Gifts of our Parents
It is said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I have no doubt about this. Like many people I know, I left home to go to college and finally settled in the city where I studied, away from my family and the home where I was raised. With these choices of youth my husband and I have become responsible for choosing the village that will raise our children. We introduced them to their first playmates whose parents supported them as we did their children. We chose their neighborhood and schools. Each step we have taken has introduced our children into new communities and the people we trust with helping to raise them. It has been a tricky business full of wonderful surprises when we are lucky and perils when we are not.
I am a parent and a teacher. I would like to say that I like and love all children equally but I am human as well. When I meet a child who challenges my personal and professional need to reach out to them with genuine affection I turn to those who raised me for guidance. I remember the times I pushed my mother to her very limits and her consistent response: “I always love you but I do not like you very much right now.” This can sound harsh but it has been a gift throughout my life.
As a child, I was certain of unconditional love and support. I knew, without doubt, that no matter the risks I took or the choices I made I could not lose my parents’ love. I knew this to be true and I tested it as well, over and over again. As an adult, it has taught me that loving my children and those in my care is not dependent on their choices and behaviors. It is their right.
I remember that each child in my care has a family that loves him, who has cherished him since before he was born. They see his sense of humor or they way he reaches out to his sister when she is scared. Since birth they have felt the joys of each small step he has taken and the fears for his well being when he has stumbled. When I am facing a child that has exhausted my last reserve I look at him through his parents eyes. I imagine their hopes and fears for their baby (for they are all our babies no matter their ages) and I no longer need to take as deep a breath to reach out one more time to this child who moments ago had filled me with frustration. More importantly, I remember that, above all else, I believe that every child born has a right to be loved, cared for and protected. There is someone out there who loves this child as I love my own. If this is not so, they need it all the more from me, a member of their village.
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