Friday, February 24, 2012

"As Long As I'm Alive..."

I work for an organization that helps stabilize people who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness.  At an event last night, where we were talking with potential board members, a woman said a very surprising thing.  During the introductions she shared, "My son is about to complete college and I told him last night that one of my gifts to him is a promise.  As long as I'm alive he will never be homeless or hungry."

I was surprised because she is a very accomplished business woman who lives in a relatively wealthy area.  My assumption for someone with that brief bio would be that they would feel safe.  It turned out that she was a much wiser person and much more sensitive person than I realized.  She is wise in my mind because she understands that life is fragile.  Money, education, connections, and enriching experiences can't protect us from all of life's challenges.  Medical and mental health problems, car accidents, and natural disasters, to name a few, touch people of all backgrounds.  Her promise to her son was a reassurance -  I can't control everything for you but I will be here for you.

It touched on one of my key parenting motivations.  Teaching self-reliance.  I learned early that life is unpredictable.  It's why I feel that the greatest gift my mom gave me, beside her unconditional love, was responsibility.  By high school I knew how to change tires and oil, do laundry, budget, cook, and maybe most importantly, delay gratification.  She died soon after I became a legal adult and I have lived my life without her hands on support and guidance ever since.  She wasn't able to give me every material item that I desired as a child.  Instead, she gave me the things that I needed in order to succeed without her.  As parents, that is absolutely in our control, for as long as we are alive.


  1. My parents tried to give me the material things, even though we had no money. I always had clothes, food, toys at Christmas, etc. But nobody spent any time with me. I was really independent as a result, and I appreciate that trait, but I'm kind of bummed they didn't seem interested in me. I'm trying to make sure I raise my son to be independent and do things for himself, but I always make sure he knows how much I love him and how much I enjoy being around him.

    1. That's a great balance that you are striking. I do catch myself multi-tasking way too much instead of just being present. Your note is helping me remember how much real attention can mean.