In the office of the doctor who performed the fertility treatments that resulted in the birth of eight babies to a mother who already had six were pictures of children — walls filled with pictures of children.
These pictures were referred to as “trophies.”
Children are not trophies. They are not accessories. Children are not to be “used”for the purpose of building one’s self esteem. It is foolhardy to bring children into the world so that we can “have someone who will love us unconditionally.”
I have heard this kind of thinking so often — from all kinds of women. Something else is going on in the mind of a person who believes, or whose experiences have led them to believe, that the only way they will get unconditional love is to give birth to someone they hope will give it them. That is an incredible indictment on society — and it is an indication of the deep wells of emptiness with which people are struggling (knowingly or unknowingly). I have heard this from young girls who believe that “this baby is going to love me, and I will finally have someone good to love.” I have heard this from adult women who believe “this baby is going to complete me.”
Children are more than self-esteem tools or companions. What an incredible burden for a child to carry! Mary Pender Greene, a brilliant psychotherapist, often provides free marriage and relationship workshops in our community. She has said often that people who are considering marriage must not go seeking for someone to “complete them.” It’s not the responsibility of a mate to make you a whole person. You are a whole person. When two people come together, it is not one half meets another one half. The ideal is that one whole person meets another whole person — and two whole people are joined together. Many marriages and relationships falter because people expect their mates to “complete” them. We can be wonderfully fulfilled by our relationships when we approach the development of those relationships as whole people — people with interests and passions…people who have done or are doing the necessary work to be emotionally healthy. We all need help to be emotionally healthy — and we should seek it when we need it!
If a marriage will falter because an adult mate is unable to make up for all of the emptiness that their mate feels — what do we expect will happen with children who cannot make up for all of the emptiness in their parent’s lives?
As a parent, I know that my children love me. But there are times when they don’t like me. I say “no” when they want me to say “yes.” I say “yes, you will” when they want me to say “no, you don’t have to.” Raising children is not about creating a group of people to surround and affirm me. Regardless of how they feel about me, my responsibility is to parent them with love. It is my adult responsibility to understand that I don’t parent them so that I can have someone to love me; I parent them because that is what they need. And I know that my parenting skills are weakest when I am slipping on my own commitments to myself.
Children are amazing, simple, easy, incredible, loving, gifted, funny and wonderful! They are also complex, exasperating, moody, selfish, childish, boorish, and stubborn! They should have the freedom to be all of that and to grow appropriately — and they can only if we don’t expect them to do something that not even another adult can do — be someone or something they were not intended to be, or perform a function that belongs to God only.
One reply on “Children Are Not Trophies”
So much of what you say here, like all wisdom, is true in particular, and also very true generally. It is true in the specificity of marraige and parenting. It is also true in relationships between adults and children, leaders and followers in larger society. That is, educationally, ecclesially, politically, indeed in all matters where there is a relationship of power and authority, trust and responsibility. People must never be treated as means but appreciated as ends in themselves.Your brief note goes a long way to explain why paternalism has such a negative connotation when applied in the aforementioned domains. How appropriate is such comment in these times when it seems the whole of our society is lost in a desire to be coddled and reassured, when it is time we seize the opportunity to love courageously to become our best selves, society, community.A word from Ramah indeed.Thanks,Toby