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Future’s partly in the past

As we find ourselves between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, let’s think about the relationship of a parent and child.
Each Mother’s Day at church, I’m amused when we ask the mothers to raise their hand. After they’re given a flower by the children, the question is asked of everyone who had a mother. Naturally, every hand is raised, and flowers are given to the rest of the congregation. I guess the point is well taken: We all can identify with the position.
I especially see my parents in me each year when I put out a garden. I don’t approach planting with a nonchalant attitude, but, instead, go for it as though there is no tomorrow. If there is anything I caught from my parents, it is our family need to have a garden. I don’t know what would happen if I didn’t plant one. I’ve never tried going without one, because I find the process so fulfilling.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my mom toiling in her garden. Although not always a peaceful scene, seeing her work the garden was reassuring because it represented security and the caring she had for our family. It didn’t matter if it was a big vegetable ‘victory garden’ during World War II or a fanciful plant utopia of an elderly widow; it was creating beauty alongside God and providing for others.
My dad was the lawn guy, and, once in a while, he tilled the earth for my mom. They seemed to have an unspoken understanding of who did what, and, in those days, duties were influenced by one’s gender. When I look back over my adult life, I see I often took lessons from their unwritten marriage manual.
You probably have your own memories that point to your family’s values and practices. Some may evoke a warm feeling inside and others may remind you of things you would rather forget. But all of our experiences ‘ both good and bad ‘ help form us.
I think most parents love their children and try to be the best parents they can. Blame is a non-productive route to take when looking at parents in retrospect.
I have heard it said that challenging times, such as we have now, cause us to look to new sources for solutions and direction. Lately, I have been reading a lot of the spiritual writings that seem to be in vogue.
Most of it reminds me of the power of positive thinking espoused by Norman Vincent Peale in the ’60s but today is expressed in ‘new age’ language. It speaks about taking responsibility for one’s life by being positive in thought, word and deed. The big message is that a person can determine what kind of experiences they have and the life they lead. Think negatively, get negative; think positively, get positive.
I accept this, but I do have a couple of questions. I wonder how we factor in genetics that give us a set of tools with which to operate, as well as a childhood that presents us messages of what is expected from us and from those around us. The second question relates to our desired humbleness and the role of a God who uses mankind to do His work on earth. I don’t mean to sound like a fatalist, but I do think, for me, the goal is to carry out the part of The Lord’s Prayer that says, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.’
Maybe the greatest gift our parents gave us is to feel loved enough that we can question, try new things, fail at times and even challenge them. Family rituals and values certainly give the foundational support that allows us to reach out into uncharted waters.
There is power in realizing we have hope even in difficult situations. Good exists. We need to think it, find it and use it.
One thing is for sure: The practice of mothers, fathers and kids is here to stay. Let’s give thanks for the system and figure out how to do whichever role we fill the best we can.