Anyone who has read Viktor Frankl’s books will have heard of his idea that the USA needed a Statue of Responsibility to be built on the west coast to put some balance on the Statue of Liberty. (click on picture for link)
He was a brilliant man who even before he went to the concentration camps for the ‘crime’ of being a ‘subhuman Jew’ understood that the meaning of life was rooted in love and hope.
He didn’t mean pink and sparkly love or silly hope he meant the love that involves sacrifice and suffering and the hope that is rooted in reality (an ontological absolute reality- not fluff, smoke and mirrors).
I’ve had a few conversations with people recently that have illustrated real love and trying to offer real hope but when I told my dh about one of these he said the grandmother in question was “extraordinary”. I have to say I disagreed.
This is a mother whose daughter has recently become very ill. She has children. So the mother/grandmother travels up to stay with her and help with the grandchildren. It is a reasonably long journey especially as she comes by coach but not so far as to be almost impossible. I think this is ‘ordinary’.
Taking care of your adult children and grandchildren when needed seems ordinary to me. It’s what we mothers (and fathers) are supposed to do. As parents we have a solemn duty, a responsibility, to our children. It is one of the few roles given that is eternal. You are only a spouse until death, but you are a parent eternally.
This doesn’t mean controlling everything your child does and nor does it mean bailing them out when they have done bad things – that’s not responsible, that’s enabling. But it does surely mean being there in whatever way you can when you are needed. It must mean sacrifice and inconvenience-putting aside that extra weekend away to be with a sick daughter and caring for the grandchildren; or staying on at work that extra year to help out a struggling family financially; going without those meals out so your grandchildren are properly clothed and fed…these are just some examples of what I have seen people do.
I even know a mother who gave up her cherished vocation to the religious life to go and care for her sick daughter and the children she had. This wonderful lady’s Mother Superior offered her a sabbatical but she knew her daughter was chronically ill and would need more support, so she made the painful decision to leave her order. “Your children and grandchildren come first,” she said.
This is true liberty.
Some of these mothers, father’s and granparents have done the extra to the ordinary. I do think my friend’s mother who stayed longer in her job to help them out financially was doing the ‘extra’. (Not because the husband wasn’t working, he works extremely hard but one wage is a tough call especially when the mother of the family was so ill).
But as mother’s we are called to do the ‘extra’.
I think we are accepting mediocre care as ‘ordinary’. Too many people scream about their “rights” many of which are just made up, not rooted in natural law at all. There’s a willingness, even a will, to sacrifice anyone rather than “Me” to get rights that don’t belong.
There’s the mother who doesn’t pay attention to her children’s behaviour or learning having passed that job to the school; the families left to struggle with their parents saying “the government should do something,”; or those who work, not because they have to, but because they would rather be at work than with their children. “My right” real or imagined, rather than responsibility to children. Real rights, rooted in natural law always come with responsibility; truth never contradicts truth just as parents rights never impinge on children’s rights- if those rights are real.
There’s the bizarre view that once a child hits some arbitrary age; whether it’s 5 and they are in school; 16 and they are “old enough” or 18 – that the parents can stop being parents. It suddenly becomes someone else’s responsibility. Time to look after number 1. I cannot accept this is ‘ordinary’ behaviour. It’s pretty naff behaviour.
I also believe we are supposed to take care of our parents. Okay, easy for me to say as I don’t have any, but I think those who have parents who have truly loved them and taken care of them have the responsibility to return the favour. I have a friend trying to do this now. Her mother was there for her when she was ill, she wants to be there for her mother now she is ill.
Another friend who is 85 has fallen and is now in hospital. Her daughter and grandchildren are cleaning her house and sorting things out so she can return home and be cared for soon. She has cared for her grandchildren and great grandchildren and now they are caring for her (well her great grandchildren are a bit young but I bet she gets cuddles 🙂 )
I know what it’s like to have to struggle with serious illness and the serious illness of a child-and have to do it alone as I have no family. When my daughter was so sick I couldn’t help feeling some jealousy at all those families around us on the wards where there was always at least two people to care for the child,(children’s wards are set up assuming two people will be there).
My children have a family, us, (mum and dad) and each other.
I’m sure those of you reading this already do the ordinary things of love and know that in doing so you get a happier, closer family and friends. (I’ve read some of your blogs so I know :)and I’ve seen some extraordinary suffering love too from those blogs) It’s how ordinary love and life works. If we see neglect as ordinary and ordinary love as extraordinary who will ever try for the truly extraordinary love we should be striving for?
BTW I am not blaming dh for thinking the grandmother who takes care of her sick daughter and grandchildren is extraordinary; he works in Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) where there isn’t often much love to be found.
Let’s get rid of the Laodicean comfortable slippers of self indulgence and neglect of neighbour and get some blisters hiking back up through the ordinary to what is really extraordinary love and responsibility. Then we can bring hope to others and in that is meaning.
recommended reading: Reading Victor Frankl’s books is highly recommended.
The Doctor and the Soul
Man’s Search for Meaning
The Unheard Cry for Meaning
and if you can find a copy (I can’t) Psychotherapy and Existentialism (this was the first Frankl book I read and I was hooked. Don’t be put off by the title)
You might also want to read THIS free ebook about Frankl’s Logotherapy. I’ve not read it yet so can’t say how good it is, but if it sticks to Frankl’s thought it should be pretty fine.