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Parenting as children grow up and choose their own paths

By Michelle Richards

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Before we have children of our own, it’s hard to imagine just how deeply we are capable of feeling love and how powerless we can be to that love at times. However, once children arrive, life quickly begins to revolve around the needs of that tiny infant (or adopted child) and some parents may find it difficult to even shower, let alone take time out for dinner. Even as that infant grows into a toddler and beyond, any illusion of control that we have is shattered. Our fears, our hopes, our love and, yes, also our anger can all be triggered by words or actions of the little person who has captured our heart and is in control of our lives.

We have all heard of instances of parents who have attempted to live vicariously through their children or push them to succeed where they themselves have failed. However, sooner or later we must realize that we can support our children and offer them our guidance, but ultimately they will form their own beliefs and will have to make their own mistakes to learn from.

In the areas of theology and spirituality, this can be challenging to accept. So often parents feel as if they have somehow failed when their adult children choose a different path, and even Unitarian Universalist parents can find it difficult to accept when their youth or young adult children reject our faith and embrace what we ourselves may have rejected at one point in our lives.

While we can communicate our beliefs, articulate our theology, and share with them our meaningful spiritual practices, we still need to recognize that our children will eventually choose their own path and that journey may take them in a very different direction from the one we chose. This is not necessarily a rejection of us and our ideas, but their own way of discovering meaning in life. For if we have truly done our job right they will feel encouraged to find the path which is most meaningful for them—no matter where that path may lead.

Perhaps they will return now and again to their home base where you have—and may continue—to tend the flame, being present for them as needed, even when they are grown and no longer have a daily presence in the family nest. Then a new journey beckons us just as it does our children who are now adults.

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I hope that you have enjoyed this series of blog posts on raising children as Unitarian Universalists, and that you felt a chance to ask questions and share your thoughts and ideas through the comments. This blog on the UU World site has always been conceived of as a limited venture, but this sharing over Unitarian Universalist parenting does not need to end. I plan to re-post these blog entries and continue posting more through my website at Shancar Publications. I hope you will continue to keep looking for inspiration and sharing your ideas with other parents, for the journey can be so much more pleasant when we travel together.

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