The Revd Writes…
“Give me life, O Lord…” (Psalm 119 verse 107) sums up the dependency of the adult.
The task of parenting focuses for much of time on encouraging the child to work through dependency towards a state of ever-greater independence. When a child grasps the chance to properly take responsibility for themselves, riding a bicycle without stabilizers is a good metaphor, the parent smiles with pride. Cross riding a bike off your list. One more skill learned one less thing to worry about. “One day you will be a woman, my daughter”, to misquote Kipling. The road to independence is, more often than not, paved with tears, frustration and much parental anguish as the hard fact dawns that there is no textbook answer for helping my child negotiate its way into maturity. Parenting, despite what DIY manuals proclaim, is less of a science and more of an art. What works for one child does not necessarily work for another. The rich tapestry of family life is made all the more colourful and interesting by young personalities emerging into ‘this is me!’ and there is no duplicate of ‘me’ to be found in the whole wide world.
Good parenting acknowledges from the start that mature independence always includes a place for a certain ‘grown-up dependency’. It is natural for children to imagine that to be independent is to be no longer dependent but ‘big and strong’, believing that they can take on the world with a, sometimes, reckless youthfulness. Yet wise parents will be all too aware of the need for boundaries to keep their children safe, often from themselves. Newfound independence and blind confidence can very quickly collapse into uncertainty and vulnerability. As every parent of a swaggering teenager knows all too well.
A consequence for parents who promote independence at all costs is that they sometimes find themselves with adult children who have become isolated individuals, intolerant, with little empathy for others who are different from themselves. Such children are less likely to be there for their parents in later years, who themselves may well have become increasingly dependent. “You taught me to be independent. What you forgot to teach me is that we need each other.”
Perhaps one of the correctives that the coronavirus pandemic has brought home is not so much how independent and resourceful we can be as individuals but how much more dependent we really are.
“Give me life, O Lord…” through my neighbours and friends… and through my children…