At our Father’s Day cookout yesterday, with four generations of our clan milling about, all our temperamental differences and likenesses were on parade. As adoptive parents, my husband and I never assumed that we’d be like our children temperamentally or vice-versa. In fact, the emotional distance we experienced with our own mothers prepared us to become better parents because it drove us to do for our children what our mothers did not do for us, which was to love them with a hands-on, present, be-there, I-see-you sort of love.
The tree frogs bawled as my husband and I lingered over our beers on the porch long after everyone had left. We talked into the night about how we had learned how to love every child of ours as he or she was and is, how precious and valuable each one is in this peculiar family system. As we lingered with the fireflies, we shared our sadness about how disconnected our oldest children are from the rest of us, from all that the rest of us share, and from us as parents. They are my stepson and the few children we didn’t raise, who came to us at age 17 or 18 or as adults. They’re disconnected from the psychic and spiritual energy of the family, and from us as parents, even though they’re in the middle of everything, chatting, laughing, letting the energy bounce around them. They show up physically, eating and drinking with pleasure, but usually only on the holidays. They don’t participate in day-to-day life with us.
We talked about how sad we feel about this, especially as intuitve types for whom communication, meaning, and connection are essential. We revisited how we had come to a place of acceptance with our own parents as well as with our few irreparably damaged children, understanding their needs and giving according to their needs, not just demanding what we want, what we need. When we finally gave our parents what they ought to have first given us, we discovered we were repairing not only our own hearts, but tears in the fabric of the universe, too.
Within our large family are members of every single different psychological type. We’ve been able to be emotionally close to every single person who made him- or herself available for loving relationship. We’ve also learned the painful truth that not every person has the capacity or willingness to communicate an authentic self or is willing to give it. Sometimes people develop only enough ego to relieve their suffering, and then they stop developing. They don’t learn to truly love; they come to the place where they might have something to give, and then they withhold it. They refuse to die to themselves, to put it in Biblical terms. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone, by itself; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Nobody bears fruit until he first goes down, down, down into the dark, cold, lonely earth and germinates. That’s what Jesus taught. Buddha, too, sat under the bodhi tree with good reason. He was dying to himself.
Each and every person, no matter what his personality type, can love with all he has. We can learn to step outside our comfort zones and give what’s needed, once we’re full up. We can even give before we’re full up, if we’re brave enough. We can give what we have. That’s the sacrifice, the laying down of one’s own life for the sake of the beloved. I don’t think we’ve really loved until we’ve done that, until we are more than just recipients of constant blood transfusions.