The Things We Can’t — and Shouldn’t — Make Our Children Do

The Things We Can’t — and Shouldn’t — Make Our Children Do October 10, 2014


When I was pregnant with our first child there were so many things I wondered and hoped. I hoped that we would like each other. That he would be interested in the world and that we would have at least some things in common.

original cartoon courtesy Tom LaMothe
original cartoon courtesy Tom LaMothe


And I hoped he would like books. Like me.

“Don’t worry,” my husband said. “He will like what he likes.”

There was just so much uncertainty and so little control. I kind of hated that.

We do indeed parent in the “age of anxiety.” We worry that our kids aren’t being exposed to the RIGHT things or that they are being exposed to too much of the WRONG things. We read labels and organize varied arrays of activities. One hears parents of preschoolers speculating, even fretting, about college and scholarship possibilities.

It is right and good and wonderful to be engaged in our children’s lives, to dream dreams of their success and happiness and blessedness.

But there remains so much that we cannot control. So much that we shouldn’t even try to control.

I didn’t just “wonder and hope” when I was pregnant. I worried. On the day I brought my baby boy home, I cried over the thought that one day, he would leave me. I worried about EVERYTHING.

Last week he turned nine. “My goodness,” I said to my husband. “Are we halfway to college age already?”

To my surprise I do not mourn for the baby that he was. I still see that sweet baby in his face, still see the fiery temper of his two year old self in the flash of his eyes. But his hands and limbs better obey his will and intention. He loves books as much as I do, but in all different genres. He is deeply compassionate.

There is so much we don’t know about children before we really get to know them, and as with every relationship, it takes time to unfold. Nine plus years later, I am glad of all that I could not control or rush or force on him. For he, himself, his existence, his loves, his love, is precious to me. I wouldn’t change a thing if I could.

photo courtesy Rachel Marie Stone
photo courtesy Rachel Marie Stone


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