Children – are thankful people, children – are thankless people.
Parents torment a child, compel him to study – it’s ok, he will then say thank you.
But if “thank you” is postponed for years, a child grows not knowing gratitude, and his soul is as in darkness. Is there a lot of utility from the delayed business-like gratitude?
“Sonny, go to the store!”
It is not as if he jumps and responds immediately! We have to repeat the order ten times. Finally he stands up, reluctantly puts on his coat and leaves us with such a mood that he is not going to buy bread, but okay, perhaps he will buy it on his way back.
Let’s get used to this. Let’s forget empty phrases, “How many times do I tell you? Do you need me to repeat a hundred times?” Anyway we wouldn’t know if he heard us or not. The answer will come in many years, as a signal, which was sent to a far star.
We were taught all our life: if you do something good for a man, then he will also be good to you, or at least will be thankful. All life is structured so. What is then at home? Mother buys one thing for her son and another thing, a nice coat, and a new bicycle… but what about him? He still brings bad grades and roams around with his peers until midnight. He doesn’t even feel sorry for his mother! The mother doesn’t sleep, but him? Thankless.
The idea of return or immediate return, if it preoccupies parents, may kill the whole parental work. The idea of return is natural for the area of materialistic production: you invest a dollar – you must get back a dollar and something more. Investment and return are measured in dollars or in tons. In the area of spiritual production everything is different. Parents invest in a child something materialistic – money. They invest their strength, life into him, and what do they get in return? It is not materialistic: the qualities of the child’s soul. As we start to measure the return in a solid measure: grades, help at home, good behavior, we are done for. Our parental work will seem to us senseless, endless, and in vain. Where can we get strength, patience and love?
We shouldn’t calculate with children because the soul weakens from that, because contribution and return are not commensurate, and because we will miscount anyway. Those who begin to count with children will miscount. Children are given to us for our unselfishness.
The old legend wonderfully explains where the gratitude of children is expressed.
…An old eagle with three young children had a nest in a far little island. Suddenly a big storm began. The eagle took one of the sons and flew with him above the storming waves. Half way he asked, “Son, do you see how I care about you, how I am saving your life…Will you care for me the same way when I become older and weaker?”
“Oh, yes, father!” the son replied. “I will pay off the debt. I will take care of you the same way as you do with me.”
Then the old eagle said, “I am very sad, that I have a liar of a son.”
And he threw his son into the sea.
Her returned for the second son and flew him to the shore.
“Will you care of me the same way, son?”
“Father, how can you hesitate about that? You just brought me to land.”
And the second son was thrown into the sea. The old eagle couldn’t stand liars.
He went for the third one, carried him above the sea, he was very tired.
“My son, will you care for me the same way as I do with you?”
“Father, I can’t promise it to you,” the son said. “But I promise that when I have my children I will care for them the same way as you do with me.”
And the old eagle brought the bird to the shore.
It is difficult to accept this view; many people would like to argue: what about the care of elders?
But we should not understand the legend literally. Let’s accept one thing: life must go on, parents give everything to children, children give everything to their children, and this tradition of unselfishness is carried on through the centuries. Children are thankful, though they don’t thank us, but life, fulfilling their duty before their children as we once did.
So is this the conclusion: give everything and get nothing in return?
We receive more than we give.
Here is little baby Matvey crying. Here he is two, I wash his hands but he beats the water, spills it and laughs and my heart is happy to see and feel his hands which are the size of my finger. Here he grows, plays in his room. I call him and he shouts, “What!” And even his voice makes my head dizzy. And that is all, that is all my joy -his laughter, drops of water, this “What!” What if this could continue forever!
And what can I give for that: while sitting at the desk I hear strange sounds behind the door – and there, on the floor, something incredibly wonderful appears – our little Matvey, on all fours, crawls into the room, loudly smacking the floor with his palms, swinging his hands as a swimmer: smack, smack, smack… A head rises, two bright eyes look at me with delight: I has crawled, I found, I see you! What will you give for that instance? Here is another marvel -he started walking! He walks, walks and goes, rocking, with the concentrated sight of a man who is busy with a complex internal job. He keeps his arms in front of him, as they are made from glass and can be broken, not understanding yet why he needs his arms while walking… and so, rocking, not looking at anything and not noticing anything, passes through the room and falls down, sits down, – and comes back to himself, what happened? Was it him, walking, and why does he sit?
We adults, to experience this perception would have to suddenly fly into the sky and the same exclamations of delight would accompany our flight as I exclaim, “He walks, walks, by himself walks!”
And so every day, every year, all our life together: he crawls, then walks, then talks, then starts reading, as teachers of the first grade usually say, “My children all started reading!” meaning, they learned reading.
Here is our return, a feedback, revenue, an income, whatever word. Some of us would never for our entire life experience such a sharp love feeling, would never learn what tenderness is, filling in and stopping our heart beat, if not children. So, who owes whom?
Parenting For Everyone, by S.Soloveychik, Book3 Part 3 Chapter 8