As parents we should have learned . . . children (no matter what age) have a tendency to break our hearts.
I was reminded of this fact this past week after having had several discussions with people in my life. The first one I was not actually involved in, but the wife shared her discussion with the daughter with me . . . so, by the fact that the wife and I are a team, I was privy to the discussion. The daughter shared the frustration and confusion that she and our son-in-law were having over the now two-year old granddaughter. It seems that she has practically converted—over night—from the sweet innocent toddler to a two-year old hellion who likes to throw temper tantrums and complete melt downs when she does not get her way. Hmmmm, sounds a lot like her grandfather on her mother’s side! The two think that they must be doing something wrong when it comes to parenting . . . that they are not good parents. They wonder what they have done wrong. It breaks their hearts. Both the wife and I agree—and told them, the kid is normal . . . she is being a two-year old . . . she is testing the waters . . . learning and growing. Besides, we reminded them, pay back is hell. As grandparents all the wife and I could do was to reassure them that this too would pass . . . that it was a phase . . . and, try not to snicker too much as we said it.
The last conversation was with a couple about one of their adult sons. The son has gotten himself into quite a mess once again . . . something that has happened before in his life; but, this time it is a nasty mess. It involves the law. It involves messy and broken relationships. It involves lawyers, law enforcement, and judges. As I talked with the mother of this child, she cried and said how much it was making her heart hurt . . . how she had lost twenty pound because she could not eat . . . how she and her husband had used what little money they had to help . . . and, how angry it was making her as the story and situation kept getting bigger and bigger with each new revelation. Their hearts were breaking.
Broken hearts are a part of parenting. I speak from experience as one who has broken the hearts of his parents, and as one who has had his heart broken as a parent. Children, no matter what age they might be, always have the potential to break their parents’ hearts. Again, since no manual is ever given out to new parents when it comes time to take their new born child home from the hospital, you won’t find that in any parenting book I know of . . . or on any label stuck on the foot of the child. It is just something that parents have to learn . . . and learn it the hard way.
On the Facebook page, Humans of New York, a photographer by the name of Brandon goes around New York City taking portrait shots of people he encounters. With each portrait he writes a brief blurb of his encounter with the individual. Often these photographs and blurbs are quite powerful and meaningful . . . they make people stop and think. Right now he is on a tour with the United Nations visiting countries and people. You can check out his Facebook page at this link: https://www.facebook.com/humansofnewyork/info. You can learn more at his website at this link: http://www.humansofnewyork.com/. In his most recent post on Facebook he picture a man and his daughter. The father has his arm around his daughter who apparently has a disability of some sort . . . from his statement it seems to be a mental disability . . . but the father insisted that the photographer take her picture. He explained that her name mean “flower”. It was the father’s statement that said it all to me—and probably every other person who is a parent, “I would give my soul if I could fix her brain.”
Out of a broken heart this father spoke the words that any parent would speak for his or her child . . . I would give my soul if . . . If I could fix her brain. If I could stop the temper tantrums. If I could stop the stupid choices. If I could stop the pain of a broken relationship . . . a lost job . . . of drug or alcohol abuse . . . of a disability . . . of the meanness of life. What parent would not give anything and everything to help his or her child when life is beating them down with a vengeance? What parent does not know the pain of a broken heart caused by the very child or children that he or she loves beyond words? We all would . . . and, we all have.
It was a rough week hearing the stories of family and friends. A rough week of being there to see the broken pieces of heart and trying to help put all the pieces back together again. Rough week because way too often these moments of confession often rip the scabs off of my own broken heart as a parent. No words can be said to ease the pain of a broken heart. The fact is . . . children are going to break our hearts as parents . . . sometimes over and over again.
So, what is a parent to do?
I am not really sure.
I guess if I could wish anything upon parents to combat the broken hearts that children inflict throughout a life time, I would wish for them: patience, laughter, presence, and love. Patience . . . patience to wait to see how things pan out, to see if the worse scenario happens (because it is human nature to think the worse) . . . to listen with an open mind and heart . . . and, to allow the child to return back home (as much spiritually as physically).
Laughter . . . laughter is good for the soul and heart . . . if we are willing to give our souls away for the sake of our children, we might as well give one that is strong and filled with laughter.
Presence . . . to be there . . . to be a reminder . . . to be a place of safety . . . to be home. Presence . . . of the holy, whatever holy might be . . . to know the comfort of not being a lone . . . to feel the acceptance and grace whether it is warranted or deserved. Presence to be in the moment. Presence to be.
Love . . . yeah, whether we like it or not, love is always there. It is always there in the deepest hurt inflicted . . . always there in the hottest anger . . . always there in the greatest disappointment . . . always there in the shards of a broken heart. Love that is accepting, caring, and most of all challenging . . . challenging to do what needs to be done whether it feels right or wrong for all who are involved.
I would wish for all parents . . . patience, laughter, presence, and love. None of these will stop a heart from breaking, but they will go a long ways in easing the pain and starting the healing process.
My mother used to have a favorite statement she liked to tell me whenever I seemed to be going through a round phase in my life: “This, too, shall pass.” For the most part I think that my mother was right. Most of the crap I have endured and experienced in my life has come and gone . . . but, she was wrong when it came to having one’s heart broken by a child. True, the situation or circumstance might pass on, but the scars are always there to remind us parents of the heart being broken. Yet, it is a part of being a parent . . . a part of life. From it we learn and grow. From it we discover a deeper level and commitment of love. From it we grow closer.
But, boy does it hurt. I would give my soul if I could save anyone from ever having his or her heart broken by children . . . and, then again, maybe not. My soul has been pretty beat up over the years . . . but, I would try.