We have all heard of instances of parents who have attempted to live vicariously through their children or push them to succeed where they themselves have failed. However, sooner or later we must realize that we can support our children and offer them our guidance, but ultimately they will form their own beliefs and will have to make their own mistakes to learn from.
In the areas of theology and spirituality, this can be challenging to accept. So often parents feel as if they have somehow failed when their adult children choose a different path, and even Unitarian Universalist parents can find it difficult to accept when their youth or young adult children reject our faith and embrace what we ourselves may have rejected at one point in our lives.
While we can communicate our beliefs, articulate our theology, and share with them our meaningful spiritual practices, we still need to recognize that our children will eventually choose their own path and that journey may take them in a very different direction from the one we chose. This is not necessarily a rejection of us and our ideas, but their own way of discovering meaning in life. For if we have truly done our job right they will feel encouraged to find the path which is most meaningful for them—no matter where that path may lead.
Perhaps they will return now and again to their home base where you have—and may continue—to tend the flame, being present for them as needed, even when they are grown and no longer have a daily presence in the family nest. Then a new journey beckons us just as it does our children who are now adults.
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I hope that you have enjoyed this series of blog posts on raising children as Unitarian Universalists, and that you felt a chance to ask questions and share your thoughts and ideas through the comments. This blog on the UU World site has always been conceived of as a limited venture, but this sharing over Unitarian Universalist parenting does not need to end. I plan to re-post these blog entries and continue posting more through my website at Shancar Publications. I hope you will continue to keep looking for inspiration and sharing your ideas with other parents, for the journey can be so much more pleasant when we travel together.
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Michelle Richards is the author of Tending the Flame: The Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting (Skinner House, 2010).