Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin Day

Regardless of your beliefs about whether or not there is a God or whom that God might be, I think we all have reason to celebrate the concept of evolution. Particularly for those of us that are raising children.

I think (I would hope, anyway) that all of us parent with the idea that we want our children to have the best lives possible, and if their lives surpass our own, then all the better. If they seem to be smarter, if they seem better able to handle their emotions, their relationships, I would think that would be something that would make a parent proud. That, I think, is evolution. The idea that each generation gets a little smarter, a little more compassionate towards fellow human beings, a little more self-sufficient, and a little more capable.

I used to worry to the point of obsession about how the girls' father would affect their development, their emotional maturity. It took quite a few years (and many hours of therapy) for me to realize that they have already surpassed my own emotional maturity when it comes to him.

While they still may wish for a dad that was in their lives on a daily basis, they have accepted the reality that he's not, nor will he ever be. They love him, but they see his faults. They understand that they can have fun with him, they can laugh with him, but they cannot trust him. They have their occasional bouts of anger about it, but they have learned how to acknowledge that anger without wallowing in it.

When he calls, Sylvia is always anxious to talk to him, but their conversations remain on a surface level. Riley usually states that she has no interest in talking to him, but by the time it's her turn, she'll get on the phone and laugh and be silly with him.

In other words, they know how to handle him. In less than 5 years, they've come further in maintaining a healthy relationship with him than I ever have or will.

I also admire their various interests. I was focused on theatre and performing for most of my childhood. Sylvia has acted, sung, and danced as well, but she's also played basketball, draws and paints, does cheerleading, and runs 5ks. She has a desire to experience everything, which I wholeheartedly encourage. And while Riley has not yet "joined" anything, the girl is always thinking. She is always listening, and she is trying things in her way. She doesn't seem to want to compete for center stage, nor does she suffer from shyness. She can also talk your ear off if you let her! I find her to be the most balanced person I know - and as much as I talk about balance, the brutal truth is I will never get there myself.

Now, just so it's said, there's a line between wanting better for your children and pushing your own dreams onto your children. The latter is something I try not to do, nor do I consider it evolution. Rather, I consider it a huge step backwards. And I can want and wish and hope anything I want for my children so long as I allow them their own paths to pursue.

Evolution IS something to celebrate. As is Darwin's 200th birthday for introducing us to this concept. I hope you'll all take a moment to think about how you've evolved and celebrate the journey.


Anonymous said...

I am a total believer in evolution and in fact, my view on God is that, if there is one, he/she planted a seed and is watching it grow. I've never understood why some people have such a hard time with evolution, we see it every day, it IS happening whether there is a God or not (my highly religious ex, Jacob's dad, actually agrees with me on this). My son is definitely smarter than both of his parents put together (that's not a knock to myself - he is SMART) and *something* must have caused that.

jenn said...

I can agree that people "evolve" in their own lives (learn from mistakes, grow stronger, change, etc...) and that each generation seems to evolve some from the last one.

I like what you said about our children surpassing us. I hope that Shiloh will. I also like that you add that people shouldn't push their children to follow their own (the parents) dreams. I see too many people do that and it's something that I already try to watch for in myself. I want Shiloh to be Shiloh, not what I think she should be.

Meg said...

Here's to personal evolution!

But when, oh when, will our relationships with our exs and soon-to-be exs, and even our currents evolve?

Florinda said...

Great post! Personally, I've never considered evolution and God mutually exclusive - my belief on that score is pretty similar to Natalie's.

I'd like to think I've evolved a bit during the last ten years or so, in particular, even if I didn't exactly embrace it at times. And seeing how our kids grow in their own unique ways is definitely support for evolution, if you ask me.

Tara R. said...

"there's a line between wanting better for your children and pushing your own dreams onto your children"

I think this lesson is a very hard one for some parents to learn. We have to evolve into guides and not just handlers.

Nicely said!

Shiona said...

OH yes definitely right there with you on pushing things onto children. No room for change or anything. What's that about? Evolution makes total sense.