Susan's Blog

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Contract With Our Children

What’s important? It is so easy to forget, and lose yourself in sadness, grief, and regret. Especially as a parent, which is the epitome of hope — your decision to have a child is your expression of faith in the goodness of life, your commitment to keep us all going.

So what happens when we have our kids? We get caught up in something external to the child, something tangential to the reason we gave birth in the first place. We start living through our kids, rather than watching his life unfold.

I had a conversation with a friend today on the train, we were both done teaching at the same time, and she told me about how she writes. She has a unique and fascinating book coming out at the end of the month, and so I get a lot out of talking to her — we have both been through similar experiences via publishing and writing. She told me that her book came alive when she let go of trying to write it a certain way, or for a certain audience. It just was there for her; she saw and heard the characters’ conversations as if they were real. I have experienced that, too. There is nothing like it, when your characters become real.

I’m thinking about what my friend said because it applies to loving our children. I think that when we let go of that script, that frame around them — of what they should be and what we deserve to get from their lives — we are suddenly with them. They are real in a way they never were before, because they are just being themselves, their glorious selves. We can let them be themselves and rejoice in that. I think that is the contract we make with God (yes, I believe in God, you may call it nature or something else, whatever it was that made you take that leap into creating life). The contract is that we will be given the chance to have a child, and we must love that child exquisitely: with nurturing, educating, developing, disciplining. Yes, even that. Boundaries help them know where they end and others begin.

Why am I saying all this? Because of my friend, I guess, but also because I know that I enjoy my children more when I am just with them, plunged in. When I do that with Nat, just exist with him, next to him, taking my cues from him — that is when the love is the strongest.


A binding contract includes a penalty/ies for breach of contract.

In this “contract with God/nature/whatever,” what penalty/ies (in your judgment) are imposed — and how, and by whom? — when this particular contract is broken (as it so often is)?

— added by Kate Gladstone on Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Good question. What kind of penalties do you think are imposed? I think that our own misery is one kind.

— added by Susan Senator on Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 8:43 pm

A far greater penalty — of misery and worse — is imposed on those who did _not_ breach their parents’ contract: namely, the children. Anything the contract-breakers (the parents) experience is far less (in wrongfulness,mand in probable impact on the remainder of one’s life) than what the innocent should-have-been-beneficiaries (the children) experience from breach of a contract that was meant to, well, to get them reared as unhindered human beings . The parents agree to, then break, the “contract with God,” and God/nature severely punishes a third party (the children) for … well, for having been reared without the assets that God/nature/the universe meant for them to be allowed.

— added by Kate Gladstone on Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Yes, unfortunately.

— added by Susan Senator on Friday, April 13, 2012 at 6:42 am

The idea of letting go of the script is one of the beautiful lessons I have learned from my autistic sons. Before I really learned to let them lead and show me how they wanted to interact, I spent too much time feeling frustrated because they didn’t want to do things when/how I wanted to do them. It is always one of the happiest times of my day when I just go in their bedroom and simply sit down – watching them run, stim, play. When that moment of connection comes and they sit in my lap, that is real joy.

— added by Suzette on Friday, April 13, 2012 at 9:53 am

I am all for the plunging in and letting go. In my family, for me, this means passing up private therapies, and having relaxed after school time. Neighborhood kids drop in, we hang out in the back yard or take a walk. I get twinges of guilt that the twins don’t get private speech or OT, but as a family, I think we are all doing better this way.
Thanks for expressing it so well!

— added by Alice on Friday, April 13, 2012 at 11:23 am

YES! Mars’ has learned to be himself, too, at home and in our own community. And so have I with his help.

BUT! It would be so fine if a really really good and inspired therapist would stop by to observe us a la Margaret Mead in our natural setting and share her knowledge and skill as it applies to us or honestly say she has nothing to offer.

— added by Sarah on Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 9:22 am

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