Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Children They Were

Nothing has ever tugged at my heart like my children.  They were, as babies, toddlers and youngsters, the most beloved creatures in my life.  I cherished every day with them, even the tough ones, because I knew how precious, how fleeting it was.

 Ages 2 and 3

The boys are men now; young men in their early 20s.  They are no longer mine to protect, to hold in my arms, to keep safe.  They have their own ideas with which I don't always agree and that is to be expected.  It's a balancing act of loving the children they were and the adults they've become.  As little guys, I loved them in no small part due to their dependence and need of me.  As a parent, I have to learn to adjust, accept and love what they are becoming without too many expectations.  I have to learn to love with an open hand.

This brings to mind a favorite book, "The Art of Loving" by Erich Fromm, a German psychologist and philosopher. Published in 1956, it was a must-read in college.  Fromm posited many theories about love including:      
  • Love is a skill that can be taught and developed.
  • The active character of true love involves four basic elements: care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge
  • Loving oneself through understanding, acceptance and personal responsibility is key to loving another person
  • He is skeptical of exclusive love in which one loves another person to the exclusion of all else.
His most debated and quoted concept is his differentiation between immature and mature love.
"Immature love says 'I love you because I need you.'  Mature love says 'I need you because I love you.'"
Need vs love.  Do I need them because I love them or love them because I need them? 

I read a short article by a woman who said her mother taught her she would never have to lie to her because it would always be okay to tell the truth.  She promised her truth without punishment.  This courageous, some might say "silly" mother allowed her child to sneak out of the house at two in the morning when she was 14 years old.  The girl had told her mother her friends wanted to do it and asked permission.  Her mother let her go but asked that she call after an hour to let her know she was okay.  She never told her friends her mother was in on it.  This scenario played through her teenage years and she says it made her incredibly responsible.

Now, I learned the  "Ask forgiveness instead of permission" way.  When it came to my father, it was all about after the fact.  I could not tell him who I was, what I was up to, where I was really going or anything else.  No sir. He'd have locked me away for four years: 14-18.  I'm sure he wishes he had. 

My mother was another story.  When I was 17, after a high school career of "Let's see how much I can experiment and live."  my mother took me to lunch one day, reached across the table, took my hand and said, 
"No matter what you do or who you become, I will always love and respect you."
These were the most important words my mother ever spoke.  They gave me self esteem and self respect.

So here I am 20+ years later, hoping I've done the job I wanted to do.  Much love flows between us and they seem unafraid to express themselves emotionally.  We never speak with one another without saying "I love you."  That's a good thing.   My husband and I will take full credit for that!

      Clear Lake, CA. ca 1992  1st water ski lessons & holding the "skiier down" flag


DJan said...

What a wonderful post about two really truly wonderful children. And they grew up to be loving and responsible men. You are incredibly fortunate. I don't know about now, but then they were adorable and super cute! :-)

Betsy Brock said...

I don't think there's anything quite like the love between a son and a mom if you have a good relationship. I love those words from you mother to you. My parents would have never said that. In fact, I have no relationship with them now at all. Sad. Maybe that's why I treasure my friendship with my oldest so much.

Gosh..those photos are sweet. They really do grow up fast, but it's is entirely satisfying to see them turn out well, isn't it? You should be proud.

Brian Miller said...

really like your thoughts on love vs thing i will give that woman is she fostered communication and honesty with her kid...i dont know if any of us will ever get it all right with our kids and maybe in that is a learning for them...

mermaid gallery said...

My son says I love you now at the end of every phone conversation and when ever he leaves home. It took a long time to get here tho....but we made it. Kids are everything to us ....but it takes years for kids to realize that. It took me years to realize that my mother made lots of mistakes but it didn't mean that she didn't love me. Actions speak louder than when parents aren't getting their kids and responding in a negative way...their kids see that as not loving them.....that was my life and I am making sure it is not my sons. We try to be always positive....that equals love and support.

California Girl said...

Djan: I probably want feedback on my parenting thoughts than anything else on this blog. I guess my most heartfelt writings are about my children. Thank you for your thoughts.

Betsy: Her words are with me always. I still see us at that lunch. I still see her face and feel the words. I broke down and cried like a baby because I was not an easy teenager. I definitely stretched the boundaries. My mother, however, was tolerant. Dad was her third husband and she had been through experiences of her own.

Brian: she did indeed foster truthful communication. I had a bit of that, maybe more than I wanted. but it didn't stop me from yelling at them when they did something stupid, which they did often. Sometime I'll write about all the wrecked cars.

