Raise Them Up

When I was pregnant with my son, I was absolutely convinced I was going to have a girl. I was going to name her Sarah Marie, and I believed that she would have red hair (like my husband before he went gray) and green eyes.  I was so sure of all this that I was actually shocked when the doctor put my son in my arms for the first time and said, “Congratulations, it’s a boy!”  Not disappointed, mind you…I loved my son completely and absolutely from the moment he was born….but definitely surprised.  And as I rocked my newborn son, a little part of me said good-by to Sarah Marie.

Honestly, that incident should have prepared me for what parenting is really all about.

As parents, we try so hard to make the right decisions for our children; to steer them onto the paths we think they should take and to instill our values and our knowledge in them.  And that’s as it should be.  But sometimes when we do that, I think we also make the mistake of thinking that our children will turn out to be exactly who we shaped them to be, and that they will always share our interests and always do things just the way we taught them.   But they rarely, if ever, follow exactly in our footsteps and sometimes set off on paths we never even imagined.  And that’s as it should be, too.

As a writer, I was thrilled when my son began writing stories for fun when he was about ten years old.  He was very good at it.  On some level, I suppose I even hoped he might grow up to have the commercially successful writing career that had eluded me.  But eventually he stopped writing those stories, preferring to spend his time playing sports and video games.  I remember being disappointed at the amount of time he would spend in front a computer when he could, in my opinion, be doing much more productive things.

And you know what?  That same son is now working happily and successfully in the field of technology.  He may not have taken the path I had envisioned for him, but he followed his own heart and found the path that was right for him.

Ann's photo 4

Neither my son or daughter turned out exactly the way I had pictured, and neither share every single one of my values and interests.  Instead, they did exactly what they were supposed to do and used the love, experience and knowledge they were raised with as a foundation upon which to build their own lives.  They are changing and evolving into exactly the persons they were meant to be.

My son surprised me, all those years ago in the delivery room, by turning out to be a bit different from what I had expected.  Honestly, both he and his sister still surprise me now and then.  And as their mother, I wouldn’t have it any other way…..

86 thoughts on “Raise Them Up

  1. Well, Ann, I can finally respond to your posts again. I like this one especially dearly, because it shows quite clearly our common experience with raising our children who surprise us in being quite different in their development from what we have originally expected. You made a very good point by stating that the values and knowledge we passed on to them made them develop into the wonderful beings that they are today.

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    • Yes, we were talking about this with our friends one night, and we agreed that as parents, all we can do is raise our children with our values, and then they take it from there! Luckily, I am quite happy with the way my kids have turned out, so that makes it much easier. But either way, we don’t really have the ability to shape them completely….which is probably a very good thing! So good to have you back, Peter!!!

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  2. so very true! sounds like you may be dealing with a new surprise…. whether it be a good or bad one, your parenting love and attitude will carry you through it, and you might be even more surprised with how it maybe even changes you and how you think. life is sure a journey full of surprises 🙂 ❤

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    • Thanks, Jodi! Actually, there is no big surprise…I was just thinking of all the ways I sometimes look at my kids and think,”Where did that come from?” And of course the answer is, from within themselves. Because all we can do is ground them in our lives, and then let them take off to discover their own. But you are so right that life is a journey just packed full of surprises!!!

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  3. I felt for sure our last child would be a girl too and shared the same surprise as you when the doctor announced we had a boy! And a wonderful surprise he turned out to be. Being a parent never goes away and I remember when my dad was 92 and dying he still was worried about me and how I felt. Love knows no bounds.

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    • Then you know exactly what I’m talking about! These days, young mothers can know the sex of their child beyond a doubt, but that wasn’t the case when I had my kids. And you are so right: once our child, always our child. Love truly knows no bounds.

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    • It really is! Sometimes it is also a surprise, and it’s not exactly who we thought that child would be, and that’s okay. (My own mother is still baffled by the way I turned out!) But it is still a wonderful moment when you find your son or daughter blossoming into their true self!

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    • It is sometimes hard! But we have to remember that they know themselves the best, just as we know ourselves the best. I honestly thought my son would be the “artsy” one, as he had such an interest in writing, art and photography. And yet he entered the tech/accounting field and has never looked back! But he is happy and fulfilled, and that’s all that matters.

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  4. Thank you for that perspective. I often mind myself caught unawares when my daughter shows preferences completely contrary to what I would expect her to make. But as you rightly pointed out, the key is to accept kids for who they are.
    An engaging post…and an adorable pic of your kids!

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    • Thank you! I know your daughter is still very young, and it’s even easier to have our own ideas of who they will become at that age. I certainly did with my own…but as time went one, I realized that the really important thing is just to let them be who they are and to make sure they know they are loved and accepted for exactly that!

