If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.
Alfred Adler, one of the pioneers in developmental psychology, tells us that happy and productive individuals have three life tasks: occupation, friendship, and love. As we all understand, love shows many faces. Romantic love focuses on passion; brotherly love emphasizes caring and affection; and, most fundamentally, the love of a parent for a child is multifaceted and unbounded. However, parental love can come from divergent directions as well.
There is a wonderful metaphor regarding love from the old classic film, Fanny. Set in the south of France, Fanny is a young girl whose paramour, Marius, has an itch for the sea. After Marius leaves for an extended sea expedition, Fanny discovers that she is pregnant. Her father’s friend, Panisse, is a wealthy merchant who is unmarried and childless. In order to save Fanny from the shame of birthing an illegitimate child, Panisse offers to marry Fanny and give her unborn son his name.
Eventually, Marius returns and learns that he has a son. He demands to be recognized as the boy’s father, proclaiming, “I gave life.” In a poignant confrontation between Marius and his father, Cesar, he is scolded:
“A bull gives life. It takes more to raise a child. It takes love. But love is like smoke; it takes a tremendous amount of smoke to make a pound of it. Your son is a product of all the love he has received. The bulk of the love, the real weight, came from Panisse. He did not give life. He gave love and, when you see your son, you should see Panisse in his smile and his happiness.”
When we consider who we are and how we grew, where did the love come from that nurtured us? Whose “daily smoke” protected and encouraged us? Whose selfless patience and prudent guidance made us more substantial, confident and wise? Where would we be without our “smoke collectors” when we were too little and innocent to even appreciate their efforts? But we aren’t little anymore; so it’s time to reach out in reciprocal love and appreciation. Your “smoke collectors” deserve it.
Homework: Pick up the phone. If your major smoke contributor(s) are no longer able to answer the phone, it’s time to become a smoke collector for someone else. If you have no one to thank and no one to “collect” for, it’s time to look into the metaphorical mirror and ask, “Why don’t I?” Is there no one to love, to support, or provide with kindness?
Think about it. Then act.
My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, “You’re tearing up the grass.” “We’re not raising grass,” Dad would reply. “We’re raising children.” ~Harmon Killebrew?