Unsolvable Love: The Final 30 Alternative Visions of Parenthood

Posted | by Dr. Brad Sachs | Posted in Ideas that Challenge

This will be the concluding post in the “Unsolvable Love” trilogy, 30 more epigrams that endeavor to honor and respect the ever-changing, many-sided complexity of the parent-child relationship. 

Parenthood is, from my perspective, an impossible place within which to reside — yet once we bring children into our lives, we have no choice but to reside there. No amount of  instruction — whether it is in the form of parent education, of neuroscientific research, of mindfulness training, or of anything else — is ever going to simplify child-rearing. The natural state of parenthood is its very impenetrability, its insurmountability.

But my perspective has always been that while information brings knowledge, stories bring wisdom. I see each of these aphorisms as a miniature story that might, as it is being reflected upon, percolate some wisdom up to the surface for you, wisdom that will guide and support you and your children through the impossibility of parenthood and into the most mystifying but satisfying regions of family life.

In a way, I see the sum total of the ninety adages that comprise the “Unsolvable Love” posts as a series of hard truths that, if acknowledged, can work to ease your mind.

So consider giving them some thought … and see what happens.

  1. Children prefer to feel something rather than to feel nothing.
  2. While our love was sufficient to give our child life, it will not be sufficient for her to live that life.
  3. It is important to restrain your child from what is not allowed, but to also hope that she never refuses to fully forego the forbidden.
  4. Children need us the most when they are the least easy to be with.
  5. We are valuable to our children when we help them to see what is right with them rather than what is wrong with them — which is what helps them to understand and address what is wrong with them.
  6. It is not a problem when children fail. It is not a problem when parents fail. It is a problem when our collective imagination fails to behold the path towards compassion that is illuminated by our failures.
  7. Children defy adults in order to define themselves.
  8. Empathy for children is not conveyed by the words, “I know what you’re feeling,” but by the words, “I don’t know what you’re feeling — but I would like to know, if you ever decide that it is worth telling me.”
  9. What you define as your child’s problems has more to do with your own problems than you think. So think about that …
  10. Children get angry with their parents when they try to fool them and can’t. Children despise their parents when they try to fool them and can.
  11. A good day for most children is determined not by what they have successfully accomplished, but on how successfully they have avoided humiliation.
  12. Telling children what to do has nothing to do with showing them who they are.
  13. Most children would rather stumble being themselves than triumph being someone else.
  14. This is how you can be sure you are close with your child — when from time to time you allow yourself to see her behavior as entirely resistant to comprehension.
  15. Children are troubled most deeply not by what they learn, but by what they fear they will fail to learn.
  16. What we ourselves desire should not come at our child’s expense.
  17. Children find freedom through acquiring self-discipline. Children acquire self-discipline through experiencing freedom. 
  18. Family love depends upon moments of hatred. The thrill of hatred is both shameful and wonderful, and absolutely necessary for growth.
  19. There are no significant family alterations without significant family altercations.
  20. Try to re-learn how children learn, try to re-discover how children discover. You knew this once. On your own and by dreaming.
  21. There is absolutely nothing you can do about your child’s grades. Parents can earn good grades by realizing this.
  22. Every child senses the end of childhood — that awareness is the source of her heartache, but it is also what awakens and ennobles her, and leads her towards wholeness.
  23. We all have a way in which we are determined to love someone else — parenthood will insist and demand that we find a different way.
  24. None of us completely outgrow the fear that we can suddenly become unlovable and undesirable, even in our most trusted and loving relationships.
  25. It is your acknowledgment of your powerlessness over your child that lays the groundwork for her respect. Complete power elicits complete fear, not respect.
  26. When the parent colonizes the child’s self-image, it will be difficult to quell the inevitable rebellion.
  27. When you seek to find the truth of your child, you will find truths about yourself that you did not know and may not fully understand. Incomplete understanding is the best position from which to raise a child and to more fully accept yourself.
  28. Children experience little contradiction between their desperate need for their parents and their desperate need to be rid of their parents.
  29. When we let our children go, we are less likely to lose them and more likely to find them, just as they become more likely to find themselves.
  30. When it comes to determining whether or not you are a good parent, there should be evidence on both sides. If not, take a closer look.

Dr. Brad Sachs is a Challenge Success Advisory Council member, and is a psychologist, educator, consultant, and best-selling author specializing in clinical work with children, adolescents, couples, and families. He is also the Founder and Director of The Father Center, a program designed to meet the needs of new, expectant, and experienced fathers. www.drbradsachs.com