I’m listening to two students complaining about their lives. And they keep on coming back to the same issue.
Acknowledgement from their parents.
They want to hear four magic words:
“I’m proud of you.”
I remember having the same woe when I was a teenager. I was convinced that my parents weren’t proud of me. Not that they were ashamed of me. But that I wasn’t living up to their expectations.
I felt like a failure.
Thirty years later, I can look behind myself and see where my parents were always proud of me. That they were my greatest support group. That they were my foundation, my support beams, my everything that kept me from bull-headedly falling to the ground and floundering.
I look at my two children and do not wonder if they know that I’m proud of them. Because I have made a point of telling them.
They know that I am incredibly proud of them.
I’m proud of my daughter because she is quintessentially herself. She knows who she is and she lives her life to the fullest extent of her personality. She is strong willed and strong minded and….well….strong. In a world in which the strong woman is still a new concept, when strong women are generally relegated to being considered b****y, I’m proud that my daughter knows who she is and is not afraid to be herself. I’m proud that she my daughter has defied all expectation and all definition and is absolutely herself and is proud of herself. I have grown up in this horrible carapace of insecurity, this burdensome shell that makes my shoulders tremble and my back curl. I want to be strong in my own skin. But my skin shudders and I’m afraid again, I see the patina of my mistakes sticking to me like a secondary, filthy layer and I shrivel again. My daughter recognizes her mistakes. She might tremble a little, ask that we not bring it up again, but then her shoulders lift, her chin lifts, she looks straight ahead. She moves towards her future.
God, I’m proud of her.
I’m proud of my son because he is quintessentially himself. He knows the lines of his shadow and sees where it is connected to him and no one else. He has stepped far outside the eclipse that I never meant to create and lets his own talents define him. My son is compassion. In a world in which “please” and “thank you” are seen as a weakness, my son speaks these words with sincerity and honesty. In a world of flashy glamour that trends momentarily before devouring itself in combustible superficiality, my son stands with his back straightened by his dignity and integrity. He is an old soul in a young man’s body.
God, I’m proud of him.
I’m proud of my children because they are willing to take intelligent risks, try new things (maybe not food all the time), and go on adventures. I’m proud of how they will pull on their hiking shoes (a bit unwilling many times) and will strike out on the paths to climb mountains, stand on the edges of the world, lift their arms, and feel the gushing wind swirl under them and lift them.
I’m proud of my children because they respect the differences of others and cast no judgement on those who have different definitions. I will say that my children do not respect racists or white supremacists. My children do not respect misogynists. My children do not respect those who are viscerally vocal with their hatred and allow their hatred to stem into violence.
My son participated in the recent walkouts. He maintained his 17 minutes of silence and stood outside and stared at the sky and chose to let his silence speak to the world.
My daughter wrote letters to her Congressman. She knows that her words will likely be ignored. She knows that she might receive a superficial, polite reply. But she has an opinion and she is not afraid to voice it.
My children have different faiths from me. I will admit, it causes me distress. But I also know that to force my will upon my children means to make them into blind sheep who follow willy-nilly. And I have raised my children to have intelligent, thoughtful opinions that are based on evidence and learning. I pray for them.
But, God, I’m proud of my children.
My children are independent and self-reliant. They know how to take care of themselves in terms of feeding themselves (and I don’t just mean microwavable meals) and cleaning up after themselves. Now, if you come into my house, you are going to think I’m lying. Between the piles of this and that in addition to the encroaching dust bunnies, you’d think I’m making this up. But I taught them how to clean. I just didn’t teach them a lot about self discipline.
It’s hard to teach that and criticize others when I lack self discipline.
My kids’ grades are fine.
They have good friends.
They have good study habits
They are well spoken.
They’ve earned awards and commendations on their own merit.
I’m proud of those things too.
But, in the end, it’s not the medals and the certificates and the pins and ribbons that I care about. I don’t really care about what university they go to or even if they want to go to a university.
My children are content. My children are happy. My children are good, compassionate, thoughtful human beings who see the value of others and do their best not to let their intentions or goals hurt others. My children want to help. My children want to ease the suffering of others. My children are…..amazing.
God, I’m proud of my children.