Monday, November 29, 2010

Faith in Our Children's Mystery


"There is a double risk for parents when it comes to placing ... faith in their children. On the one hand, they are placing their faith in what cannot be known, controlled, or comprehended. If Levinas is correct in describing the face of the human other as the trace of the infinite, the child is a parent's most direct and profound access to the infinite. But as the trace of the infinite, the face simultaneously reveals and conceals. It gives us something to know in what it reveals to us. But the more we get to know what is revealed, the more we come to see the mystery hidden in the infinite from which it comes.

Insofar as children are both finite and a trace of the infinite, parents can and indeed must have faith in the infinite and mostly hidden dimension of a child's life. This is the dimension out of which the unique character, resiliency, and mettle of the child will be forged with the assistance of a parent's love, skill, and insight. In the hidden depths of the child's developing personality is the power to become that which we cannot fully anticipate. So parents are faced with the task of simultaneously nurturing and cultivating the seen and unseen dimensions of a child's personality. And these different dimensions are not clearly demarcated. They are interwoven with each other, the one affecting the other in multiple ways...

The incomprehensibility of the hidden dimensions of a child's life can be exasperating for parents. Often the most difficult situations for parents are those in which there is uncertainty and ambiguity. A child begins to whine, complain, and cry, sometimes for days at a time it seems, and for no obvious reason. The parent tries to soothe her, to understand what is bothering her, but sometimes there is no reasonable answer. The causes of her agitation are unclear to mother and child, making the situation difficult to address. As adolescents, children challenge parents with a full range of mysterious and incomprehensible behavior from brooding to silence to promiscuous sexual relations.

Faced with the difficulties and unpredictability of our children's emerging personalities, it sometimes seems as though even bad news is better than not knowing because it gives us a sense of direction, a point of reference from which we can formulate a strategy and orient our lives...[I]t can be paralyzing when the hidden dimension of a child's life is ambiguous and beyond our comprehension...

...Whether intervening with conditions and terms, or letting the child be, we are called to walk a fine line between the seen and unseen, the known and unknowable, the conditional and unconditional...Most often, our choices are made with only a partial view of the situation, incomplete knowledge of the relevant data. We choose with intensity, but we choose also with faith: faith in our children and the incomprehensible potential and resilience that resides beneath their laughs and tears, successes and failures, joys and pains..."



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