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  5. I have only one piece of parenting advice: never let the kids outnumber the parents. We spent Friday with our grand-daughter and the conversation went like this:

    ME: Oh my gosh, did our kids move that fast?
    MY WIFE: They did.
    ME: It doesn’t seem like it.
    MY WIFE: It is all relative, we were faster then.

    I don’t know how the little speed demon will turn out – but I am sure it will be a surprise.

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    • Oh yes, there is a reason we have our kids while we are young and not when we are older (and also more patient, more confident and usually a tad bit less poor). But it’s because we only have the speed and energy to keep up with them when we are young! Good luck with your granddaughter…and keep those running shoes on!

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  6. Beautiful post & photo Ann. I’m sure you wonder where they years vanish to…I know I do! Don’t you cringe when you stop to think about the expectations we put on our children without even realising it! And it’s great when you wise up and trust them to make their own choices and sometimes watch when things go belly-up but knowing they can sort it and move on!

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    • Oh, believe me, I cringe all the time! Even when I didn’t actually say what I was expecting, I’m sure they sensed it. If I had to do it all over again, I would just stuff all those expectations in the closet and lock the door! But as it is, appreciating my kids for exactly who they are..and discovering that it’s actually kind of fun to be surprised by the paths they take…was a lesson I had to learn over time.

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    • I agree, Neil! I’m 60, and still changing and discovering new things about myself. My guess is that will continue until the day I die, so why in the world would I think it would be any different for my children?

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    • That’s a very good point, too! Not only do our kids find their own way, but if we are open to it, they can influence some very big and positive changes in our lives too. I know I have tried new things I never would have if my kids hadn’t suggested it. Thanks, Alan!

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  7. I appreciate this positive spin and perspective on such a very difficult part of parenting (in my humble opinion). Sometimes I think I did something wrong with my kids and that’s why they ended up doing the things they do and living the lives they live–which aren’t necessarily choices my husband and I would have made for them.

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    • I seriously doubt you did anything wrong! (Although I have felt the same way when I felt that my kids weren’t making the right choices.) But the reality is that our kids are their own people, and are going to make their own way in life. Often we will be quite happy with their choices, and other times…not so much. But the thing to remember is that they are THEIR choices, not ours, and our role is simply to support them as they make their way in this world. Personally, it helps me to remember two things: one, that I made some bad choices in my life as well and yet survived them just fine, and two that often what we think is a bad choice turns out to be a good one in ways we could never have imagined! My “kids” are still teaching me new things, and I am so grateful for that!

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      • Hi Ann, thank you so much for your thoughtful and insightful reply to my comment. I guess accepting our kids’ choices are THEIRS is part of letting go as parents–a part I never gave much thought to until now. Also, as you said, having faith in the bigger picture and allowing it to unfold is another important aspect. Looking back, I wish I had been listening more carefully to what my kids were “saying” (especially as teens)…but maybe that wouldn’t have changed anything anyhow. I’m very proud of them. As always, thank you for your compassion and understanding.

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  8. I don’t have kids but I imagine my parents felt much the same way. Sure they had certain hopes and dreams for us but they were also pretty good at supporting us when we took different paths. Even though all three of us were successful in our careers, I think they were most proud that we remained good friends with each other as adults.

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    • I bet you are right! My son and daughter are close, and their spouses like each other as well, and we are very happy about that. It is comforting to know that when my husband and I are gone, their relationship with each other will continue!

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  9. What a beautiful post, Ann! I’ve noticed A lot of parents try to steer their kids to careers that would make the most money( ie being a doctor or a lawyer). Some will get to a point where they’ll say, ‘you know what, that’s okay I’ll support you in whatever you want to do’, while others are like ‘no, art isn’t a career because a), b), and c)’.

    But I think it’s the job of the parent to help foster those skills needed in a career and expose the kids to things that they share an interest in. To help them grow and learn new things❤️.

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  10. Hi.

    Great story.

    Thanks for sharing! ^_^

    I’m 25 years old and I feel inspired by your work. Also, soon I hope to be a parent and to have a beautiful family.

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  11. Yet another crisp and brilliant post Ann. JUst the other day I was talking with my kids and told them ” what if you ( the one who wants to become a singer when she grows up) became a sports person and you ( the one who wants to grow up into a sportsman) became a singer? ” The response was hilarious with each one trying to find reasons why they couldn’t be anything other than what they want to be.. There is still a long way to go and I am sure they will become what is the best for them. 🙂

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    • Yes, that is always the question…will they have the same dreams ten years from now? But whatever the outcome, you are right in that they will do what is best for them and you will support their choice. That can be the toughest, but also the most rewarding, part of parenting I think!

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  12. I never wanted to know the sex ahead of time! Most of the mothers-to-be not only want to know the demand to know! But the ultrasounds are not 100% guaranteed to accurately determine the sex of the baby. I was lucky that I had only sons – We had agreed on boy’s names but there was no consensus on girls’ names. If we would have had a girl there might have been a knock down drag out fight in the delivery room!!

