“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” – L.R. Knost
My parents were always firm believers that they could not play the role of cheerleaders to their kids. They had to prepare us for the harshness of reality, so that we wouldn’t be disappointed when we stepped into the real world and realized that we were nothing in the grand scale of things (which is a valid point, to a certain extent). They refused to spoil us with compliments or encouragement. They had no qualms about very openly pointing out all flaws. We were never allowed to feel special. They feared our disappointment when we would grow up and eventually realize that life is struggle and competition against many greater opponents. As a result, I never believed I was enough.
The only aspect of upbringing that they overlooked was love, specifically romantic love. Since they never talked to me about sex or relationships, I grew up spoiled on ideals of true love, which only fueled my already sensitive and emotional nature (INFJ personality type). Throughout my childhood, I was surrounded by storybooks and fairytales, Disney princesses and song lyrics preaching of happily ever after. Most of all, I was witness to a very equal, respectful, and functional marriage, in the midst of a culture where marriage was practically mandatory, and divorce a rarity. For as long as I can remember, I truly and profoundly believed in the magic of love and its power to always work out beautifully in the end.
Yes, I was very wrong about a big part of that. Yes, it hurt, a whole damn lot, when I learned otherwise. It was the biggest mistake I’d ever made. It made me question everything I’d stood by my entire life.
But no, I was not wrong about everything. And no, I’d never regret it. I learned my lesson on my own. I learned to be cautious and smarter, more realistic than before. Some scars won’t ever fade. But deep down, my belief still held. I had doubts, but I never stopped believing that love was out there, and that it was still greater than anything else. I believed because it was all that I had ever known how to do.
My faith carried me to where I am now because it gave me strength to keep taking chances and carry on. It has taught me hard lessons, lessons that I might’ve avoided had I grown up differently. I could’ve saved myself much pain and years of time. But as much as I shudder to look back on that time, the most valuable lessons come from experience; I’m stronger and happier now more than ever. (Side note: “Who gives a fuck about your first love. Give a big round of applause for your second love, because they taught you love still exists after you thought it never could again.”)
I will always appreciate how I have been raised, perhaps accidentally, to believe in love despite all odds. It’s a trait that defines me, and I love being able to share that faith with others. I’m 18, and still learning. There are many things I don’t understand about love and parenting, but from my experience, that is how I think a child should be raised. So many parents believe that their kids have to be immovable, like a rock that’s able to brace the strongest currents. But we’re people, not rocks, and we’re supposed to move with the current and grow from it. It’s good to be realistic and strong but those things don’t necessarily contradict being passionate and idealistic. Children should be taught to embrace the extraordinary, even when it lets them down. Only with belief can we try again.