At the beginning of the book The Fish can Sing (Brekkukotsannáll) by Halldor Laxness, translated by Magnus Magnusson (1902-1998), the author lets one of his characters, Alfgrim Hansson, say, A vice man once said, after losing one’s mother there are few things healthier for young children than losing their father.
What we find disturbing about these words is the truth behind them. No parenting is in fact the best parenting, simply because, we often use parenting to force our own ideas on our children.
We often face the judgment of being better or worse parents than others. And we get defensive. Become frighten. And begin to discipline our children. But how often do we ask what is good parenting?
Children are not toys. They are human beings. And they belong to themselves. The only reason they are with us is that they need us to take care of them. Otherwise they were gone their own way.
It should be our role to make our children fully capable of taking care of themselves, independent from us.
This means one day they should not need us. They should be able to take care of their lives, their own interest, including their own children, without our interference.
But that is not what we want for them. Is it? They should be ours, maybe slightly dependent on us. A little bit helpless. Should they not?
Then we will be important. Have a role to play. We are concerned for our children, even though they are adults and should be able to take care of themselves. We interfere in their lives time and time again. We believe we are better qualified to take care of their offspring than them. At least tell them how to raise them. Not when they ask for advice or guidance, but continuously, directly or indirectly. We have experience. We are caring. We are good people.
And somewhere inside us a memory awakes, of interference, control, irritability, even arguments. But we push it aside. Because we can also remember how we used the situation. And we say “our parents cared. They were concerned about us, loved us. Motherly love. Fatherly love. They were good people. We are good people.”
But are we good people? Is indulging helplessness being good? Is it motherly love, fatherly love to create importance through ones children? Is it not rather selfishness? Egoism?
It is namely more often than not as Halldor Laxness lets Alfgrim say, “children are in fact more useful for their parents than parents for the children.”
But is there something we can call motherly and fatherly love?
There are probably some parents that know when to guide and when not. Know when children stop being children, when children stop being children. When child is adult and time to step aside and let them be. There are people that are not afraid to let their children live their lives according to their own choice. Let them have responsibility of themselves. Even if it sometimes seems as they don’t care to accept the responsibility. Even though sometimes it seems they don’t want to take it, stumble or slip up. Good people who dare to take the judgment, bad parenting. Worse than…!
To let go of our own importance is real love. As is daring to be nothing, unimportant, to see that the child is capable of managing its own life.
That is not to worry. Play no role. Be quiet. Be nothing.