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Raising children; letting go

Antoinette Connell

Raising children; letting go

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One Sunday while sitting in church during a blisteringly hot morning my mind started to drift.
Fear not, pastor, it was not during the sermon. I was soon brought back to earth with a nudge from my daughter, who drew my attention to a story in the Sunday school book.  
“Would you do that for me?” she whispered.
I knew well the story. It was about a God-fearing mother who brought up her daughter in what she believed was the right way. When the daughter reached adolescence she decided to rebel against almost every decent thing the mother had instilled in her.
The daughter left home and took to partying and all the ills associated with that seedier side of life. It broke her mother’s heart. Along with praying, the mother took her life savings and put up posters of herself saying she loved her daughter and was beseeching her to return home.
My daughter’s question was ringing in my ears. Did she just ask if I would take my life savings to rescue her from rebelling for no particular reason?
Readers, I would like to say I took that teenager aside and, with the most flowery of poetic language, explained to her the love of a mother for her child. And that, in keeping with the best modern tradition of this new age of treading lightly with children, I communicated with sensitivity, listened to and addressed her every concern.
But, bless my soul, it didn’t happen that way for two reasons. One, we were in the midst of church and that was time-consuming. Two, sorry, but I’m not that type of parent.
Instead, I said “no” with as much volume as the church setting would allow without disapproving stares.
Then I shot her such a glance that were we not already in church only divine providence could stop her from being torn in two. She flinched when she caught the expression on my face.
Later I made sure she understood that my life savings, after having raised her to a point, was for globe-trotting. Whether she was part of that experience or not was up to her but she must prove herself worthy of it.
A friend’s mother once told me that you cannot raise your children all your life. I’ve seen parents and grandparents chase after children bent on self-destruction, neglecting their own infinitely valuable lives until it was too late. I am unwilling to accept blame for decisions that grown people make in their lives. Mistakes I understand, but there are points when bad decisions can be overturned.
When Cissy Houston set Whitney Houston in front of that mike in the New Hope Baptist Church, the die was cast. She was doing what every parent does – laying the foundation before pushing the bird out of the nest to fly on its own. She turned over a charming Whitney grounded in the ways of the church to the world and the world devoured her. But Whitney also made bad choices.
Some of you will say, “Ah hah, Bobby Brown was one of the bad choices and he should be blamed for her demise.”
Perhaps Bobby should shoulder some of the blame but certainly not all.
Bobby had a bad boy image while Whitney’s church background cast her in a particularly angelic light. It is easy to see why Bobby could be easily blamed for leading her astray even though she was almost six years his senior and had been in the entertainment world prior to his entry.
Did Bobby introduce her to an unhealthy life or did his presence merely draw out what was there all along?
Whatever the case, the decision Whitney made in 2009 was open to her all along and, I dare say, it was also an option for Bobby.
But we love the blame game so vividly recorded and passed through the ages in The Bible. When God asked Eve to account for eating from the Tree Of Life, she responded it was the serpent’s fault; when God questioned Adam about his part in the sin, he responded that it was the woman God gave him.
In the end we all have to take responsibility for our actions, no matter who steps into our lives.
As we watched Whitney’s homegoing at the church where it all began we shared in Cissy’s grief. We parents couldn’t help but ponder on the awesome responsibility of bringing a child into this world and then relinquishing him/her or, worse still, having that child pried away from you too soon.