I had a challenging time with childlessness at work this week. Normally I am fine with childlessness at work; I talk to parents all the time, no biggie. This week, we had a training day on learning to run a new group for parents.
No problemo. I did not even think twice about it.
On the day of the training, we sat and listened to the trainer and discussed parenting for a few hours. Easy-peasy.
The trainer asked us to think about messages in our lives, messages that were passed on to us by our parents. We did a little thinking and writing about those messages. A bit difficult, but manageable. I’ve got this.
Then came the kicker. The trainer asked us to reflect on and write down the messages we would like to pass on to our own children.
Oh, I thought.
To my surprise, I found that I was teary. Apparently, I had not thought through this element of childlessness, at least, not completely. It turns out grief can still leap out of nowhere and catch me off guard.
It turns out grief can still leap out of nowhere and catch me off guard.
Luckily for me, I was needed in another room at that moment. I went and stood in the tearoom, pausing in the silence, noticing the tears pricking at my eyelids, noticing the pounding of my heart.
I don’t think the workplace is the best place for me to do this particular reflective exercise, I thought.
So here are the messages I would have liked to have passed on to my children, had I given birth to any:
1. You are loved and lovable.
Plenty of children grow up knowing they are loved, but there is a difference between knowing someone is dotty about you and knowing you are downright lovable. Kids need to know they are lovable no matter how they behave.
2. You are allowed to say what you think and how you feel.
Kids often get told what to think and feel: “”Don’t say that,” “Don’t cry”, “Stop being angry.” I would have loved to have told my kids that everything they feel is ok – everything.
I would have loved to have told my kids that everything they feel is ok – everything.
3. Go make noise, read, try new things!
Sometimes kids worry about popularity or about having their parents’ approval (thank you Captain Obvious), butI wanted my kids to be free to be themselves. I wanted them to pursue whatever attracted them, everything from climbing trees to construction, from dissecting frogs to drumming.
4. You belong, both to this family and to God’s family.
One of the most important things for kids to know is that they are part of the family and are needed and wanted. I certainly would have told my kids all about God, how he gave his son Jesus because he loves them so crazy much, and how God wants all his kids to be part of his enormous family.
5. Leave me alone when I’m on the toilet. (Just kidding!)
6. Earth is not your home.
I am sure I would have been the kind of mum that would have showered her little munchkins with niceties. But I did not want to be the kind of mum that instilled a craving for material or temporary things in her children. I wanted my kids to learn about their heavenly home and to live their lives with gusto for Christ, their eyes firmly fixed on eternity.
I wanted my kids to learn about their heavenly home and to live their lives with gusto for Christ, their eyes firmly fixed on eternity.
What shall I do with these messages? I will not have any children of my own. I guess I could find other children with whom to share these messages, but I may not find any. Let me know if you have an answer for me. I am still looking for one.
What about you? What things do you wish you had the chance to teach your would-be children? What are some of the hopes and dreams, the intangible losses, that you grieve? Share your stories – let’s have a countercultural conversation.