332. When Wishes Come True

They say that we should be very careful what we wish for. Some of our wishes, they say, could end up coming true. I never used to catch the drift of that warning. On one level, I understood what it meant – that a poorly conceived wish, if granted, could bring on unforeseen disaster. We could end up learning, too late, that we didn’t want what we thought we wanted, and there could very well be calamities that would make us eat our words. But as far as I was concerned, the calamities thus warned against seemed quite unlikely; I wanted my wishes to come true, and if their realization had consequences I didn’t like, I’d deal with them later.
We want our children to live lives that reflect our fondest dreams and deepest convictions. Good parents are flexible about that; their children know that they’ll be loved even if they don’t faithfully reflect all the dreams and convictions their parents want them to. Still, it’s nice, once in a while, to be able to smile, sit back, and proudly say, “That’s my kid!” It makes all the work of parenting seem worthwhile. Our children may seem a little embarrassed by that pride, but for the most part, I think they like it.
But sometimes, when our children end up strikingly similar to our dreams, that turns out not to be what we really wanted at all. The child of a military person volunteers to serve in a war overseas, and Major Mom or Dad realizes that that child, though doing his/her parents proud, could end up getting killed. And that wasn’t part of the dream; the dream had to do with Purple Hearts and other medals. We teach our children values, and if we teach them well, we see some of our values lived out. Sometimes that gives us second thoughts.
Our children can keep us honest with ourselves, or if we weren’t honest in the first place, they can make us honest. We hear ourselves saying to our children, in effect, “How dare you think, say, and do exactly what we taught you to think, say, and do? We were speaking theoretically! We didn’t think you would actually take our words to heart! And we certainly didn’t expect you to act on those ideals we taught you!” What follows may be accusations of hypocrisy. And I guess we’re somewhat guilty as charged; we know what we WANT to believe in, but there are more things going on in our minds than just our high-fallutin’ convictions.
The people our children become are, to some degree, reflections of who we are. They can be the best and worst of who we are. (They can also rebel, and seem to be the exact opposites of us, but that’s not what this article is about.) So here’s fair warning for those of you who don’t already know: the things you say to or model for your children may end up being significant parts of who your children are. So be careful what you wish for.

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