As I watch the news and just live life day to day, I notice that regardless of the country, ethnicity, social strata or economic development, children are pretty much welcomed into this world with unmitigated joy.
Then life happens.
What is it about the giving of life to another soul that elicits warmth and joy in ourselves? Almost without exception, even if the child is unwanted and/or unplanned, at the moment of birth there is a leap of joy in the mother’s heart and seems to inform those who surround that birth. So, why is that? Maybe it’s just a release of hormonal activity. Or maybe not.
First of all, birth is magic, pure and simple. But aside from alchemy and such, I think that euphoria comes from somewhere deep in the lizard brain where we understand that with birth, one is touching the future and immortality. We brim with the possibilities of affecting that future by affecting this new life. And the key word here is possibilities. A new life represents the possibility that we can correct some of the wrong in our own life by correcting them in this new life. This euphoria lasts for . . . ummmm . . . . let’s say, about 30 seconds. Reality sets in.
Then life happens.
My mother liked to say that raising kids wasn’t even as predictable as herding cats, but more like igniting a Fourth of July bottle rocket. I always maintained that raising children was like planting a garden of time bombs. You never knew what would trigger them, nor if, or when, they might go off – either for the positive or the negative.
Another of my mother’s well-known aphorisms – and I know I’ve written this before – is that if you’ve done a good job raising your kids by the age of 12, you don’t need to worry, and if you haven’t, it’s too late to worry. I also opined that perhaps in this day and age that age should be dropped to about eight or so.
We will all agree that children can bring unmitigated joy and pride. Children can affirm and reaffirm our faith in human beings as well as in ourselves.
Then life happens.
Very early on, one begins to suspect that this new creature isn’t just a ditto of ourselves, they are more like a paraphrase of ourselves. Do we influence them? Make no mistake about that fact. It’s just that frequently this influence, rather than a carbon — ooops, Xerox — copy of ourselves, it’s more like a film negative. Just the opposite of what we intended.
I can remember when my son was about 5, he kept coming into the room where I was giving a piano lesson and interrupting. I finally got desperate and thought, “Now, if I just tell him he has to check in, maybe he’ll not interrupt.”
Of course, it worked quite well, and then I realized that this tack would teach him that I wanted him to disobey me. Hmmm . . . I decided that was not such a brilliant brainstorm, after all.
Probably one of the great challenges of guiding this new being through the obstacle course of life is to be able to recognize just when they need to travel their own path and that it is time to let go. The slippery slope here is to be able to recognize the difference between guidance and meddling; the difference between support and enabling. To be able to distance one’s self from the hurtful words or actions and allow what is their journey, their path and that they must travel it by themselves. . . even as — or maybe because — they are becoming adults.
I’ve thought from time to time that teenagers are such a pain in the hinder regions just so that we will be ready and willing for them to leave when the time comes. It is at this juncture I’m reminded that my mother also said: “When they’re little they step on your feet. When they are older, they step on your heart.”
It is difficult to take stock of one’s own life and come to the realization that even as this new life separates from us and grows his or her own vine and fruit, they are activating growth in those of us around them. .
I think what I’m saying here is that when kids give us sh**, try to realize that it is just fertilizer for our own growth.
Adrienne Jacoby is a 40-plus-year resident of Shasta County and native-born Californian. She was a teacher of vocal music in the Enterprise Schools for 27 years and has been retired for 11 years.
A musician all her life, she was married to the late Bill Jacoby with whom she formed a locally well -known musical group who prided themselves in playing for weddings, wakes, riots, bar mitzvas and super market openings. And, oh yes … she has two children, J’Anna and Jayson.