Tuesday, November 6, 2012

This Is For You

This is for you, sitting at the table with your spouse while your child screams bloody murder because you won’t give in.  You picked your battle.  You set the boundaries.  You won, and you understand that this is only the first of many but there will be sweet moments as well.  Good job.

I’ve been there, I know the looks across the dinner plates, wondering, “is this worth it?”  

Yes.  It will be.

This is for you, watching your child walk down the hall to their classroom every morning.  You know they can make it on their own but the sweet backward glances won’t last forever.  So you watch them.  Every step.

This is also for you, who drive your children to the door and give them a quick, air-blown kiss.  Your confidence in your child will help them stand strong.  Those sweet air kisses won’t last forever, either, so you cherish each one.  And you give them space.

This is for any parent who has cried over their children, desperately seeking answers.  Something feels wrong, something is hurting your child, and you aren’t sure where to turn.  You keep asking and calling and calling again—This is for you, who keep asking the hard questions of those who are supposed to help you when things seem impossible.

This is for any parent whose child seems like Super Kid.  Your battle is different, seeking to help your child achieve balance and define success in their own terms.  There are different pressures for you and yours, but there is still pressure.

This is for you, and you know who you are, as you daydream of a future where you can sit next to your ex at your child’s wedding.  The bitterness, the lack of communication, the stonewalling—over.  It will take a lot of work to get there, but you hold out hope even as you don’t settle for less than the best for your kids.

This is for you, Mom and Dad, who did it.  Despite the anger and the disappointment and the horrible sadness of a marriage lost, you were able to be at our wedding together.  And we saw nothing but smiles.

Parenthood is among the most difficult of jobs, because while we are in the moment we cannot see ahead to the results of our labor.  Will they learn?  Will things change?  Will the constant drip drip drip of love from us be enough? 

We think about those dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park,” that bumped against the electric wires, one by one, finding the weakest link until they escaped.  We know children are like that.  They test and they test and if they find a weak spot…they can go on the attack. 

Think, too, of the ultimate vulnerability of a newborn.  Eyes closed, defenseless and full of need, need, NEED.  Children are like this, too.  Soft and pliant, impressionable and growing. 

It can be so hard, sometimes, to decide which child we are dealing with.  Is it the defiant, dangerous dinosaur?  Or the needy, vulnerable newborn?  Or neither? 

And even as we raise our children, we do so with others.  The parent who is here, the parent who isn’t.  We deal as a team, or we struggle as foes. 

Each parent, each child has different battles to be fought and won.  Some will be lost, some will not even begin because you’ve carefully decided that this isn’t a battle to die for.  I’m not trying to imply that parenting is a war, or that there aren’t infinite rewards when it works.  Parenting is hard, though, no matter who your kid is.

The most important thing is that if we stand shoulder to shoulder, instead of pointed finger at pointed finger, we all succeed.

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