22 January 2010

Freedom to Be

(Apologies for the long post. But I was feeling introspective…)

Some children decide to follow in their parents’ footsteps. Some children are made to follow their parents’ footsteps. Doctor mother, doctor son. Professor dad, professor daughter. There are also those who make a conscious decision not to be anything like their parents, to chart their own course.

How much of what we are today is ‘natural’ and how much of that was ‘steered’?

I look back to when I was younger and I don’t recall ever being told by either parents what I should be when I grow up. Both my parents are learned folks. My father is a retired math professor. He is a well-known watercolorist (is that even a word?). He is a Chinese scholar. 
My mother has a degree in Architecture and could produce paintings just as beautiful as my dad’s. She is a soprano and has performed locally and abroad with a choral group. She is, in Josh’s words, a “fixer”; she could fix just about anything --beautifully. She adjusts hems, binds books broken apart by overeager little hands, attends to faulty plumbing, etc.

And moi? While I appreciate art, I never felt inclined to pick up a brush and create. I’m not particularly proficient in mathematics (except for that one A in actuarial math –!- don’t ask). I sing, good enough for within the our walls of our house. I ended up with a career in advertising, a field where no one in our family (immediate and extended) of passive overachievers has ever ventured.

Growing up, I never felt any pressure from either one of them to excel in fields where they excel. Beyond instilling early on the love for learning and a certain discipline, they pretty much let me be. By design or simply luck, I was exposed to a wide array of experiences that opened my eyes to the many choices I could make about what I want to be. At some point in my younger life, I had wanted to be a nurse, a nun, a waitress (my grandfather’s printing business had a job order for ordering slips for a restaurant), a cheerleader, a cashier, a teacher, a diplomat, a psychiatrist, a news anchor. I was never discouraged from being any one of those, except maybe for a remark about having to wipe bums that turned me off about being the next Florence Nightingale. I was never given speeches or feel-good spiels about pursuing my dreams either. I don’t recall it being verbalized, but the understanding was there that I could be anything I choose to be.

The one message from my mom, though, that I distinctly remember is something along the lines of “You reap what you sow. We’ve given you as best a start as we could and the rest is up to you.” Even that being the case, there was plenty of encouragement along the way. Opportunities were laid before me, but the choices were always mine to make.

Were my parents just more confident of their parenting skills that I had so much room to 'be’? Perhaps they were just more accepting that there is a limit to what one could do for one’s child, that they needed to just trust that what they could provide was good enough?


Could Chris and I be just as wise? Chris and I are not my parents and our children are not me. What worked for my parents with me might not necessarily work for us with our children. Different circumstances and different dispositions (of both parents and children) need to be carefully calibrated and taken into consideration. No doubt Chris and I will have to navigate our own way through this ever tricky maze of parenthood. I just pray that in the process of wanting the best for Josh and Zoë, we remember not foist our idea of ‘best’ on them, to let them make their own decisions, in time, about what they think would be best for themselves. And that when the day comes, we can, too, sit back and know and accept that we have done the best we could.


Lindy said...

I think that's what any parent wants - to do the best we could, give them love never-ending and be there when they fall.

*Jess* said...

I think about this stuff all the time, too!

Nezzy said...

It amazes me how much is embedded in our genes. My daughter is so much like my sister ,who is opposite of me, it was actually a bit scary. My sis lives so far away she and Charity seldom saw each other but the mannerisms, the way she acted and spoke was my sis, not me.

Every parent just asks that their child do the best they can. We just cannot ask more that that.

Have a super day!!!

LPC said...

This is such a long conversation to have:). One of those areas where seemingly conflicting things can both or even all be true. Where generalizations fail us and we've got to stay in the moment and focus on the kids and respond with all our intellect and stamina and heart. At least that's all I knew how to do and I never learned anything better.

jen@odbt said...

Well said. I needed this today as I remember how hard I was on my oldest. I just want so much for my kids but they have to learn themselves.

Mom of the Perpetually Grounded said...

Your Mom is very wise and her daughter is as well.

Dandy said...

I really like this post and I think that parenting is amazing. Scary and amazing.

Lori said...

I know for me, I raised my kids to believe that they could do anything they set their minds to...with hard work and sacrafice that their dreams were in their hands. I tried to give them all the tools possible and then let them go with it. I tried to expose them to experiences in life that would open doors and windows for them. I also guided them along in those things that I seen came natural to them but also encouraged them to not let fear stop them from pursuing those things that don't come naturally. As a parent I had to let go and let them make the choices for their lives whether I completely agreed or not. I had to let them fall down and learn from the experience. I didn't fix things for them.

One thing I tell parents with young children is to expose your children to a wide variety of interests and skills. Let them make mistakes and learn from them. Don't step in all the time. Give them freedom to try out their skills while they are at still living at home because then you are there to help them in their falls.

It has been exciting to watch my children grow, now that they are all in their 20's. I think that as long as you keep doing what you are already doing in loving Zoe and Josh and all the things you do with them, they are going to grow up to be just as awesome as their mom and dad.

Happy weekend to you and yours! XX Lori

Booklover1212 said...

My parents just wanted us to be better than them. My dad was a steel worker and my mom a secretary. I'm very proud of both of them....but I know they wanted more for us. And we want the same for our children. It's just the natural cycle of things. But regardless of what they choose, we will support it 100%....

Great post!!

~ Jennifer

Wanda said...

I like your Mom and Dad. I think they got it right.

blueviolet said...

This is such a good post and it's something I found I had to check myself time and time again about. It's good you're aware up front!

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

Food for though for sure. What I wanted for my girls was for them to choose a career that they would have a passion for....not because it made a lot of money or someone else in the family was successful at it. My ex, on the other hand, always seemed to want them to choose careers that were going to last and make them financially stable.

In the end, I know that they both will have to choose what they feel is best. You and Chris have and will continue to instill many opportunities for Josh and Zoe to choose from. Some they will like and others, they won't. That's the best part of parenting, being their cheerleader, no matter what. Because you both are so very conscientious of this, then I know that they will choose their passions well.

a Tonggu Momma said...

As an adoptive momma, I actually find this easier to do (I think) because the Tongginator's special gifts and interests are light-years away from our families (both the husband's and mine). Believe you me, I NEVER in a million years imagined my DAUGHTER playing the DRUMS, but everyone who watches her play the drums knows that it's something she was born to do. When a child joins the family through adoption (rather than genetics), there is no assumption, no looking for, no wondering "who will she/he take after?" It's a complete mystery until the child begins to bloom.

SAHM-I-AM said...

Hi. I found your blog through I Heart Faces this evening and I just loved this post. It brought me back to my own upbringing. Like yourself, I was given the "freedom to be". My parents were working class and I was one of 6 kids so it was more circumstance rather than my parents' parenting style that led to me to having the freedom to make life choices. High school came very easily for me but was lost in university. I simply did not know HOW to study, never needing to in the past. I love your mom's "reap what you sow" message but, in my adult life, I often wished I my parents were a bit more hands-on with me ... pointed the way more. Having said that, I have absolutely no regrets about where life has taken me. I love posts that make me think. Thanks.

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