Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Higher Ground

We bear our children at the feet of mountains.

Not literally.  I mean, some people might.  Personally, I’m still on the fence about giving birth any further than 10 feet from a spinal tap, but figuratively everyone is born at base camp.  And it’s only uphill from there.

We give our children tools for the climb.  Encouragement, maybe.  Trust.  The benefit of the doubt.  We celebrate what makes them unique.  We respect their fears without indulging them.  With these tools, they discover self-confidence.  Inner strength.  A positive attitude. 

Or, we give them criticism.  Judgment.  Disapproval.  Even abuse.  These may look like tools, and many of us believe they are tools, because they are what our parents gave us.  We have forgotten that they don’t work.  We refuse to believe that they might serve for a few years, but that they will eventually break and splinter, leaving our children empty-handed.

The children without tools will stop climbing.

They might start looking for tools that do work.  They might stay where they are, oxygen-deprived and confused, wondering where they went wrong.  Or they might numb themselves when the pain of climbing with bare hands has become too much.

I am not yet a parent, but I know this: shame, disappointment, telling a child they should be different than they are - these are not tools.  And scaring a child by telling them they’re never going to make it is an excellent way to make sure they don't.

And what is "it"? What’s at the top of the mountain? 

Money?  Maybe.

Fame?  Possibly.

Glory?  You never know.

Happiness?  Definitely.   And peace.  And the knowledge of a life being lived full to bursting.

Who will get there first?  The brightest?  The strongest?  The most beautiful?  Sometimes.

The ones with the right tools?  Yes.   

They’ll be there, waiting.  Cheering everyone else on.  And preparing their own kids to climb the next mountain.