How can we help our children avoid our mistakes?

“Sunrise, Sunset, swiftly flow the days, one season following another, laden with happiness and tears.” If you have seen the play or movie “Fiddler on the Roof” you are familiar with this song. I recently went to a wedding where they used this song as part of the ceremony. It is a very poignant song that brings reflection to our lives and our children’s lives. The words tell the story of growth, aging, change and separation. Tevye wonders as all parents do:

What words of wisdom can I give them?
How can I help to ease their way?

If only our children would follow our advice and heed the lessons we have tried to teach them. We want to help them to avoid the errors we have made and keep them safe from the pain and disappointments we have faced. We might be able to do this if we could stop time, keep them home with us and never let them grow up, but that is not to be. We know in our hearts that our children, like ourselves, must find their own way and suffer their own mistakes. They must go out and face the world. We must watch as they grow older and hope that we have prepared them to avoid at least some of the many traps we fell into.

The happy part of Tevye’s song is also the sad part. We must watch as they grow from children to adults and separate from us by finding their own lives. All things change and all things stay the same. Our children are a reflection of us and yet they are unique. As time passes, they will become more like us and yet they will also become less like us. Their histories will become their own and their destinies will follow very different paths then those we chose or perhaps hoped they would choose. We know that eventually they will face tears and that is the hardest part for us to accept. Would there was someway to protect them from that, but it is not to be. Life brings both joy and sorrow and we are yoked together with our children in these events. For better or worse, their joys and sufferings will be our joys and sufferings.

What words of wisdom do you want your children to follow? What teachings that you gave them were the most important? What do you most hope they will listen to in the years ahead? What do you wish you could go back and change? Perhaps it is not too late. We can always keep trying to make a difference in the lives of our loved ones. Sometimes we will succeed. You only fail when you quit trying.

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