"Parents always sacrifice their children on the altar of their dreams."
That quote (an obvious allusion to the story of Abraham and Isaac) is imbedded in my mind. It comes from the book The Plains Across, which is the story of those who by wagon and walking trudged across the wide plains and mountains to Oregon and California during the two decades before the Civil War. It was difficult and dangerous and numerous individuals and families perished. Reflecting on the loss of human life, especially of children, the author wrote, "Parents always sacrifice their children on the altar of their dreams."
Parents today spend so much effort, time and money providing 'the best' for their children that the idea of sacrificing them to parental dreams is offensive. Yet, I am convinced, all parents sacrifice their children on the altar of their values, expectations, shortcomings and dreams.
Millard Fuller told a group of university students how he and his wife had come to the end of their marriage but prayerfully decided to make a final effort by giving away their millions and moving to Koinonia Farm, founded by Clarence Jordan as an interracial and pacifist community in Americus, Georgia. There they would seek what God had for them to do. Habitat for Humanity was the result.
Students' initial, concerned and repeated questions had to do with the Fuller children. "Yes, you have helped thousands of poor obtain affordable housing, but how could you do this to your children?" "It's fine for you and your wife to have this idea but how could you take opportunities from your children?"
Well, what about the children?
The truth is that we parents always sacrifice our children on the altar of our dreams, whether it is our dream of "getting ahead," of "being normal," or even of "doing everything for the children." Parents need to ask whether or not our dreams are worthy enough, not only for ourselves, but for the children whom we carry along on the way toward the realization those dreams.
A television ad once asked, "Parents, do you know where your children are?" Another legitimate question is, "Do our children know where we are, and is where we are a worthwhile and worthy place for our children?"
For the first fifteen years of our children's lives, parents do sacrifice their children on the altar of their dreams and, as all adults know from their own lives, those parental dreams are tightly woven into our own lives--for good and for ill. I believe the greatest gift parents can give to their children is not 'everything' but themselves alive and with a passion for life.
--Robert H. Tucker
6 September 1999
© Robert H. Tucker, 1999.
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