> Family > Parenting

It's Not about Me

May 9, 2009 | by

My daughter wants the fancy ring, the elaborate gown, and all the bells and whistles that I could not care less about. But this is her wedding, not mine.

Most little girls (and many even bigger ones) love bridal magazines. They love to pore over the pictures and dream. Their fantasies include the perfect dress, the perfect colors, the perfect flowers -- and sometimes the perfect man.

By the time the actual day arrives, they have had years of preparation. Dress styles have been studied and discarded. Rings have been reviewed and updated. The latest hair styles have been canvassed and rated. The lucky groom just has to step into the middle of the picture (a feat made particularly easy in the era of digital cameras!).

I was never one of those girls. I had no interest in Brides magazine; in fact I viewed it with scorn (and still shudder at the sight). Although I was definitely eager to get married, all I wanted was the man.

I bought the first dress that fit (at a discount rate), chose a simple menu, a good band and nixed the cake. Okay, so I did notice that the diamond in the ring was a little small (or did that take a few years?).

Now, thank God, my daughter is getting married and she is not like me in this way; not at all. She wants the elaborate gown, the fancy ring, and all the bells and whistles. She wants a great photographer as she imagines pouring over those pictures for years to come. Were I to tell her that those two people in my wedding photos now look like strangers to me, she'd stare uncomprehendingly. Were I to suggest that the greater joys and challenges of daily living preclude sitting on the couch and reminiscing, I would lose all credibility.

Different tastes should not be turned into points of principle.

So I keep my mouth shut, about these and all other details, because it's not about me. Different tastes should not be turned into points of principle. I had my wedding; this is hers.

Maybe there are some things I would do differently. This is not the moment. If my daughter is joyful, I will be joyful. I am not reliving my wedding nor experiencing vicariously what I may have missed.

Although I'm sure there will still be tension and struggle (and an awful lot of things to do!), I am optimistic that this outlook will take the edge out of the preparations (along with prayer and a glass of wine!).

It's a powerful and crucial realization: It's not about me. It's not about my honor or status, my respect or glory. It's about my children. Only they can live their lives.

When my husband was growing up, his father was the vice-president of a large, multi-national corporation. Sometimes he would invite his son to join him for lunch in the company dining room. My husband cringes today as he describes how he presented himself -- long, frizzy hair, torn jeans, an out-of-shape T-shirt. "But," he says, "my father never acted like he was embarrassed by me. He was just glad I was there."

If it's not about me, I need never be embarrassed by my children's clothing, or behavior. I may encourage them to change. I may give them tools for change. I may even bribe them to change, because it's good for them. Not because I'll get applause; not because people will think I'm a wonderful parent. The love inspired by this total acceptance creates a strong sense of self-confidence in our children.

If it's not about me, they can choose their own career path (within reason of course!), their own goals. I don't need them to follow exactly in my footsteps to affirm my self-worth. We cripple our children when we give them the power to bolster or destroy our egos. It's a damaging and confusing role reversal. Our job is to comfort and nurture our children. We must look elsewhere (or inward) for our own centers of strength and stability.

If it's not about me, they (may) not need to rebel to achieve independence. Because it's a gift they've already been given. If I give my children independence, I'm saying I trust you, you can make good choices.

I'm not living for or through my children. I'm not imposing burdensome conditions to the relationship.

And if it's not about me, I'll be with them whatever choices they make. There will still be pain -- over lost opportunities, over wasted potential, over foolish choices, over life's struggles -- but underneath it all will be a solid foundation.

If it's not about me, I can also create an independent life. I'm not living for or through my children. I'm not imposing "Jewish guilt" or burdensome conditions to the relationship. It's unconditional love which our sages teach is the only kind that will last.

I'm not having a hard time realizing that this wedding is not about me because parenting never has been. It's about creating healthy adults who can choose their own wedding invitations and create their own relationship with the Almighty, who can be focused on the trivial (!) details of flowers for the chupah and the deeper issues of bringing morality to the world. And if they can recognize that and act accordingly, I've done my job.

It's really not about me... except when it comes to paying the bills.

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