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    • We didn’t know the sex of either of our kids until they were both either, and I also liked it that way. It was a fun surprise! Now people not only know the sex, they have the names of the yet-to-be-born monogrammed on some of the baby stuff. I always wonders what happens if the ultrasound happened to be wrong!

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    • I believe they would. You would probably recognize some of yourselves in them, and in other ways you’d look at them and think, “Where did that come from?” Which, as I have discovered, is all part of the joy of parenting!

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  13. The youngest of my four children is seventeen and he is the only one living at home now. I have always been surprised by how different each child is. They have chosen divergent careers and they are all happy following their own pursuits. I am continuously surprised by some of their choices; I also believe some of their choices help me to see things in a new light. Families evolve, but never so much so as when the children are grown with families of their own. Each fingerprint they made in paint was their signature so many years ago; each ‘nest’ they have created for their own families is decidedly unique. I embrace this time of my life as grandchildren arrive one by one. The children who once scampered about my house are now chasing after their own little ones!

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    • I like the way you say families evolve, because that is exactly what has been happening in mine! I am so fortunate that both my son and daughter live nearby and that I really like the people and the families they married into. And now I have a sweet grandson to love, too.
      Even so, there are times when it feels as if everything is changing almost too quickly! But then I just look around and remind myself of how almost all of the changes are good ones, and I realize how very lucky I really am. And yes, my “kids” are constantly expanding my horizons, which is also a very good thing!

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      • I guess it is like all stages of parenting. There are always moments that pull at our heartstrings. We are continuously arriving at a new place so to speak. I think most of all we want our children to be happy. We cannot ‘fix’ things for them as much as we would like to. But just as you said in your post, we learned from our mistakes…and so must our children. The hardest part is always wishing you could make it easier on the next generation. I pray a lot! The truth is, we chose our roads and the children will choose theirs…all we can really do is be supportive when there is a bump in the road or a pot hole. And the rest of the time we thank God that all is well!

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  14. What a lovely heartwarming post Ann and one I can fully relate to. Both of my kids are polar opposites to each other, my daughter is the outdoorsy agriculatural one and my son is into all things tech. Honestly, I sometimes wonder where they pick up their preferences, skills and loves, but what I do know is that they’re both well balanced, kind and decent humans and I’m proud of them both, despite their differences.

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    • I think we all look at our kids occasionally and wonder where they got some of their traits and their preferences. And I’m sure our parents looked at us and thought the same thing! As you say, all that is important is that they are good people…that’s more than enough to make us proud. Thanks for the comment, Miriam!

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  15. It’s a very beautiful tribute to your son and his freedom of choice. It also reminded me of a quote I once read on a fertility clinic’s website that tried to deal, very carefully, with some want-to-be parents’ desire to select the perfect sperm-donor in an effort to have the child look and be as much theirs as they possibly could. The website very wisely said something along the lines of: You child will always resemble mostly him/herself.

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    • That is very wise! Our children do look like themselves, and they act like themselves as well. I have two sisters, and we don’t look a thing like each other. And yet my daughter does look a whole lot like her cousins, so go figure… The bottom line is that we don’t have kids to clone ourselves; we have them to raise them to become their own, unique and wonderful selves!

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    • Thank you so much for the nomination!!! Because I only publish once a week (or so) I no longer participate in the awards, but I am so very touched you thought of me. And of course I will check it out on your site. Your blog is always so well written, honest and insightful that I make it a point never to miss a post!

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  16. I could relate to this on many levels! It’s funny how experience things in life and strangers are experiencing the same things. I too, thought my first born was a girl…absolutely convinced, and I too, have just written a post about my son following his own path. It’s nice knowing that we’re never alone in our experiences and somewhere, someone understands.

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    • Don’t worry, I knew what you meant! And yes, I think one of the nicest things about blogging is the way we realize that there are other people all over the world who are dealing with the same issues we are. The support and insight we get from them is a real gift. I did read your post about your son’s decision about college, and I loved it!

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  17. Oh Ann, how I loved this post. It brought back memories of a poem by Khalil Gibran, Your Children. I first heard it one bitter night, read to me by a priest, himself broken and ill, yet moving past his wounds, trying to help me realise that I had done all I could for my child.

    YOUR CHILDREN
    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you.
    And though they are with you, they belong not to you.
    You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
    Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
    You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite.
    And He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer’s hands be for happiness;
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
    So He loves the bow that is stable.
    ~ Khalil Gibran

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  18. These days a son may decide she is really a daughter after all, or maybe the other way around. Parents must have a whole new level of letting our kids being who they really are today in a way we never even imagined. And thank goodness they have the opportunities for these choices…

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  19. For very obvious reasons I like the name you would have given your son if he had turned out a girl.😉
    And your words do make me smile, Ann, because they show that some surprises are indeed pleasant. 😊

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