Since a couple of dear friends have just had babies, I decided to reprint this letter I wrote to my son, Leor for his 30th birthday. As a parent and a family counselor, I know how challenging it is to raise a child with little or no training or knowledge on what it takes to be a successful parent. The insecurities and doubts felt by parents who love their children and want to do their best for them can sometimes be overwhelming. I wrote this letter to Leor poured out of me like nothing I have ever written before. Over the course of the past several years, with Leor’s permission, I have shared this letter with many of my clients with the intention of alleviating some of these insecurities. The heartfelt response I received has led me to post this letter for those of you who may be struggling with this very challenging and rewarding role. I hope it inspires and moves you to reflect on your own parenting role, as well as, perhaps open up a space to better understand your own parents.
March 23, 2005
Happy 30th Birthday Leor
When I first learned that I was pregnant, I felt the excitement and joy that comes with such amazing news. Although young, deep within me I knew of the miracle that was about to unfold. Truly understanding the implication of this revelation, I realized that I did not have all the tools necessary to be a great mother, or even a good mother. I began to devour every book on child rearing I could find. I wanted to learn and understand everything I could about raising a strong, independent, and emotionally healthy, loving human being.
When you were born, I can not describe the feelings of awe, wonder, joy, and the deep sense of connection, of love, that I felt for you. You were the most beautiful creature on the planet. My heart shattered, my soul soared. I remember looking in the mirror the morning of your birth and seeing a different reflection, an older, and wiser me. I got in touch with an overwhelming sense of responsibility I had to you and your development. With that, I also recognized the many limitations as a human and a mother that existed within me. I was afraid that I was not up to the task, but committed to do the best that I could at any given moment.
I proceeded to devote most of my time and energy to learning how to be the best mother I could be. Of course in the process, I learned how to be the best human being I could be. My love for you was the vehicle for my love for me. You taught me so much about being selfless, giving, forgiving, compassionate, understanding, surrendering, honoring, and loving. Every night I would lie in bed reviewing how I was with you that day, horrified at all the mistakes I made. Initially recoiling in guilt and despair, my love for you would surface and inspire me to be better the next day. I continually had to battle with and confront my limitations, my reactivity and my controlling ways. While hardly successful in the way I envisioned, I knew my heart and I knew that at any given instant I was doing my best. This went on every night and every day until you left for Israel when you were 18.
Although I know you know this, I want to first say, while everything unfolds perfectly and there is nothing wrong, I am sorry for the pain and fear to which I inadvertently exposed you. Being human can be rather tormenting at times, OK often. In my early 20’s, I realized that one of the greatest tragedies we humans have to endure is the pain that parents unconsciously bring to their children. No parent ever wants to be the source of their children’s pain, and yet the way we are wired, that is exactly what we do. It is so hard for parents to see and accept this fact because every fiber in their being screams I LOVE MY CHILD! I cannot possibly be the source of his/her pain and fears. It was this realization that compelled me to learn as much as I could about the human mind, heart and soul. I knew that this parental love was incongruent with all the obvious pain present in all of us. I wanted to understand the laws governing these phenomena so that the power of love was freed to fully express itself and triumph over whatever blocks it.
Wishing to understand this became my life’s mission. Little did I know at the time that what I was actually searching for is the meaning of love, and thereby, the expression of love within me, within all of us. This journey has not been easy. There have been many obstacles along the way…egoic ones. My ego’s need to already know, to be right, to be safe, continually fought this exploration. It did not want to see and accept anything that contradicted its sense of self – in my case, I am a loving, giving person. Its tendency to see in black and white, in right and wrong, in all or nothing, stood in my ego’s ability to embrace that while I am a loving and giving person, there are areas where I am not. It refused to examine the whole because it threatened its image, thereby, its totality. My commitment to truth, to love, gratefully, was and is stronger than my ego’s desire to be right or safe. With resolve and an unyielding yearning to be fully loving – I continue this journey.
Here we are 30 years later and my heart continues to break with my love for you. I want to take this occasion, your birthday, to express who you are to me. From the moment you were born, I knew that there was something special about you. Not because you were my son, but because you were part of the divine. The twinkle in your eyes, the tenderness of your being, the generosity of your spirit, your quick wit, your extraordinary intelligence, your sensitive awareness, were all present as soon as you began to speak. You were literally my light, or light for me. You inspired, moved and tickled every aspect of my being. Your laughter full of abandon and joy would make my soul fly. Your inquisitive nature and your challenging questions always provoked me to greater thought and understanding of how amazing you were. As you grew, some of these attributes, e.g. your great intelligence and provocative nature, drove me crazy at times. While a part of me understood that you were going through your journey of separating and becoming your own person, my ego/emotional side struggled with you in my unconscious attempts to “keep you in line, keep you safe.” Screw that, forget everything I said and did during those times, I was ignorant and unconscious. You needed to break away from me, my beliefs and my values. You needed to challenge me in order to find yourself.
You are your own person. You are my son, but only in so much as I was a vehicle to your birth and a temporary guide to your growth. Who you are, what you need/want, what you think, how you feel, why you are here, are all issues that you and only you can discover for yourself. I know that I have imparted to you many beliefs and values which I believe to be true. But as you can see from my own unfolding, my vision continues to change and transform. I certainly don’t hold the ultimate truth, only my truth for the moment. I appreciate that you hold me in great esteem and see me as a strong, honest, loving woman, but I hope that you also see how limited and shortsighted I can be. My strength comes from my ability to confront myself, not from holding on to an image of myself.
If I can impart only one thing to you, it would be that you honor who you are, i.e. embrace your whole self and know that you are complete and whole exactly as you are. Sometimes I think you are too hard on yourself. I think you compare yourself to me and feel that you somehow fall short. You must remember that first of all I am 20 years older than you and therefore, have had more time to experience, learn and grow. I know you will say that when I was your age I was more advanced than you. But I didn’t possess any of your creative talents, your quick wit, or your clarity of thought. You have your own gifts, your own abilities and your own journey that is as valuable, powerful and as unique as mine. Furthermore, you are continuing to grow and unfold. Who knows what is awaiting you. I certainly could never have imagined my life as it has unfolded over the past ten years. That is the greatest part of life- living in the mystery.
So please don’t compare yourself with anyone else. Your only responsibility is to shine your special expression. Trust yourself and trust the process of your unfolding. You are de-light. You are love.
At this point, I would like to share who you have been for me over the past decade. You continue to be my reflection, my mirror. Your capacity to express unconditional love has and continues to sustain me through difficult times. Your remarkable ability to see, hear, and understand me, through a clear lens, and not as my son, has been a source of blessings to me. I marvel at how open, generous and loving you can be with me exactly where I am. You don’t try to change who I am, you don’t shun challenging issues with me, you are always available when I need you to listen, to reflect and help me sort out what I am feeling. When I speak with you all I get is a clear reflection of myself. In that space, I can clearly hear, see, understand and own me. Your pure reflection allows me to recover myself when I’ve temporarily become clouded. There is no greater gift a human being can give another than an untainted reflection of him/herself. In that space, I hear my truth, which informs me of where I need to be and what I need to do. You lift me from the clouds and bring me to the light, to love.
You have brought your namesake into my life- you have shed light on me through which I have come to find my own light.
With gratitude, humility and open heart, I thank you and Spirit.
Your mother, your friend, your fellow human being and kindred Spirit,