Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dear Child

Dear Child,

I am mainly writing this letter out of sense of self preservation, but also some love.  SO much love.  I know there will come a point when you have become enough of an adult, that you will look back at your childhood with some degree of perspective.  I don't know how old you will be or where life will take you but I am almost certain this moment will happen, perhaps multiple times.  It may come when you are financially independent, or when you get married, or when you have children of your own, but it will come.  You will feel that because you can see the good and the bad at the same time that you can make a clear judgement on your childhood.  And you might be right.  It is in this moment, that I hope you read or remember this letter.

I write because there may be a time or times when you will assess the support we gave you as parents, with probably more clarity than we can, and you may feel more disappointment than gratitude.  You may feel that the net worth of your upbringing was negative rather than positive.  It may just be a brief moment or years of therapy but it will happen.

I believe it will happen because it has happened to me*, and it's happened to my parents, and I'm sure their parents...probably all the way back to those first parents.  It is perhaps the reason that generational superiority or the "generation gap" exists--the belief that you and your generation know better either because of social evolution or experience or both.

My father-in-law (your grandpa) has a wonderful philosophy about parenting he phrases in one sentence: "it's our job to move the ball forward."  To keep the proverbial ball of humanity in progress and getting better.  That each generation has the responsibility move forward, and not backward.  To get better, and not worse.  I like it, it's a very humble philosophy.  And since generational superiority is essentially pride falling out on both sides of the gap, I think humility is the only way we can attack this problem.  With humility, you can look back and trust they were doing the best they can with what they had AND you can look forward, knowing they probably won't do things the same way you did and that's okay, maybe even good.

At some moment in your life you will judge me and my actions against the progress humanity has made since you were a child.  All the knowledge and practice and "ball rolling forward" that has happened between your childhood and the birth of your own children.  And you will inadvertently hold that gap against me and your father.  You may recognize it and you may resist it but it will be there, a thorn in your consciousness, begging to be pulled out.

I am so certain that this is a universal coming of age because of a singular fact: parents are people and people are flawed.  The universality of human experience and the nature of fallen man.  Because of The Fall, we are all of us, mortally wounded and broken.

And while we trudge through this earthly, fallen realm we bear children.  Beautiful, perfect, flawless beings sent to our presence and stewardship, where it becomes mainly our responsibility to teach them right from wrong, good from evil.  It's a big job, and some of us shrink or fail, but most rise to the challenge and work to give you the best chance we can at a happy and successful life.  And we want so much good for you.

A parent's love for a child is undeniable and indescribable and is only limited by our own fallen natures.  The Savior understood this love and used it to teach and illustrate the love God has for us:

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.  

Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matthew 7:8-11, emphasis added)

God, our Heavenly Father, wants so much to bless us and give us the kind of life He enjoys because of His immense love for us.  He sent us down to this earth, a mortal collegiate experience, so that we could learn to walk by faith, not sight.  To stumble like toddlers and provide help for us when we seek and ask for it.  His ultimate goal is for our happiness (Moses 1:39).  And like any good parent, He must set conditions on us receiving that happiness, lest He spoil us, His children.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

And so child, please know that we tried our best.  We tried to set the right limits on your behavior at the right times AND give you the right freedoms at the appropriate moments so that you could learn and grow and become the person God wants you to be.  To help you use your agency to make good choices and become better.  A help to those around you more than a burden and a positive contribution to this little world of ours.

I hope above all you can forgive us, your parents.  Because the bad news is, of course, that we too are fallen.  We have most likely failed you in some small or large way.  There will be moments when you feel as though you've assessed everything and you are saddened by the conclusions you find.  It is in these moments, my dear sweet child, that I hope you remember the Savior.

The one perfect being sent by the one perfect parent to pay for all of us.  He suffered for the sins of all mankind so that we wouldn't have to.  He is the only one who can pull out the thorn of your resentment.  To give you the power to forgive.  And as long as we remember that we need the payment He offers as much as the thief, the murderer, and the rapist than we can find it in ourselves to forgive those who trespass us.  Even parents, who come to this job with every good intention.  

And so I hope you know this child.  I hope you know this because I will have tried to teach it to you as best I could, and I hope you can find it somewhere in your heart to forgive me.


*Mom and Dad if you read this, please know I really do think you're the greatest parents ever.  Love you!!!

1 comment:

Crystalee said...

What a beautiful letter. You so eloquently put the feelings of my heart. Holding my newborn babe, I know it's inevitable she will one day look at me with disappointment, rather than the complete and utter trust she does now. It's humbling to be in such close quarters with someone so pure and unblemished.

Thank you for sharing this letter. For the record, I found your blog through common friend Samantha Murphey.