Being a parent is hard work. At times it is so overwhelming that you question your abilities, your sense of self, your very existence. Trying to prepare yourself to be a parent is like struggling through a course in a Spanish and then being expected to write a best-selling novel in ancient Greek.
Do I have what it takes to give my child what they need in this world? To avoid all of the pitfalls, especially the ones that I have firsthand knowledge of and stumbled with myself, to guide them to become a contributing member of society and a good person? To follow the light that I see in them to a positive, meaningful life?
All of this while trying to reign in, or at least muddle through, the chaos that the everyday life of caring for little people throws at you. The vomit. The hospital stays. The crusted sweet potato in hard to reach places. Potty training. Sports practices. The throbbing sting when they toddle off toward their first day of school. The “what kind of a mother are you?!”s. The waking up before everyone else to have a little silent time to run, write, and pack lunches. The unpacking of lunches after school while listening to the dramatic “I HATE sandwiches!” routine. The crushing weight of judgment from other parents. Being exhausted as you drag yourself up the stairs to deal with a nighttime cry, not knowing whether you will find an ear infection, more vomit, or a scary monster that you will have to create an antidote for when you can’t put a coherent sentence together. Explaining love and loss and life to those little and innocent eyes that tear at your soul.
It’s a maddening journey. And impossible. And it is the opposite of simple, reasonable, and everything that the world expects of parents. Remember that time that high school threw you off your tracks and made you rediscover yourself? Then college? Then marriage? That was the easy stuff, the trainer courses, the appetizer to what comes next.
Really all you can try to do is the very best that you can. Your schedule becomes theirs. Their pain hurts worse than any you have ever felt before. And that is the easy stuff.
In this crazy world… how can you help them? In the madness of terrorism, politics, financial strain, and the crushing day to day meanness that they will have to endure like the rest of us… what can you do to prepare them for it all?
I think the best we can do is to teach our children to be resilient. To become educated and to question what is accepted. To think for themselves and never question that small voice inside of themselves. To give them all of the love that we have while they are small and receptive to it, so that they believe how amazing they are even when the cruelty of the world tries to prove otherwise. And repeat the same love even when they are surly and pretend not to be listening. And again. And again. Then, hopefully, when they start hearing that voice of doubt (that is oddly like the bullies they will encounter) in their own heads, they will pursue what is right anyway. More times than not. That they know that they are not only loveable, but very, very loved.
Because really, we parents are the lucky ones. We are the first ones to see how amazing these little people are. The spark that ignites a human being that we are trusted to nurture and raise. Even when we question our own sanity, we love these tiny human beings. We see the greatness in them that it may take them many years to discover on their own. The one that they will have to fight for, muddle through cursed puberty for, disregard so many temptations to find for themselves. Their purpose, which is partly our own purpose.
It will be hard. Sometimes if you have to reread the same nighttime story for the millionth time you are certain your head will explode. But take heart. There may be something to glean in that story, both for your child and for yourself. Some momentary motivation that will help guide your life in a positive direction, to fight a battle that you have not yet encountered.
Love generously, learn constantly. Because really, what else is there?