in the process of taking on the next phase of our lives—enjoying the fruits of our labors, seeking new freedoms to do things differently than we might have been able to do as we raised our children.

Just because we are 60, 70 or 80 years of age or older, we are not necessarily through learning or growing or enjoying life. We may simply be finding different ways of doing that. Certainly our relationship as children and parents can continue to develop positively into these new life conditions. It does require an awakening individually to who we are becoming and who our parents/children are becoming and a willingness to accept those changes.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

You Are Greater Than You Know!

Every aspect of creation inherently knows what it IS. It instinctively knows what its PURPOSE is. From the macrocosmic aspects of the universe—the stars, planets, galaxies—to the microcosmic aspects of the individual part—the atoms, molecules, sub-atomic particles—each aspect is an important, functional part of the WHOLE.

Because every aspect inherently knows what it IS and what its PURPOSE is there is an intelligent functioning that creates harmony and order, whether consciously known in total by the individual aspects or not. When any individual aspect of creation begins to become aware of its GREATER and LESSOR connections its function becomes more wholistic. That is, because it knows its relationship to all other aspects, it has “more” tools with which to express itself to greater degrees.

Likewise our function as human beings becomes more wholistic as we acknowledge our place in the midst of All That Is. This broader vision takes us out of feeling limited and offers us a whole universe of options.

In the movie, The Truman Show, Jim Carey as Truman lived his whole life on a movie set believing it to be his world. Yet outside the walls was an expanded reality waiting to be explored, new opportunities he had never imagined. At the same time there were new challenges, but they could be met with the new “tools” offered in that world. There are many metaphors for life in the movie and we can take from them lessons that help us to realize there is more to life than meets our limited view. When we finally discover we are not confined to the supposed walls of our world we also discover the “exit” door leading from the movie set into our new world of possibilities.

When we exit the world of limitation, we have the opportunity to understand more about who we are in the scheme of Creation and what our greater purpose is. Sometimes we tend to diminish the cog in the wheel, using it as a metaphor for not being very important. The truth is that without the cog, the wheel as a whole does not function properly. You are an important part of what makes the universe function properly. You can step outside the walls of limited perceptions. You are greater than you know!