Footprints on the ceiling
by Jim Low
copyright 1999

Blossoming children

Love of children by their parents grows stronger as love guides our youth to maturity.  Eventually they no longer need us, except for one thing—love.  This is as it should be.  With my four children now in their twenties, the time has come to reflect upon a quarter century of parenting—a mission that is drawing to a close.  Are all my children treated equally?  No.  Each is unique.  Each is treasured differently.  Each is my favourite.  I don't share the pie of love equally—each receives a full pie of love: one blueberry, one apple, one strawberry, and one peach.  Each receives her and his favourite pie of love.

Through love, my children received guidance and were taught responsibility.  Never did I try to control them, for parents have no right to control the lives of their children.  I could show them a few of the possible roads to follow in life, but I could not tell them what road to take.  While teaching responsibility, I never took responsibility from them.  A parent cannot take responsible for how their children behave.  Children are entitled to responsibility for themselves and their lives: to face the consequences and reap the benefits.

Parents do their best when raising children.  Mistakes are made.  The hardest job in the world is being a parent, but the satisfaction is enormous.  With multiple children, you see the miracle of each developing a unique personality.  No matter how your children turn out, you succeed as a parent as each develops in a unique way through giving of love.  Savour the beauty of each unique blossom as your flowering children bloom into maturity.

Love is unconditional.  Love is the sustenance of life.  Appreciate that no matter where your children may take themselves, they will always need your love.

"I'll let you know when I find out"

For twenty years before leaving my job in 1990, Larry and I arrived at work early each day to discuss the world problems and to chat about our families.  Eventually, we solved the problems of the world but were never able to solve the family mysteries.  His family was ten years older than mine.  Since he was much more experienced at raising children than I, he always had words of wisdom.  One profound piece of knowledge was:  "Don't worry, Jim, it keeps getting worse."  I recall asking, over 15 years ago, after arriving at work frustrated over the mess the kids left: "when do they start picking up after themselves?" His answer was "I'll let you know when I find out." Last Christmas, I called Larry to ask the same question.  "Don't worry, Jim, I'll let you know when I find out."

Kitchen, footprints, and miracles

"Where are the kitchen scissors?" I often bellowed over the years—and replaced them just as often.  No one ever admitted taking the kitchen scissors.  No one knew where they were.  No one ever used them.  I would have—but they were never there.  The last time I replaced the kitchen scissors, I tied them to the drawer handle with a rope.  For years, that rope hung there—sans scissors—cut at one end.

Speaking of the kitchen:  Often, after the routine Saturday morning grocery shopping, the kids would rummage through the cupboards and fridge. "There's no food in this house!" echoed through the rooms.  Of course not. There's only milk, juice, fruits and vegetables.  No pop, chips, and other ìrealî food.

Then there are the footprints on the ceiling.  Those footprints appeared on the ceiling years ago.  Oh, I understand the footprints over the bunk beds.  They were finally painted over.  But footprints on the nine-foot high living room ceiling?  Don't even think of asking how they got there. Those footprints still adorn the ceiling.  They will always remain a mystery and part of the living room decor.

Memories of my children growing up appear in the kitchen each day as I glance at the door frame.  There you find four rows of dashes, with dates by each, marking the growth of my children over the years.  The first dash, way down here by my knee has moved to the last dash, way up there over my head.  How did that happen?  A miracle?  Yes!—that's it's a miracle!

Laughter and Tears

Life is full of joy and laughter, along with pain and tears.   Both laughter and tears are essential for positive spiritual growth.  For years, my family grew.  But I grew most of all.  Immense happiness I felt, watching and guiding my children through their early years: the camping; many birthdays; walks to the park and beach; the playful games on the street in front of the verandah and in the back lane.  Toys scattered about our home and yard was our beautiful decor.  Sound of children's laughter brought joy to my heart.  Our "family room" was the large kitchen where my children and all their friends would gather as the rich aroma of fresh baking beckoned welcome and happiness to all.

It was a tearful and painful day for all of us, years ago, when my children's mother and I parted.  Even through my feelings of pain, I asked myself:  "Would I do it again?" There was no doubt:  the answer was yes!  Those years of joy and growth with our children was worth any pain.  For through the pain, love continues.  My children have grown: children I would not now have had I not given my love.  Hardly a day goes by when at least one of my children doesn't call.  Great joy and happiness fill my heart when a daughter asks "can we meet for dinner tonight?" or a son inquires "dad, what is your opinion on..?" My children are adults.  We are equals.  We are friends, and express our love for each other.

It really does get better!
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