We had lunch recently with an old friend. He asked about my parents and my siblings and after a while, I asked about his. Everything about his face and body language changed. He went from being animated to being unable to complete full sentences.
When we got back in the car, I said to my husband, “I feel like I blew that. I shouldn’t have mentioned his parents. His childhood is still all over him.” My friend didn’t grow up feeling valued or protected and that’s a hard thing to shake.
None of us want our children to wear their childhood like a mourning veil.
I think this will be my new baseline for parenting. I want my kids to enter adulthood certain that they are valued and loved and protected.
When my kids were younger, my primary goal was just to keep them alive. I’m now adding to that the goal of launching them into adulthood with a certainty that they are loved. I want them to feel propped up by their family; I don’t want them to feel haunted by us.
This doesn’t mean that I will become their personal servant. It also doesn’t mean that my whole life’s purpose is to never upset them. It’s a hard line to walk: I want my kids to know that they are loved and valued, but it’s also my job to prepare them to be on their own out in the world.
Love and discipline aren’t mutually exclusive. Sometimes loving our kids means calling them out when they aren’t being honest. Sometimes love means protecting them from themselves. Sometimes love is pushing through painful conversations and adjusting to new realities.
Especially regarding discipline, I think it’s wise to keep their adult lives in mind. Thinking several decades ahead helps me stick to the high expectations I’ve set and actually makes me stricter than when I’m only thinking about today.
Currently, two of my four children are upset with me about the supposedly oppressive regime I am running here at the McArthur house.
I’m totally fine with that. My children are very loved and I know that they know it.
I’ve decided that my time with my kids is a very short runway, preparing them for a very long flight. These runway days matter. They are important. Runway days are a time of preparing and steering and directing and launching.
Short runway, long flight. Love above, ahead, around and below. Preparing for takeoff.