Be the Light that they are unable to see

November 6, 2009

We hear much of the importance of loving your children unconditionally, how they need the most love when they least deserve it. This may sound like light rhetoric when we are in the midst of our worst moments with them: when they are raging against us, refusing to do what we know to be right, living off of our hard earned money and giving nothing in return, wreaking havoc and destroying the homes that we have worked so hard to create for ourselves and our families.

 When children of all ages are misbehaving, they have lost their center, their sense of who they are, and most of all, who they want to be. As we feel angry ourselves, frightened and confused, it is very difficult to remember what it was like to feel that lost when we were their age. Even if we never behaved as badly as they do, the inner feelings of despair, hopelessness and darkness were the same.

 It is in these moments that our children need us to be grounded and certain the most, and of course, so do we, because we cannot help ourselves or them when we are reacting out of anger and fear.

When I was going through very difficult times with my own adolescent daughters, a colleague whose sons were already grown told me an anecdote, which I believe she offered as a prayer for me and my children. She said, at 31, one of her most problematic sons asked her, remembering how difficult he and his brothers had been, “Mom, how did you survive us during our worst teenage years?” She answered, “I just kept visualizing the wonderful whole person you would one day be.”

And with those words, I set out on the road to reclaiming my unconditional love toward my children. I began to burn a candle on my stove 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to remind myself to hold their beauty and inner light alive because I knew they could not see it themselves at that time. Whenever I was tempted to succumb to blaming, criticism, giving up, that candle reminded me of the commitment I had made to myself and them when they first came into this physical life.

This didn’t mean that I condoned their behavior or that I didn’t set boundaries for what I was willing to tolerate or not. In fact, it became much easier to do so, because now I knew and trusted that ultimately, they had the true knowledge of what was right for them inside themselves, and my setting clear, loving limits could only help them in the direction of rediscovering it for themselves. The message became clear, “I know you are doing what you have to do to find yourself, and while I hurt for the pain you are feeling as you struggle toward it, I have no doubt whatsoever that you have it in you to find what you are looking for.”

Today, stop to remember the best moments you have experienced in your child’s life, even if they were a very long time ago. Those are the moments that reflect his/her true beauty and light, which is still there and always will be. They may have lost sight of it in themselves, so make a commitment to hold it alive for them by regularly visualizing it, especially during the worst of times. When they see themselves in your eyes, be the mirror in which you reflect who they really are, and the wonderful future that they are walking (or stumbling) toward.