You probably think of being the parent as the lead role in the movie – the one who carries the story forward. But consider the idea of being a “Supporting Actor.”
In your child’s story, she is the star, the lead, the best actor. You are the supporting actor. Think of Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting or Jennifer Hudson as Effie White in Dreamgirls. Certainly, they were the lead characters in their own lives, but in the lives of the protagonist, they are the supporting actors. Even when our children are very small, we are just holding space for them to become adults.
Right from infancy, look for the ways that your child is unique – different from her parents or siblings. She has her own desires, needs and preferences. Within what works for your family, allow space for her to grow into the role she was born to have. Remember, this is her story. That role might be different than the one you have imagined for her. You can guide her, but you cannot be her, and she cannot be you. That’s why the primary verb, the main action you must take as a parent, is to support.
The first definition of support is “to hold up; to bear the weight.” I interpret that to be the support of unconditional parental love. Do you remember that scene in The Lion King when Mustafa holds up Simba for all to see? What parent does not start that way? The baby is born and the news is immediately spread far and wide, sent as announcements, posted all over the Internet on social media.
Now let’s be real here. It is rarely the beauty itself of the baby being touted. Looked at objectively, babies are not particularly attractive (unless they’re yours!) No, I believe that what is being held up to the world is the mere fact of the baby and all the potential he represents. Every baby fills us with hope for the future. In that moment of birth, we do not judge, we do not find anything lacking. Even if a baby is born with serious visible challenges, we are softened by the miracle of its birth. Awestruck, new parents promise to love every inch of that baby for as long as it shall live.
To me, that is what it means to “hold up” your child. To me, it means to be the person who will always love that child to pieces no matter what. Every child deserves at least one adult who will unbiasedly support him. This does not mean that you won’t discipline your child. It does not mean that when your child is caught cheating at school that you won’t back up the school’s consequences. It does mean that you will be faithful in your belief that though your child makes mistakes, he has as much potential to grow and correct them as he did the day he was born and you held him up for the world to see. He is still a human being who has value just by being alive. To hold up your child means to demand respect for him. It means to stand by his side. It means to see the best in him always.
What did your parents do to hold you up and celebrate you?
What do you do to hold up and celebrate your kids?