Sheltering Our Kids: How Even The Buddha’s Dad Couldn’t Protect Him Forever

Sheltering Our Kids: How Even The Buddha’s Dad Couldn’t Protect Him Forever
October 7, 2013 Leslie Juvin-Acker

“All children have to be deceived if they are to grow up without trauma.” ― Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go

As new parents, Mr J. and I found this quote interesting. We grew up on different sides of the tracks, having experienced two completely different upbringings. He had a charmed childhood with little worries that extended well into his adulthood. I, on the other hand, experienced one struggle after the other: emotional abuse, a working poor financial situation, domestic violence, mentally unstable family members – the works.

Having been together for seven years and experiencing our own kind of adversity, we ask ourselves To what level do we want to expose our child(ren) to life’s problems? It’s like pulling back the curtain to see that The Great and Powerful Oz is just a beleaguered old man. How much do we shelter our children and how much do we expose them to tragedy and suffering? Even the Buddha himself was disenchanted when he walked outside of the palace gates his own father, King Suddhodana, built for him to protect his son from suffering.

Just like King Suddhodana, we can only protect our kids for so long before they are either exposed to, or are victim of, suffering.

Sometimes thinking about how people can be cruel, selfish and deceiving, Mr. J says, “I wish my parents didn’t protect me as much as they did. I just thought everyone just grows up, works, and everything is laid out and everyone is straightforward.”

It would have been nice to have been raised in a stable, loving environment with parents who put their children’s interests before their own and to believe that people are always sincere and compassionate. I didn’t have that and I, on the other hand, wish I did. Sure, I have a thick skin when it comes to adversity. I don’t let jerks or disappointment get to me as much as Mr. J does. I’m quicker to lay down boundaries and stand up for myself. He, contrarily, expects that everyone is going to be rational and polite and becomes angry when they’re not. But at least his parents didn’t make his life miserable, or hurt him on purpose, or make him suffer for their own ideals. In my mind, that’s the lesser of the two evils.

Our upbringings are completely different, but the fact remains that while we can’t protect our children from ever knowing the truth, we can be kind to them and give them a better world than the one we came into. Any good parent wants their children to know more, to be more, to have more, and to know more happiness and love that they themselves have ever known. While we can’t avoid life’s unpleasantness, we can least come to understand them. As the Buddha learned, we can’t escape old age, sickness, and death, but we can, through understanding, know less suffering.

Ultimately, as the Buddha taught, we have a choice to either be the source of our children’s suffering or help our children be the end of suffering in their world. We can either perpetuate the cycle of hurt and pain or choose to stop the cycle with our children’s help. Through our good intentions, we can hurt our children, but as long as our intentions to teach our children come from a place of love, instead of fear or anger, then we can hope that things will work out for the better.

But then again, what do I know? I’m not a parenting expert or a psychologist. I’m just a parent, just like you, that’s thinking about their upbringing and trying to figure out a way to ensure her child’s happiness. Kazuo Ishiguro raises an interesting point of discussion. What do you think?