It’s not impossible to project from here. The boys are only 3 and 4 and already I can see a light in the fog. Nothing crystal clear, nothing close. But it’s reasonable as they approach an age that I can not quite reach back to, but from my furthest memories I can hear faint whispers. They are coming from a me of their age.
Growing up is exciting and fun and challenging and confusing. It’s the stuff of life and it’s great. As parents I can already see how much I’ll marvel as they progress to their ultimate destination of independence from us. I’m embarrassed at how much I often hurt when letting them go and grow even a little, but we must. We want to. Truly we do. But the unbelievable feeling of being so needed, so wanted, so loved and looked up to.. it’s a mighty powerful drug. It really is. One you are encouraged to indulge in fully, to give you the intoxication of pure love that fills your tank at a rate roughly equivalent to the rate that the job requires you to spend your fuel. Its a frantic pace and one that challenges your collective ability to stay standing, keep your balance and continue to progress.
Kids have no idea, at least I didn’t, that my parents were people. I mean I knew they were humans, so they met at least one definition, but they weren’t feeling people, ones constantly balancing their emotions and their thoughts. Endlessly interpreting life and its meanings. They told me they loved me constantly. Still do. I understand what it means now that I’m a dad, but for so much of my life I had no clue all that it entailed.
A parents love is both joyous and sad. It’s remarkably proud and endlessly fascinated. It’s scared. Really scared at times and garden variety worried a lot of the time. It’s fun to love your kids, endless fun. It’s a love that can wake you up and push you past fears, motivate you when the fumes are all you have left and think you can’t go on. It’s also terribly dissembling.
When you arrive on the scene, those first few years, the ones that will hide so far back in time you’ll never retrieve them, never even conceive of them until you are faced with passing this strange and hyper-real time yourself someday, if you’re lucky enough to do so, you become the operating and inciting entity in our lives. For a time we feel we are the sun to your planetary revolutions, but the truth reveals itself over time. You are in fact the sun and you power and light what life we have to give. And we give so much of it to you. So much we can lose sight of each other from time to time.
When you arrive you are all need and as you emerge you pay us in love and hugs and smiles and conversation. At first we talk about the things around us, things we can touch and feel. Things like toys, shapes, colors and love. But as you grow older and need to discover the things that lie behind the horizon of mom and dad you start to push past us. It’s wonderful. It really really is. But we remember we are human when you do it. We aren’t the all giving all knowing force of the universe that your needs have perhaps allowed us to think we were.
But we follow your lead now. Being brave because you are. Pushing past comfort because you are. We try to stay out front. We have to for a time in order to ensure safe passage to the other side. To where you will live in the world. Apart from us but from us. And this becomes our new identity. The path-clearers. The independence enablers. We relish your accomplishments and feel, feel deeply your struggles. But all the time knowing you are safe because we are here walking with you.
Until we aren’t. Not in the way we’ve become accustomed to. Because you need to walk alone. Need to prove to the world and in turn to yourself that you will be able to handle what life throws at you. Because someday you’ll be tasked with being the safety net for yourself. We know this, but it hurts to lose that to. To lose that job that has defined us.
In the happy stories you learn to rely on yourself. To navigate the world and all of its challenges. You build networks of support in a thousand ways and you find comfort in the high wire act of being a person among people trying your best to get through. You even learn that you are so capable that you can give love to others that you see that need it. If you are lucky. You’ve stored all the love that’s been given from your prehistory in those early, never to be recalled days up til now and you realize you are who you are because of you and all those who’ve loved you and you find your way back to us through understanding.
Understanding that we were giants at one time because of you, that the journey we’ve taken, just like yours, was hard and left scarring. You learn to have empathy for the people you thought of as gods who made the moon come out to lightly illuminate your slumber and would keep it there as long as you needed it. Who made life livable and who seemed to stand in your way when you couldn’t understand why they were frightened to let you go.
We weren’t frightened to let you go. Well we were, sure, but it was compounded by the fact that we knew it meant letting the us we became when we met you go to. It was a fear of what we would find in the space you’d leave behind in the middle of our hearts and our homes. You, the purpose of our lives, the ones we so happily surrendered ourselves to the second we met. What will we be without you.
It’s a silly fear I’m sure, but I don’t know how I’ll get past it. I’m sure you’ll be able to see me acting on fear before I recognize it. That’s the job of loving families. We hold on too long and you, benevolently live up to your obligation by walking away. You’ll have to. And you’ll have to forgive us all those times we couldn’t let go when we should have. You’ll come to know that while we walked behind you as you shed those things that children must leave, we were picking up those things we couldn’t let go of to take with us. They are the reminders of our most purposeful, love filled, meaningful times in our lives and we would rather be weighed down with them than let them drift into history. They are the artifacts of the story of our lives and we’ll carry them to the end.