When you look at your child do you see the ideal or the real?
Shades of purple and grey covered the descending sun as waves rolled over the rocks and sand. Five ducklings followed their mother to the water’s edge dancing back and forth along a curved tightrope of foam. The mother moved directly toward the oncoming wave gliding into the water between a receding wave and the endless cue of whitecaps roaring to the shore. She did not look back. Her huddled ducklings mirrored her movements. A wave crashed over all of them but only the mother and two ducklings emerged from the foam.
Two large sister waves lifted the mother as she turned to see her ducklings. There were only two. She jerked her head towards the shore at the three ducklings bouncing like black spools of yarn along the shore. She swung about leaving a gouge in the water as she raced to the three trapped ducklings. The two remaining ducklings without hesitation turned sharply and following their mother rode a breaking wave to shore. Suddenly the three figures disappeared beneath the disintegrating wave. I held my breath. As if by magic five shaking figures surrounding a tall serene mother emerged from the foam of the receding wave. The ducklings shook and swayed surrounding the mother. The mother duck with the grace of a swan swung around and with her brood moved towards the shelter of an overhang under a large pile of driftwood. Reaching this eddy from the wind they huddled together as one.
When a child is born, takes her first step and rides a bike or boards a school bus for the first time – your heart, mind and soul are filled with ideal expectations. Dreams and opportunities are real and endless. This wish-filled view of reality, however, is not real. Life is scattered with unfinished hopes and expectations.
No two children are the same. They are amalgams of strength and weakness forged by desire and inspired by genes and the environment. Your child looks to you for guidance and acceptance about the real world. If you raise your child to see only the arrogance of the ideal your child will be unprepared for the storms ahead.
Parents must inspire and incite within a child a willingness to leave behind the warmth and complacency of the assured and seek the seemingly unattainable. In the real world every parent must teach a child to accept what is real while never forgetting what is ideal. By recognizing and accepting this balance your child will be ready for times of lack and times of plenty. Your understanding and response allows you to model the self-awareness and responsibility your child must possess for the times when you are no longer at your child’s side.
The next time life surprises, saddens or confuses you with the real and not the ideal respond as that mother duck did. Shielded by the safety and security you provide teach your child to see and accept the real world. The path you take, the warmth you provide and the life you choose prepares your child for a life filled with exploration.