Sunday, January 31, 2010

Spiritual Sunday; the organ, a young man, and being a parent.

In my church, about 15 minutes before the start of our main meeting, Sacramemt Meeting, we have an organist play some prelude music. It is used to quiet people as they gather and to bring reverence to the chapel.  It also helps to set a spiritual tone for the meeting.
Lately, our prelude players have been young men and women who are working on their piano/organ skills.  The young adults or teenagers play the prelude music and then someone more experienced takes over for the accompianment of hymns.

Today, I was VERY early.  Like 40 minutes early.  I found a bench up near the front and settled in for some scripture reading and perusing my material for an upcoming YW lesson.
At about 15 minutes before the start of the meeting, I watched as the D family made their way in.  The eldest son is J, whom we first started interaction with when he was 12 and in our Sunday School class.  He's now in his mid twenties, completed a service mission in the Salt Lake area, and has become a fine, upstanding and remarkable young man. 
Oh yeah, J is blind.

I watched as his parents lovingly and carefully escorted him up the chapel aisle, and assisted him up the three steps to the stand.  They guided him gently to the organ and helped him sit.  He took a few minutes to orient himself, and they guided his fingers to the right keys.  Within a few minutes, the chapel began to fill with beautiful, perfectly played music.

J's dad returned to the congregation benches, while Mom sat down in a choir chair near the organ.
Watching J, not only immediately softened my heart, but I began to think about some recent events and my feelings about being a parent.

When our babies are born, we have such high hopes and aspirations for them  It doesn't matter what religion you are, or IF you are religious, we all have ideals, values, and morals we want our children to learn and to embody.  We want them to be honest, full of integrity, educated, and to be contributing, functioning members of society.  If we do happen to be affiliated with a particular religion or faith, we tend to want them to choose likewise.  We know how happy it makes us, and we as parents, want the same, nay, BETTER for our kids.  We want them to be sublimely......... happy.

What happens when your dreams for your children don't become realized?  What happens when all that you have hoped for, prayed for, taught them, aspired for them, goes by the wayside?  Until a parent experiences that disappointment for themselves, I don't think it can be understood.  And even then, each of our experiences are different and unique. 

As friends or acquiantences, we try hard to understand.  We attempt to convey our sympathies and offer words of encouragement, but too often, we miss the mark.  It's easy with our mouths to say, "that's too bad about your kid" while nodding sadly, but in your heart you are really saying 'my kid(s) will NEVER do that.'  You might even convince yourself that you are immune.  You're doing all the right things.  Family prayer, scripture study, family nights, individual time with each child.  You are supportive, you attend every parent/teacher conference, you drive the carpool, you're the friggin PTA president for crying out loud!  There is no way that anything other than perfection will cross your door.  Your biggest challenge will be to decide which college to choose out of the several your kid has been accepted to.

To that I say, POPPYCOCK.  I'm refraining from using the BS word since it's the Sabbath and all, but really.  Crap. And trust me, I know.

Just as J's parents walked beside him down the chapel aisle, guided him up the steps and towards the organ, even helping him position and place his fingers, they eventually had to step away and let him play on his own.

As parents we do all we can.  We teach, we show by example, we correct when necessary, but at some point, our kids are on their own.  We can only sit nearby at the ready in case further assistance is asked for.  That's it.

We can no more accept the credit for a "well-turned out" offspring than we can the blame for the one who is not measuing up to her/his full potential.

So why do we beat ourselves up about it?  Why do we allow ourselves to feel the sting of disappointment over something we never really had control over to begin with?  Why do we continue to compare ourselves and our kids against others and their supposed success?  Am I the only one to do this?

Well,  no more.  I've finally come to the realization that for a small period of time, albeit an important one, I was a central figure in my children's lives.  They looked to me and their father for guidance, reassurance, instruction, and love.  We provided it and anything else we could, in the best way we knew how.  Then, they became adults and we are now merely background players.  We are friends who offer support, encouragement and advice if they want it,   but now, they are poised at the keyboard and their fingers will do the playing.  Not mine.

I relinquish not only any false sense of control I had, but also any guilt or pride with the results.  They are not MY  results.  Once, they were my babies, my little boys, my wrestling teenagers, and now my best friends, but ultimately they are fellow adults who are making their way through their lives just like I am.  We enhance one another, enrich each other's lives and bring joy and happiness to our famly as a whole, and most certainly are forever intertwined........ but we are not a direct reflection of each other.  That is simply not in the plan. 

Instead, I am going to sit back and relax.  I'm going to enjoy my sons, enjoy my granddaughter and look brightly to the future and whatever it may bring.  I've cut the chain of guilt and regret, and instead have started a new chain of acceptance, love and happiness. 
And, when the occasion does arise, that I hear one of my babies call out 'Mom?', I am going to be grateful I get to answer.   


annie valentine said...

This was beautiful, and a great lesson for all of us young moms to take notes from.

What a delight it was meeting you, I hope the rest of your Sabbath is restful.

wendy said...

Melissa that was a beautiful post. Brought a tear to my eye as it is so true.
I struggle with that so much within my own self --always wanting to BLAME myself for everything. Thinking I LET my children down in some way.
I have a son struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. No one knows that pain unless they have experienced it.
I was given alot of peace some time ago over an article in the Ensign of a father ----he tells of one of his sons who just came home from a successful mission. He was greeted in church by a fellow church member who said "you must be so proud of yourself and the young man you raised" The father responded by saying "the praise needs to go to my son alone, as if you PRAISE me for the fine young man my son turned out to be....then you must also FAULT me for my daughter and her drug addiction.
anyway, it was something to that effect

anyway, I am so jealous of "the perfect family"---but then again. I am certainly NOT perfect --oh hell baby, not by a long shot.
But I have always hoped, dreamed and prayed for a better life for my children.
and I will continue to do that
for as long as I live
cause---like you

Pedaling said...

disappointment when it comes to your own child, leaves a heart hurting, mushed, floppy,
but we learn and we know and in the end we understand....
what you wrote here is true....find the joy-
find the love-
carry on.
i love the story, the analogy, i love the words you speak and the experiences that you have grown from, that you share with me and others.
thanks, Melissa!
thank you.

