I don't watch Oprah often, but recently I caught an episode featuring women who were struggling with life in general. One woman cried as she shared how her daughter "never gets to see me smile." Work, busy-ness, and general frustration left the woman limp and empty by the end of each day.
I didn't think much of the episode until this week, when my 13-year old son happily declared,
"Mom, I love how much you laugh!"
I saw the look on his face and realized: I can never work enough or earn enough to make him feel secure. The security of my children will always lie in how much of me they receive.
The American Dream was once a well-intentioned idea that all should prosper and live a "good life." New applications of the term imply the accumulation of wealth at any cost - including the cost of withholding ourselves from our children. We haven't lost an entire generation to the ill effects of TV. We lost them when TV replaced absent parents who were off chasing the American Dream.
I used to wonder about the genuine smiles on the faces of people living in poverty. How could they have that much joy?
My sons and I are far from poverty. Yet there are things I'd like to give them. A big house with a big yard. A vacation to Jamaica. (Okay, that's for me, but they're excited about the possiblity -hehe). Even if I deliver those things (and oh, I will), it's not the things they'll fondly remember. Their memories will go back to those silly nights, laughing over popcorn, howling over Lil Z's antics, Krumping in the Dining Room, and the happy mom who loves them with all her heart. It's not about giving up the "Dream," but putting it in the right order. It's not about giving up the house, but prioritizing making a "home" over enlarging the "house."
I'll trade the Limp Legacy of Working to Keep Up With the Joneses for a Legacy of Love anyday. Now to get working on that house...