Michelle Martin

Whose life is it anyway?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It was quite a weekend for my family. On Thursday night, Caroline sang in her school’s talent show. She didn’t win, but she brought some members of the audience to tears with her rendition of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” (“I am beautiful no matter what they say. Words can’t bring me down …”).

Then on Saturday and Sunday Frank scored goals in his hockey games. Both losses, but his team is improving, and he was thrilled.

And Teresa? Well, she was there for all the above-mentioned events, running around and looking cute and doing pretty much what toddlers do.

So Tony and I were pretty proud. We got congratulations from other parents and friends at the talent show, and high-fives at the hockey games. We were thrilled.

But the thing is, we can’t take credit for any of the kids’ successes. It’s not as if I had anything to do with Caroline’s ability to sing — I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, as the saying goes — and neither of us ever played hockey. Our coaching advice to Frank before he takes the ice is pretty much limited to skate hard, keep your stick down and listen to your coach.

They did all the hard work. They put in the hours of practice. Yes, we provide them with opportunities to learn about the pursuits they love, we get them to where they need to be, we encourage them through the high points and the low points. But when it comes to actually performing? That’s on them.

We can’t take the stage with Caroline; I think she prefers if we are far enough back in the audience that she can’t really see us. And we can’t skate out onto the ice with Frank; once he’s out there, he’s got his teammates to fall back on, but not us.

So we can enjoy watching them, and bask in their glow when things go well, but we can’t take credit for their gifts. Those gifts didn’t come to us; they came from God. Our children don’t really belong to us, either. They are on loan, ours to raise and to teach, but ultimately creatures of God, just like we are.

I’d like to think we can take credit for their good behavior, that when they get older and someone comments on the kindness and consideration they show, they’ll give us the credit and say their parents raised them right.

But even there, they are not clay that we can mold into the shape we want. They are people, and we can show them the right way to behave and show them the consequences of doing wrong, but once they get out of sight, we can’t make them do right.

We’re taught to call God our Father; like any parent, he wants the best for us, but can’t force us to listen or to do what we know we should. On the other hand, as the Creator of us all, all the credit (and all the praise and glory) go to him.