Becca said...

That was so beautiful. I love how you were able to put into words a practical life and gospel application from a simple (OK not really simple) organ solo. What a brave young man to attempt that....and what a great woman you are to have learned from it and to be able to teach us all something from it too. You inspired me tonight..I think I may even hit the keyboard and blog!

glittersmama said...

I have too many thoughts flying around in my head to say more than I loved this post. Thank you.

Cherie said...

That was a really great post and so true. First I love the analogy of the blind organ player in your ward. That would bring tears to my eyes. Those parents must be so happy with his successes.
But you are right. We can only teach them so far. My own children have made a few choices that have had me crying into my pillow at night, or screaming in frustration but I have to remember that they are their own choices and I rejoice when they make the good ones.
We cannot beat ourselves up all we can do is do our best!!

Cherie said...

P.S. There is NO SUCH THING as "The Perfect Family" - That is total BS to the max!! EVeryone and I mean Everyone has crap to deal with!!!!

linda said...

Thank you for this wonderful post. Like you, I've beat myself up many a time for choices that my kids have made, even taking blame myself. It's natural for a mom to automatically take blame and to compare and hope and wish things were different when they don't go the way we had intended. Good for you for deciding to forgo all of the inner turmoil and seek happiness and joy for yourself. It will be hard to do but remember, with prayer, all things are possible!

Plain Jame said...

I hate the word perfect.

I was the wayward child for a while, but due to my parents undying love and support, and of course my sisters and a few good friends... I found my way back.

Just keep being the wonderful person you are. The love is the most important thing for all your children to feel and they feel that. They've got "pink marrow" in their bones from being loved so hard!

You're right - no more guilt! You've done all that you can do. It's our nature to analyze and go back over our decisions and stuff, but in the end you are a genuine person and it's all part of life. Free agency is the plan; the other plan would've sucked...

Just SO said...

What an inspired post. I may have to print this out and let my mom read it....and keep a copy for myself.

I know that my parents have shouldered blame for the wrong choices of their offspring. I know it and I hate that they have and still do. Hate it. I wish my mom could step back and allow her grown children to go forward on their difficult as it may be.

Merri Ann said...

What a great post. Had I been a mom when I was younger, I would have been the one with too much pride and too much guilt over everything my kids did.

I think I have things in better perspective now that I'm older ... your post is a great reminder to keep working on it ...

Again, great post!!!

about me said...

long ago I realize that the small spirits sent to us had been in existence for eternity and how was I going to change them in a few short years or in the scheme of things - in a blink of an eye. I cannot not and so I learned to just sit back and enjoy them. We are all children of our heavenly father with all our faults and he loves us. I also know I signed up to come here and all of these trials so why complain? As always our children are our greatest joy and our greatest sorrow.
I now know the best "advise" I can give a young mother is-- they grow up--- if we all understand this simple rule, we would be happy. They all grow up and get to make their own decisions, choices, road to follow and it SUCKS. But our father in Heaven has set the perfect example of perfect love that we just need to follow and it is all fine
HOWEVER -- don't you just want to beat them some times?

wonder woman said...

Fantastic post, Melissa. So much to think about.

veronica said...

Thank you for sharing that. It was so well said. You are one smart woman.

I loved chatting with you on Friday. Hope to see you again soon.

Sue said...

Look what you have get it.

These people are put in our life because "we can" make a difference..Sometimes we don't see that difference for a long time..But until "we do" enjoy the journey..

love, love this post. I so agree with you.

Loralee and the gang... said...

Beautiful thoughts. I have had the heartbreak of having a son sent home from the MTC, and a son who has now (almost!) completed his mission with honor. And looking back I know that we taught and disciplined them both the same. They were just wired differently, one who always pushed the envelope, and the other who embraced everything good and stayed away from the bad. So I can completely relate to your observations. We are here to lead and guide them, but they will ultimately choose to be who they become. For some it's a stuggle that they ultimately prevail over, and to others, the temptations are just too overwhelming. I think that we as parents just have to do our best, and love our children unhesitatingly, and if they go astray, just hope and pray that their hearts may change one day.

Sarah said...

Beautifully said.

tammy said...

I love this.

I think about this all the time. Wondering if I'm doing enough as a mom. Knowing I'll be held accountable for what I don't teach them. Also knowing that I was the child that caused my parents the most pain. Sometimes wanting the Second Coming to happen sooner than later so my kids don't have time to fall off the path...yep I think about all that and more. Thanks for this post. I'm glad you got to church early. Love the analogy with music too, because you know me and music. (And I'm going to suggest letting other play prelude music in my ward).

頭髮 said...


A Musing Mom (Taylorclan6) said...

Beautifully written. How difficult to follow through. I love to beat myself up about my what I wish I would have done. But at the time, I did the best I could.

Funny how much more empathy a person has the older she gets and the less judgmental.

Aw. I miss the days when I had all the answers.


AMAZING, I worry so much about my childrens future because their beginnings were so out of their control and mine. I have learned the hard way that they are mine on loan from our Heavenly Father and free agency is a gift given to all, not just me.I can not change the choices ther bio parents made I can only govern mine. It is my job to teach correct principals and let them govern themselves As Joseph Smith so eloquently stated. The hard part really is in the letting go.Thank you so much for sharing this.

Patricia said...

Bravo bravo. I couldn't have said it better and so true.