Who are the ‘they’ I am referring to?
The ones we love.
And in this particular instance, I’m referring to our kids.
And what does it mean to be ‘pulled through the strainer’?
It means that we allow ourselves to be strained, emotionally, through what I picture to be a giant, purifying screen window, in order to strengthen and heal ourselves from our prior limitations, the way our children need us to, so that we can serve them better.
We allow ourselves to be ‘strained’ every time we say ‘yes’ instead of giving a knee-jerk ‘no’;
Every time we participate in an activity with them even if we are tired or stressed;
Every time we listen to their stories or their worries without cutting them short or telling them, ‘not now’;
Every time we Ask instead of immediately Comment;
In sum, every time we push ourselves to behave in ways that are harder for us, more disciplined, and more counterintuitive and counter-reflexive–THAT is a time when we have allowed our kids, because of the force of love, to pull us beyond the limitations of our own childhoods and what we got, through the strainer, and out the other end having gladly suffered the pain of our own growth in order to serve them better.
We would never do this for ourselves, or because of ‘professional advice’, but we would do it for them–the love is that strong.
Each time we voluntarily go through the strainer due to love, is a time when we are giving more than we received when we were their age; it is a time when we push our inherited limitations, when we create–out of thin air and with no experiential background to help us out–a more mature, more patient, and more nurturing self.
All because of love.
And because we never received or witnessed these behaviors first-hand as children ourselves–and therefore don’t naturally have them to pass on to our own kids–they have to be created ‘out of thin air’ in this process fueled by love; love that is greater than our own self-love or the fear of pain:
“Hey dad, can you help me with this project?”
Dad (exhausted and frustrated from his own project and wanting to say ‘no’): “Sure.”
“Hey mom, can I help you make that?”
Mom (nervous because she wants it done ‘just right’ which means doing it by herself and not with the child): “Okay, sounds good.”
So, let’s be aware of the existence of this strainer, and let’s allow ourselves to be pulled through it by the ones we love as often as we can, without fearing or avoiding the pain of our own growth that will come along with it.
Don’t worry, for, as the song says: Love Will Find the Way.
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.
Author, Don’t Get Married! (Unless You Understand a Few Things First)