Two of my cousins are expecting babies next spring and we celebrated their growing families with a baby shower last week. First, let me give a shout out to Aunt Ellen who worked really hard to make it a great day. We went through my favorite baby shower exercise, where we tell the expectant parents our words of wisdom, and I can't stop thinking that it just doesn't stop there. I think about my family, the one I was born into as well as the ones I've grown myself and what a journey it has been for all of us. And the thing that I keep thinking is that the biggest joy of being a parent is the ability to make different decisions, better decisions maybe, when it comes to your own family. Please don't think this is going to turn into a litany of all the ways my parents failed me, it's truly the opposite. I'd love to share the lesson they demonstrated in a million ways that I hope my own children see in the family we've built.
My parents let us know early on that whatever we did, however badly we screwed up or how painfully we hurt them...we could always come home. Their door would always be open. No matter what. Now, I've tested that theory a lot over the years, as have my brothers in their own ways I'm sure but perhaps not as conspicuously as my own challenges. They've stood by that doctrine and always welcomed me. Even when they may not have been too excited about it, or been especially eager to see me go again. I was always welcome. Fortunately, I live 600 miles away from them so I don't show up on their doorstep all too frequently, but if I lived closer, I'm sure that would thrill them both. And that's the biggest lesson that I see played out in so many ways that I really want to instill in my own children.
That freedom, the knowledge that they would always be there to catch me if I fell, gave me more leeway to try new things, experience new ideas, embrace this life in a way that I never would have if I lived under threat of judgement or disappointment. While I'm sure they have judged, and I have disappointed, neither of my parents ever gave me one iota of anything other than complete acceptance and support. And knowing that I could make mistakes and they'd forgive me gave them the opportunity to make their own mistakes and expect forgiveness from me as well. Rightfully so. That's the backbone of our family. It doesn't matter what you do, you can always count on your family...often whether you like it or not.
So as I think about words of wisdom to pass on to some amazing parents-to-be, it's that. Intentionally build a family where love is given freely and unconditionally. Know your children may make different decisions than you and give them a floor to express themselves regardless of whether or not you agree with them. Practice forgiveness with them and they will practice forgiveness with you. Don't hold grudges, you are the only one that hurts. I love the phrase "Leap first and the net will follow." The roll of the children is to leap, and of parents...to catch them. Always. That's what my parents taught me, and what I hope to teach my own children someday.
Hug your kids/partner/pet/parents and make it a great day,