Events in our lives, such as the death of a loved one, can seem to bring about great reflection regarding life. We often reflect in a rear facing manner on the “could have,” “should have,” and “would have” in relation to the loss of our loved one but never about the can and will be of the future. The loss of my maternal grandfather resulted in one of many talks The Chad and I have had over the years about our upbringings, our great similarities and triumphant differences. What we found in our discussion regarding family is that love doesn’t flow up. With that idea we both vowed to intentionally raise our children a bit differently, giving them what we did not have in our lives, in our relationships, fulfilling our needs and those of our children. Many parents say they will raise their children different from their parents methods, however they fall short to parenting by default, parenting by what was learned.
The Chad and I discussed how with the passing of my grandfather that I was not close to him like my maternal cousins. Nothing sad or angry, just matter of fact. My mother blamed herself stating that “because we moved away” the opportunity for a forged relationship was weakened or unavailable. However, I see this as not the case. Reflecting upon the past, our pasts, and relationships with family, we found that the obligation to maintain and or build relationships with the aging family seemed to rest solely upon the younger generation. I wrestled with this knowledge, trying to understand the “why” behind the situation of the children reaching for the adults.
What I concluded is, more often than not, pride seemed to be a contributing factor for the degradation of relationships. Shame was another. Laziness, complacency and comfort were a few others. The parent was no longer obligated to be a parent when their children were grown adults and parents themselves. As if parents are suddenly released from their role in their children’s lives when they reach a certain age or apex in life.
Love begins and continues, love should not end. Being a parent does not end when our children are grown. The word parent is derived from the Latin word parens, which means to give birth. Parents are the creators of love, they give birth to love, to the generations to come after them. I mentioned how love doesn’t flow up, this is the term The Chad used in our talks about family. I found the phrase fitting like describing water or electricity and following the path of least resistance.
So how is it that love doesn’t flow up? Have you ever seen water run up a mountain?
Love is much like water sprouting from a small spring, the flow begins to pick up momentum and carve through the landscape, a steady stream, a small creek, then growing into a river. All of the volume, all of the love with the genesis from a minuscule trickle develops into something so much greater. Like I said, parents give birth to love for generations to come. The younger generations should not have to fight for the love and relationships of their family like salmon swimming upstream. The Chad and I discussed that our children should not seek out the love, attention and relationships of their parents, grandparents, extended family, in the manner we have over the years. Love doesn’t start at the youngest generation and carry on to the elders, but rather the opposite.
Our discussions of love, parenting and the future hope of becoming grandparents led us to the path of what we want, and are, to do differently. Today, we raise our children in a vastly different and stark comparison to that of our parents. Similarities echo with the little clichÃ©s here and there. Over the years, and through adequate family counseling, we have identified what we did not receive and determined that our children will have these needs met in their upbringing.Â The act is very cathartic, almost healing for our inner child as the love flows down, out, and around our family.
We are already engaged with our children in a way we did not feel engaged with through our formidable years. Listening is the most important factor in communicating with our children, too often, as parents we are doing the talking and never allowing children to have a voice. Something that seems to carry on even as adults. Vowing that even if our children grow and move away, that the relationship shall not dwindle. Distance should not create the opportunity for absence. Relocating out of our comfort zone to ensure contact is maintained over more than just once a month, couple of months, a year or longer. Our children should not have to chase us down for a relationship, to know us, to know our lives, the life we live or have lived. Advice, communication, sharing how we have experienced life during those years, how we struggled, that we understand life is a challenge, to say the least, and we can continue to guide them even as adults.
I recall not too long ago leaving work after a horrid day and calling my dad for advice. A savvy and cunning businessman, he knew the corporate game better than anyone. As a 30 something year old woman, I was (am) proud to call my father for advice, to share my struggles and listen. More so, was my father’s ability to listen to what I had to say, to never tell me I was wrong in how I was feeling or going about my life, but guiding me through options and talking through struggles, triumphs and devastation.
These conversations were an epiphany as my eldest son quickly arrived to the tween and teen years. My former tiny human was coming into his own struggles, triumphs and devastation as a young adult, conjoined with raging hormones; this young man was trying to understand his own body language, reactions and adequately communicating these moments. G, The Chad and I would sit in his room and ask how he was feeling, his normal answer was to say he was tired. Knowing him full well, this was his cop-out answer to avoid a discussion. Pressing further, we were able to arrive that he struggled to find words for his strife, a struggle his father and I both knew all too well. Digging deeper, we expanded on how certain emotions will affect the body with shoulder tension, back pain, chest tightening. Feelings and expressions we both had to figure out as adults, feelings and expressions never validated by our parents. In this moment, love flowing down. Applying this same thought process, we saw a difference in the twins. We saw them react differently, express their emotions more creatively through art, letters to either of us, and through their communication. The simple act of explaining what they could not comprehend by themselves, the simple act of talking, listening, loving.
The Chad and I want the opportunity to parent, give birth, to love flowing down for generations. Loving down to our children in a continuous fashion that does not stop. Love does not falter or dwindle if they move away. Love does not waiver or grow absent if they disagree with us or we disagree with them or their spouse. Love does not stop flowingÂ when variables arise, we cannot let them become like a dam in the stream. Busyness, frustrations from work and life as an adult can bring challenges, but never a reason to cease loving down to our children. Our needs will never outweigh those of our children no matter how young or old they grow or how old or weary we may become in this life. Children may grow up, but love will always flow down to them no matter their age, circumstance, or across the miles. Our jobs as adults, parents, is to always be the adult and parent even when our children enter the role of adult and parent in their life. We will do our damnedest to let them know, that love doesn’t flow up.