Friday, April 9, 2010

What to Expect When You're Expecting

When I was pregnant with my first child I read a book called "What to Expect When You're Expecting".  The book helped assuage my fears and also instilled a sense of confidence in me.  I felt secure, knowing that if I turned to the book with questions about my pregnancy I would find the answer.  The follow up book, "What to Expect The First Year" provided insights about my developing baby.  In fact I was able to find many books to help explain my child(rens) behaviors as they grew and developed.  Given my background in Early Childhood Education and Psychology and the plethora of reading materials available to me (not to mention the advice of my parents), I felt assured that I would be able to face anything that might come my way as I was raising my daughters.

That all changed when my daughters reached puberty and the teen years loomed ahead of us with uncharted waters and few books to support my questions and concerns.  I kept looking for a book called "What to Expect When What You're Expecting Isn't What You Expected".  There isn't one, in case you're wondering.  The teen years can be wonderful for some parents and not so wonderful for others.  I've learned that you can neither punish yourself nor pat yourself on the back for much of what occurs.  I have been shocked, surprised (in both good and not so good ways), proud, disappointed, scared, angry, joyful and often bewildered.  Nothing and I mean nothing could have prepared me for what was going to happen over the course of my daughter(s) teen years.  If I had known I'm not quite sure what I would or could have done to change things.

The experience of my children(s) adolescence has taught me many things but I am not an expert.  I know now the reason there is no book that can truly assist you in helping your child(ren) navigate the uncharted territory of the teen years.  It's a trip that everyone must experience as an individual.  
There is no book that will help you through the roller coaster of adolescence but the words of Kahlil Gibran have provided me comfort and an understanding of my role as a parent:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

I now know that what I should have been expecting all along was to be humbled by what I didn't know, what I never could have expected and what I may never understand.  I know that I can only provide stability upon which my daughters can rely and return to when they need.  I know that I cannot make them bend to my will but only hope they will seek my guidance.  Now I know that I should expect the best but prepare for....anything.