My Children, My Teachers
It is said that the universe is a mirror and personal growth is a spiral.
The dizzying impact of revisiting fears and weaknesses I thought I had put behind me can be quite a roller coaster. When the Universe lovingly and consistently holds up the mirror of my own experience I want to scream “All right already, I get it!” But clearly, I don’t “get it.” That is what the mirror is there to reveal. And there is no mirror as excruciatingly clear and honest as that of our own children.
My husband and I have two children, a daughter and a son. With them we shared love, wisdom and all the abundance with which we were blessed. And, of course, ultimately we shared our fears and our shadows, for our children will always be the depositories of what is in our hearts.
My daughter has generously reflected back to me my fear that I am invisible with little or no impact on others. In her early years of college she had a fantasy foray into the world of an online vampire clan that completely baffled me. Then I realized that a vampire has no image in a mirror and is a perfect metaphor for feeling an absence of personal power and presence. How much life energy had I drained from my own child, hoping, expecting, that she would live the life that I had failed to live, allowing me to rise on the wings of her power and experience?
My son has always been a beautiful reflection of my enjoyment of abstract thought and spiritual/philosophical exploration. Of course, abstraction can be a handy tool for keeping things at arm’s distance and avoiding the self-‐awareness that is so uncomfortable at times. The devastating effect of addiction glared back in the reflection of my son from his late teens until his early twenties as he sought to avoid the discomfort of self doubt, the fear of vulnerability and the need to find validation in others that I had so generously and unconsciously passed on to him.
The most challenging, painful years for our family occurred from the time our children graduated from high school until their mid twenties as we grieved the death of our fantasy family image.
We ultimately realized that we (gasp!) were not the perfect family. In spite of our religious background, in spite of our position in our church, in spite of our own parents’ expectations, we had somehow managed to raise humans rather than robots! We had somehow managed to fulfill the missive that children learn what they live, not what we tell them.
But gradually, with our daughter and son moving out, returning home, trying and failing and trying again, we began to accept them just as they are: beautifully imperfect, gloriously human and, behold, simply divine. And in that acceptance came the greatest gift of all. We came to accept ourselves, just as we are. Those precious little bundles that entered this world through our ecstasy—that delighted us, entertained us, terrified us, enraged us and broke our hearts—ultimately broke our defenses. Not just the defenses we had built against the world, but more importantly the ones we had built to protect us from seeing our own faces reflected in the magic mirror of the Universe.
At long last I delight in my daughter’s deepening spiritual awareness even as she expresses it in a way that would once have caused me to blush with embarrassment. How precious, how perfect! I revel in my son’s recovery and commitment to non-‐ judgment even as I sense a touch of condescension toward his old mom and her dated approach to life. How sweet!
My heart is opened to others who are perfect in their imperfections, and to myself, and I have learned that I only get dizzy when I try to avoid looking in the mirror as I travel life’s upward spiral. The spiral rises most easily when I lock my gaze firmly on the reflection of the magic mirror and let it reflect back to me the perfect imperfection of me in my greatest gifts—my children.