Should parents compromise their beliefs to keep harmony in a family? I find that I am faced with that question far more often that I’d like. When you are raising your family, you assume that your children will share your view of the world when they are grown. To all of you who have young children, I am going to completely disillusion you here; that assumption could not be further from the truth.
I was raised to believe that whenever you weren’t certain which way to go in life, defer to the 10 commandments; that God designed them as our guiding rules to life…and they can be applied to any situation in life. I don’t know if I am right in doing so, I only know that this has worked for me thus far so I have no reason to question them now.
My beliefs have helped me survive all kinds of terrible things in life; that assurance that someone much bigger than any of us was looking out for me–that He cared enough to provide me with rules to live by and if I did live by them, my life would be ‘right.’
But, as much as I wish it wasn’t true, even if my children decide to follow in my footsteps and live by the commandments, what is ‘right’ for me might not be ‘right’ for them. We raise our children to be individuals. We encourage them to bloom in their own light and try to help them figure out which light belongs uniquely to them. Then, although we encourage them to seek out all of this individuality, we are surprised when their approach to life is so different than our own.
I have to tell you that as a completely devoted mother, that can be a bitter pill to swallow at times. When your kids are little you have hopes and dreams for them and all of those dreams are painted with your value system, not an alternative one. And if that pill is bitter, it goes one step further. Not only do they get to interpret their own way and make their own rules, but we have raised them to be so confident and sure of themselves, they expect us (their parents) to live by them as well.
I should have listened to my mother when she said it is much harder parenting your adult children than your young children. Since 8 of my siblings were adults while I was still young and living at home, I often witnessed how they tore her apart with their desire for her to bend to their will. I remember how mad I used to get at them, and I swore I would never do that to my sweet mother…but I did. I’m ashamed to admit that there was a time when I was a young mother, that I thought I knew better than my own mother–that my way was better.
I guess knowing that I did it too…and knowing how deeply I loved my mother…gives me a unique perspective. She never told me I was wrong, she just continued to offer her undying love and support for all things I did. She was smart enough to know that her right and my right were just not in sync at that moment—but that someday they would be—that even though they looked completely different, at their core they were based upon the same belief system.
Unfortunately, since I was a late in life baby, I never had a chance to ‘sync’ with my mom and thank her for standing beside me while I figured life out. So I say to all of you young mothers or fathers out there who at times think you know more than your parents; where do you think the confidence that allows you those feelings came from? Who stood by your side and nurtured that point of view? And to all of you parents who are undecided about whether or not to compromise your beliefs to better harmonize with your children, I say it doesn’t have to be that black and white. We can allow them to be…but we must also insist that they allow us to be. We can walk side by side until such a point in time we converge. My only hope for all of us, young and old alike, is that the point of convergence comes before death takes its toll; because a lifetime of regret is the most bitter pill of all.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter who is right or who is wrong, it only matters that we stand side by side and never allow our relationship to falter.