When someone becomes a parent, it usually starts by being handed a small bundle. The bundle typically weighs around 3kg (6lbs), makes sweet sounds, looks cute and feels nice and warm. That moment feels so great, most parents list it high on their list of the greatest moments of their life.
Hidden inside that bundle, there is something much heavier, though. Nobody can see it – not the doctor, not the nurses and not the security guard that watches you as you leave the hospital with your new baby – but it is there. As a parent, you start feeling its burden pretty quickly. More often than not, as soon as you are back home and the door closes behind you.
One day, you left your home looking like a big balloon or helping one, but essentially being an independent person, and the next, you return being bound to a tiny helpless creature you must care for even when it sleeps, at the expense of your time, your energy, your comfortable old routine, all your other interests and even your relationships with your partner.
Man, that’s heavy!
Over time, most parents get the hang of things and lose the scare factor, but the feeling of this enormous weight on their shoulders just does not go away.
It is there when your kids mess up the house and go to sleep, even when you are dead tired after a day at work.
It is there when your kids get sick and you need to take care of them, even though you have a project deadline looming ahead.
It is called “responsibility”.
People all around the world have gladly given away the responsibility over their life to dubious leaders and “experts” for centuries, because then life was so much easier. In fact, they still do it today, because responsibility is such a heavy burden to carry.
For the same reason, parents often push the kids towards their partner and say, “Your kids…” – “Will you please take your son to basketball practice?”, “I need to study today, so you’ll just have to take care of the kids” and so on.
But this is only one side of it. When you accept responsibility for something, you accept that burden with it, sure, but at the same time, you are also accepting freedom of choice and expression.
Most parents choose to have their kids. More often than not, this is a conscious choice. Our kids are our way of having something pure, good and completely ours. Through them, we extend ourselves and finish many things we could not do when we were kids ourselves.
Being responsible for our kids means we can decide what kind of human beings they will be at every turn as they grow up. It means we get to give them our values, our passions, our dreams, our knowledge, our skills and our wisdom and mold them to be as close as possible to perfect versions of us.
In return, we get to live with exciting, innocent, loving little people who love us, make us proud and teach us a lesson or two along the way. In return, we get countless moments of pure joy and elation (not to mention photos and videos of some of those moments, so we can relive them later).
So when it comes to responsibility, surely we want our kids to have loads of it. We teach them to take care of themselves as they grow and encourage them to be independent.
But what are we teaching our kids when we send them to school for their “education” and do not spend time at home reinforcing and improving the results? What do our kids see when we live on a government pension and make other citizens responsible for our food? What kind of people do our kids become when we go to court to make our ex-partner take as much responsibility over them as possible? Where are we leading our kids when we let them eat fast food instead of having healthy, home-made family dinners? How about when we blame them for being “naughty” instead of providing the environment they need to thrive?
What message do our kids receive when we tell them to get out, because they have abused drugs or alcohol? How do our kids feel when we send them away to a boarding school and say they are too much for us to handle? What do our kids hear when we tell them we do not care about others, our employer’s financial results or who will win the next election? What do our kids see when we pass crumbling, graffiti-covered buildings or homeless people (kids) on the street and just keep walking?
Is it surprising the kids of today are more selfish and self-centered than ever before in history? Is it surprising the people in some countries exploit the people in other countries while pretending they do not know they are? Is it surprising there is little loyalty to employees and employers and the strongest power in the world is money? Is it surprising that many kids grow up into a life of crime and consider it their right to take things by force from others who have worked hard to buy them?
And is it surprising that kids are having kids of their own when they are too young to care for them and then leave them with their own parents or worse?
Our kids do not grow up like we want them to. They grow up like us. What we do is by far the most powerful way for us to mold our kids. It just means we must mold ourselves first for their sake.
This was heavy, I know, but it comes out the pain in my heart from a few sessions with clients whose lives contain much of the above.
All I ask is that you look deep into your heart and find those places where you could be just a little more responsible. Because our kids are worth it!