All Our Children
“Silently closing her bedroom door/ Leaving a note that she hoped would say more” – Beatles’ ‘She’s Leaving Home’ (ibid., 2,3,4,5,6,7)
I suppose, in many ways, this is one of those stories that every parent dreads … a child felt unloved.
“Picks up the letter that’s lying there/ Standing alone at the top of the stairs / She breaks down and cries to her husband “Daddy our baby’s gone” .2
And, it can happen to any family – parents, taken off guard by the unexpected actions of their children. The questions are many; the answers are few.
“She (We gave her most of our lives)/ Is leaving (Sacrificed most of our lives)” .3
When it happened to us, we had to ask ourselves … “Ok, we’re not perfect, but could we have done better … and what can we do, now?” A sick feeling wells up in your stomach and your emotions rage from worry to outright betrayal. But, always the question lingers: “Why?”
“Fun (Fun is the one thing that money can’t buy)”.4
My teenage son asked unforgiving of his younger sister, “How come she’s so smart and yet so dumb … why bother helping her?”
“Quietly turning the backdoor key/ Stepping outside she is free” .5
As I tried to explain to him, I wasn’t going to stand by and do nothing and watch her opportunities in life pass her by – all because of poor, two-way communication. Losing a child, in this way, is something only a loving parent truly understands.
“She’s leaving home after living alone / For so many years” .6
Years later, he didn’t think that he could survive at university, because of a learning disability which negativity affected his grades at secondary school. His mother and I encouraged him to believe that despite this, he could be successful … that one situation wasn’t conditional on the other. It was a hard sell, but in the end, he took a leap of faith and now enjoys a successful career as a teacher – someone who can relate to students. And, as a parent, he now understands.
For years, though, I played a real life game of ‘snakes and ladders’ with his sister: one step forward, two steps back – to show that we really did love her and we cared. But fast forward to today: she’s a successful corporate manager and a proud mom with a wonderful marriage. And, I’ll never forget how she acknowledged her gratefulness during her wedding speech: saying that, without her family, she’d be nowhere.
“Something inside that was always denied/ For so many years” .7
My son’s youngest sister has seen her share of unpredictable sorrows and, for awhile, needed a safe life harbour that only a loving family can provide. Today, she’s married, with a new home and happier than she’s ever been.
As I see it, ensuring that all our children have a shot at being firmly launched in life, is a parent’s… is society’s main responsibility. As a “family”, we learn together.
www.fredparry.ca (July 2013)