Wednesday, March 16, 2016

For My Children

There are few things in this life that can give a faster or more involved lesson in love than becoming a parent. There is something about that moment that changes everything, and that moment is not bound by a particular date or event. Whether you become a parent when that child is born or through some other process after the child is older makes little difference on this particular aspect of parenthood. Not everyone who has custody of a child is a parent, but a parent is a parent, regardless of how it happened.

It’s not necessarily that being a parent brings out the best in a person. Parents make at least as many mistakes as anyone else, and sometimes those mistakes can have enormous consequences. The fact that those mistakes leave imprints on innocent people and cast shadows into the future makes them inherently larger, just as a matter of course. Being a parent does, however, make you want to be your best, and that distinction can make all the difference in the world. There is no handbook or magical solution. We, as parents, don’t have the answers, but we know that our children believe we do have the answers, and that responsibility drives and informs our every action. We aren’t guaranteed to be the best, but you better believe we desperately want to be the best, and we spend many hours - hours that our children don’t usually get to see - sweating and fretting over every decision we make.

Is it the best? Was it the best? What else could I have done? What else should I do? Am I doing enough? Is it even possible to do enough? I need to do more. I can never do enough. I never do enough. I’m such a failure. Please don’t let me fail my child. I can’t possibly be enough, but please, oh please let me be enough.

If you’re a parent, you’re nodding your head as you read that. I can almost guarantee it. We all go through it. Most of us go through it often. If you’re a child, you may not realize your parents go through that, but they do. Count on it. It’s that razor sharp tension between wanting to be your best and knowing all too well how rarely human beings ever achieve the best. We usually try to hide the fact that we don’t have all of the answers, but we don’t have all of the answers. We’re winging it. We’re trying to do our best, but we’re really winging it.

I don’t know whether or not that’s reassuring - it’s hard to say from the vantage of the parent whose children are nearly grown - but I hope it leads to understanding at least. We want to be our best; we just don’t always know how. When you came into our lives, you didn’t bring an instruction manual along with you. We got tips and hints from the parents who came before us, but they had the same limitations that we have. They had to learn on the job as well. They did their best, just like we try to do, but there is a heavy element of guesswork involved. Sometimes you can’t see the results of your efforts until far, far later. You just have to aim straight and hope for the best.

In my case, I have been fortunate in that I have become a parent in just about every way it is possible to do so. I was there at the birth of my son, and I have stepped into the parental role for children who don’t share my DNA through processes both formal and informal, legal, marriage, and otherwise. I have even spent time as a teacher, and let me tell you, there is more than a little overlap there. I know I have failed so often, but I have tried my best for each of them, and I continue to do so in every way I can. I will always continue to do so in every way I can.

For my children, I see some of you more than others, but each of you is in my thoughts and in my heart every day. There has not been a day since you came into my life that I have not thought about you, worried about you, and hoped for you. I have watched you learn, and I watch you continue to learn, sometimes whether you like it or not, but that’s life. We don’t always get the choices we want, but we’re always learning from our choices. You have fought that at times, you fight that at times, but then you learn, and I hide my grin behind my hand so you won’t see it and get the wrong idea. I let you fall down, even though everything inside of me screams to carry you through every problem you might have, and I don’t let you see how relieved I am when you stand back up and take that next step to keep going forward. I know you can do it, but I can’t give you my faith. That’s one of the things you have to learn. I can only tell you, it’s as hard on me as it is on you, but we’ll get through it together.

There are things I would go back and do differently if I could, but I hope that we have made the most of what we did even if it wasn’t always the best we could have done at the time. I doubt there will ever be a time when I can look back and say anything different. No matter how old you get, you will always be my children, and I will always be trying to do my best, making mistakes, and trying to get the best results out of those mistakes. Even when I’m not there, even when I can’t be there, know that I am there in every way possible, and that I always will be.

I’ve enjoyed the years we’ve had, even when they weren’t enough. I look forward to the years ahead and hope that they can be more. There’s never enough, though, is there? We always shoot for the stars, but never quite get there. Still, aiming high is how we get as far as we do get, so we just keep doing the best we can, and appreciate what we have. I appreciate you. I hope you know that.

For my children, I love you. Each of you. I miss you more often than you think, and I’m glad you came into my life. I look forward to seeing the shapes you leave in the universe, and hope that I get to help leave those shapes as often as possible. Go out and shape the world. It’s waiting for you.

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