So you want to make a cake.
You consult your recipe, you lay out all your ingredients, and you preheat your oven. You meticulously follow each and every step… carefully measuring, pouring, and mixing. You dot your i’s and cross your t’s and lovingly place it in the oven.
With a little bit of luck, your cake will rise. It will be moist and springy, flavorful but not too sweet. You’ll look at its beautiful exterior and lightly golden hue and you’ll pronounce yourself a fabulous baker. So fabulous, in fact, that when you want to make the exact same cake again and don’t have the same ingredients, you’ll try to wing it. You’ll leave out the eggs. You’ll substitute oil for butter. You’ll use flour made from almonds instead of wheat. You’ll sweeten it with honey instead of sugar.
It won’t work.
But I’m such a great baker! I had such a terrific recipe! I had such high hopes!
The fact is, you can’t bend the will of a set of ingredients to make them into the cake that you envisioned. It doesn’t work that way.
And parenting doesn’t work that way either. Children are not baked goods. They don’t come to us as a set of raw ingredients that we then fashion into something of our own choosing.
Children are fruit.
An apple growing on a tree knows what to do. It grows, all on its own. It does not exist to serve as a potential pie or cider or muffin, but rather as a perfect piece of growing fruit right. now. From the moment that it came into being, it already knew what it was going to be… how big or how small, how red or how green, how tangy or how sweet. It’s not ever going to be exactly like the one next to it, and we wouldn’t expect it to be. It is unique and beautiful and whole just as it is.
Our job then isn’t to try to mix it and change it and create something with it… our job is to simply nurture it, and let it do its thing.
Our job is to give it warmth, shelter, and nourishment. Our job is to lovingly tend to its needs, protect it from harm, and ultimately give it space to grow. Sometimes…. well, sometimes we get to sit back and just… watch. Watch and enjoy how big and how strong and how amazing our little apple has become.
And an apple (or a child or a street sweeper or a brain surgeon) that’s appreciated and valued and accepted for what it is – and not what we try to make it – will always be infinitely better, and happier, than anything we could have possibly created from the sum of its parts.