October 18, 2008

Parenting is a Random Act

It occurs to me that parenting is not linear. It's not chronological, or even sequential. It's scattered, like the photographs I keep of their childhoods: some in this box, some in that drawer, a few in this album, many still trapped in the computer. Parenting, I think, is an every day, random act of love, knowledge, wisdom, error, fear, hope and courage, with nothing you learned yesterday playing any real significant part in what you do today. It's a constant challenge of heart that is confusing at best, debilitating at its worst. Someone, I wish I knew who, once said that having a child is "like walking around with your heart outside of your body for the rest of your life." I'm sure I have never heard anything so true. Every moment of my life, my heart is out there, learning, growing, hurting, loving and moving, ever so slowly, farther away from me. I watch it, split in three but multiplied by a thousand, explore and create and come back to me for a second; I turn my back and reach out my hand for it in the same instant. I keep it close, I let it go, I am afraid it will get lost but I am certain that it will know its way home in the end.

I think sometimes that it should all happen like their school pictures - kindergarten, first grade, second grade, all fitting neatly, one behind the other in the frame, hanging in the hall. But that's not the way it is. In one moment they can be a small child and a wise adult; in one body they can be terrified, but fearless. There is no logical pattern from which I can derive expectations; I want to anticipate what this next day will bring, but I can't. There is nothing to follow, nothing to refer to. It seems as though there should be, don't get me wrong. Life assumes that we learn from our mistakes but in reality, we learn only from and in the present, truly. We learn that yesterday, the greatest love we know will have been tested to its very limits, and today, we will be able to express that very same love in its deepest form. No conditions, no provisions.

Matt is out tonight, courting a new girl. I don't know her, but I know one thing. She sees in my son the goodness, the heart, the intensity and the passion that pulls me to him no matter how desperately he tries to push me away. She sees in him the five year old kid and the 40 year old man, the funny guy and the guy who self professes to love too much. Yes, that's my kid. The one who loves so much it hurts. I am proud that he gets that from me and I am angry at God for giving him that same cross to bear his whole life. I don't suppose I'd have it any other way; if loving too deeply is his greatest flaw, so be it. Like my father and me, one day we will both be able to see that the core of our discontent comes mostly from being cut from the same cloth. Matt is just like me, just like his Grandad - I should have known. I can tell you stories about Jack and his bright outlook on everything in life because it's easy. It's happy and positive, and even when he's missing the bus and making himself miserable, I'm able to sit and laugh about it. It seems that all I ever tell you about Matt is how he's breaking my heart but I think you probably already read between the lines. He breaks my heart not because he's leaving, but because I have to let him go; I have to help him find the courage to walk away and the strength to know that I will always, always be here when he comes back.

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