Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"For Tantrums, See Page 4"

Someone asked me the other day if I didn’t wish that my children came with an instruction manual. For a split second I was tempted to say yes. Just think about it – the child is screaming bloody murder. You find “screaming bloody murder” in the index, turn to page 33, and discover that by shoving a banana or piece of toast into their wide open mouths, you can stop the screaming. Presto – problem solved.

But immediately on the heels of my flippant thought came another, and this is the answer I gave. “I’m glad our children don’t come with instruction books, because that means that at one time, there would have been an instruction book about me, and I prefer to remain a mystery.” And then I added, “Besides, it would take away the blessing of free agency.”

Our children come to the earth with individual personalities and characteristics, just as you and I have as adults. Part of learning to care for them and love them is learning what makes them tick. If we had a manual to turn to every time they did something that confused us, we would never grow in our relationships with them. There would be no need to sit down and talk to them and try to understand where they’re coming from. If the manual said every time our little boy cried, all we had to do was push a hidden button in his nose, that's all we'd do and never get to the cause of his tears, and we’d never discover all those inner layers that make him uniquely him.

In addition, if there was an instruction manual, that would indicate that the child would never do anything that was not covered in the manual. They could never be spontaneous. If they were, we’d have to send them in to get repaired, because they were malfunctioning and weren’t behaving according to the manual’s specifications.

I’m more grateful than I can say that we are all individual, that there’s no set of expected behaviors forced upon us, and that we are free to choose our own actions and therefore the consequences or rewards. It makes life more complicated, but it makes it so much more rewarding.

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