The Tension of Both/And in Parenting

In my earliest decades of living, I mostly made sense of life in a very dualistic way. The drive within my religious, political, and even social life was to categorize ideas and people as either/or, good/bad, or in/out. As I navigate the world and read the ideas of many thinkers*, theologians, and social scientists, it seems that I am not alone. Most of us live the first part of our lives in this space. 

But for some of us, as life rolls along and inevitable pain and suffering enter our stories, tidy dualistic categories begin to break down. We are challenged to hold two seemingly contradictory thoughts at the same time. We are presented with the both/and of life. 

I have dedicated much of my time and energy to the belief that parenting deeply and truly matters. Yet I also observe and live into the reality that each and every child is an individual soul who makes their own choices and way in this world. Both/and.

It is sometimes painful to observe what often happens in response to any troubling family dynamic within a community - a child who struggles with addiction, a teenager who makes devastating choices, a marriage that ends, or any number of difficult scenarios. We so very often want a neat and tidy explanation for such things. I know that such a response within is often an attempt to reassure myself that a dreaded x,y, or z will hopefully never happen in my family. We all wish for the false security of either/or, dualistic thinking. We want guarantees and simple formulas of pain protection when it comes to our kids. These do not exist in real life.

And those of us who sometimes buy into such false comfort and "holier than thou" thinking can magnify the pain of a struggling parent who feels judged and less than and exhausted. There is another way. 

I challenge myself and any who are willing to come along to spend uncomfortable time sitting and living amidst the tension of the both/and of life. When we can do this, there is a well of grace available for our own selves as well as for each of our fellow human travelers. The world needs more of this. 

*For an introduction to a Christian perspective on both/and, I recommend Richard Rohr's writings. His book Falling Upward was very meaningful to me.