Mermaid: When they lived at home, a day did not go by in their lives that I failed to say "I love you". It was a conscious decision that became part of our interaction. They always said it back, even in front of their friends. I've always admired each of them for their unabashed response.

Baino said...

I'm not sure I'd let a 14 year old out at 2am but I am a reasonably liberal parent. This is such a true and timely piece. For the first time in my life, I am now an empty nester (well have been for one week apart from staying at Clare's on Tuesday and Adam calling or dropping in all week). I think love, respect and forgiveness have helped create two very nice adults. And I don't subscribe to those who say telling those you love "I love you" loses impact if its said to often. It can never be said too often when it's meant.

California Girl said...

Thank you Helen. I agree. "I love you" can never be said enough.

ratatouille's archives said...

"Nothing has ever tugged at my heart like my children. They were, as babies, toddlers and youngsters, the most beloved creatures in my life. I cherished every day with them, even the tough ones, because I knew how precious, how fleeting it was..."
I think you wouldn't be a loving and caring mom if you didn't experience all the emotions that you have shared with your readers.[That I have quoted...above about your feeling toward your children.]

By the way,
I think that both Of yours sons still have their childhood facial characteristics...Well, to a certain extent.

Hi! C.G...
What a very informative and wonderful post! I really like your openness and honesty with your readers too!

"We never speak with one another without saying "I love you." That's a good thing. My husband and I will take full credit for that!"

I agree with you and the quote that I quoted say a lot not only about you, and your husband, but your children too!

Thanks, for sharing!
deedee ;-D

#1Nana said...

I feel the same way about my children. It's a wonderful reinforcement to see my daughter with her children and see so much of myself in her actions. A mother's unconditional love is the best gift a child ever receives.

California Girl said...

DeeDee: Thank you. It's not too difficult to write from the heart. I think they've retained some of their baby facial characteristics too.

#1Nana: That will be the next step, watching them parent. It must be wonderful.

Deborah said...

CG, I like you even more after reading this post. Your honesty and character are in plain sight, and it's not at all surprising that your sons have grown into such fine people with a parent like you.
What an extraordinary thing for your mother to have done, but it shouldn't be. Every parent should say that to their child - it's the ultimate expression of unconditional love. How lucky for you to have had such an emotional umbrella.

The I-love-you's have become a natural and almost instinctive part of the dialogue for our children's generation. When I hear my sons saying that to each other, or even to close friends, I am always struck by it. Couldn't imagine my brothers saying that at the same age.

Lovely post. Writing from the heart is compoelling reading!

the 'I love you'My

California Girl said...

Deborah: Thank you. My husband thinks I should write about the children all the time but I'm afraid it might be too repetitous. I don't know. He actually suggested this theme when I was mooning about the house one day, missing my children as youngsters.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

love, love, love....

lovely post!

beautiful sons then .....and now!

Tanna said...

CG: this one touches on the heart strings. Your love for your boys (young men) has always shown through, but never more beautifully than in this post. They are very, very blessed young men to have been so loved.

Your mom's words to you were a wonderful gift I can tell you have passed on to your sons. Now, that's an inheritance worth all the gold in the world. blessings ~ tanna

California Girl said...

kimy: love love love is what it's all about in the beginning and the end, isn't it? thanks.

Tanna: Thank you. I swear, when I write these types of posts the words gush and they practically write themselves with some editing of course. I'm pleased you see this as an inheritance and gift. I hadn't thought of it that way and I like it.

Pat Tillett said...

The house I grew up in, was so much different than the one we raised our kids in. As you already know, my mom was the worst role model possible. I truly enjoy reading things like your post. It makes me happy that it all works out in some families. We have five kids and I'd say they are all different and our relationships are all very different as well.
great post!

California Girl said...

Pat: It hurts me to think of the children whose parents are neglectful, abusive, indifferent. You obviously overcame huge hurdles to go on and bravely raise your own family. That takes great strength of character.

Thank you for appreciating this post, my feelings and my writing!

Ruth said...

This is a fabulous, heartfilling post. There's a lot here to come back to. I love the quotes and the pieces of wisdom, wow. Your mom! How beautiful.

Beautiful boys, just wonderful photos. Yes, how we love our children! (and future grandchild ....)

California Girl said...

Ruth: Congrats!!! I haven't been as diligent in my post reading so this is news for me. This is awesome! :)

Pseudo said...

First timer. Beautiful post.

California Girl said...

Pseudo: Welcome! thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.