Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Parenting: Their First Foundation

     We have two daughters and a son on the way. Blessed is an understatement. Blessed is the understatement of the century.

     Parenting is a radical experience. That's the best way I know to describe it. Even the moments leading up to a first pregnancy or adoption form a part of this crazy experience. It's so normal, the majority of humankind experiences it. But, it is unexplainable that with however many millions before me having gone through this relative experience it still remains an experience that is so mystifying, overwhelming, and surreal. It is unexplainable that as many millions before me have gone through the heartache, the challenges, and the risk of becoming parents that we (I) still jump into the role so willingly.

     I love my children beyond good reason. I could talk about my girls for days. I'm all ready deeply in love with my boy. They fascinate me. They thrill me. They challenge me. They make me better. I've never tried to change so much of myself for the better for someone, not even my husband. I want to give them everything. Sometimes I want to be their everything (which is a perpetual insanity). When I do things, make decisions, or weigh options for anything I think of my husband and I think of them. I've lost my old self to this inherent new identity and there will never be a way to get the person I was back (not that I'm terribly in want of her, that's a whole other post). It's amazing.

Until you're in the midst of it there is no way to fathom it.

    My first job was at a daycare. I enjoyed it a lot. I learned a lot. There were so many different kids and parents for me to observe. I thought for sure I'd have parenting down by the time I had my own kids aside from not knowing exactly how my own kids would be. I saw what worked and didn't work with different kids. I saw what different parents tried or would never attempt. I saw them upset over little things. I saw them irrationally calm over what I thought were big things. There was - with every single parent - a feverish desire to provide their children with the best. After working there for almost 2 years I thought I had a pretty good idea of how I'd be as a parent. It's laughable now because I could never have been more wrong. I misunderstood so much. As much as I adored my little classes and judged the numerous parents on their every move I simply had no freaking clue. None. Sure, I could do the mechanical things: prepare a bottle of formula or breast milk, change a diaper, potty train a willing kid, show them flashcards, read them books, fix their snacks, put them down for naps, and show them new toys or games or songs. At the end of the day, they were not mine. Their very little, bright, sweet souls were not my load to bear. My duty was only to them in the minutes and hours they were with me and even then the ultimate responsibility was on their parents, present or not. Often, I may have thought it was good of us teachers to give our time to these babes: teaching them bible verses and praise songs, showing them letters and numbers, disciplining bad behavior, and modeling good behavior but ultimately we stood in as temporary extensions of their parents. We were a provisional choice made by the parents! All that to say, I had no idea what I was really getting into . . .

     Parental love is illogical, self-defeating, burdensome, and it ought to be feared. The beauty of this intransigent human connection nullifies any single thing we bring against ourselves as we become parents. The sleeplessness, the unkempt dress, the loss of free income, the loss of time alone. Even our bodies our not solely our own anymore whether we carry a fetus through pregnancy, nurse a new baby (whether it's for a month or through toddler-hood), or simply neglect our own self-care in order to prioritize that of our child. Those are just the "shallow" things (and they really aren't all that shallow are they?).

     They are "ours" we say. They are "ours" to mold and teach, love and comfort, direct and encourage. We are their first foundation. I think that's what moms and dads really are in the end. We are the foundation these beauties of ours are built upon. A lot of people never realize this. A lot of people (like me) don't totally see this picture of parenthood until AFTER the offspring has arrived. Some, unfortunately, never see it coming or never realize the truth.

    What's a thousand times scarier than this is that we are only their temporary foundation. They are ours to lift up, ours to support, ours to enjoy and pour into and fall in love with. But. . . they are not ours to keep or to hold back or even, in the very end, ours to save.

    Imagine building a grand mansion down to the details of decor. Imagine putting your entire livelihood into it. Now, realize that every moment of work and every scrap of care you put into that structure was meant to be moved. It was meant to be designed for another place. It was meant to belong to someone else. It was never really yours in the sense things are yours.

   Imagine receiving a commission from the highest power on the planet for the most exquisite work of art you'd ever created. All the stress you would put into making it the best. All the material you would need to make sure you created a masterpiece.

   Imagine being given the most priceless jewel in the universe. It is yours to hold and keep and treasure until further notice. If you are diligent, you will be given the greatest gift of all. You put all of your time, energy, and focus on this thing. The time comes. The jewel is taken from your hands. The greatest gift of all time: knowing the jewel was cared for while you had it and perhaps the chance to see it shine someday.

    And that's how impossible and insane parenting really is . . . . It all starts with the first moments of their lives with you, then a slow and sure separation (one we are meant to guide and nurture to fruition!) that begins at the cut of the cord. No matter what, no matter what they become, whether they leave us early or stay with us longer than expected we are their first foundation. No matter what they change about themselves or where they go or what they do or who they give themselves to we are always their parents. We, my husband and I, will always be a part of them.

    And in the end of it all, I would never give this opportunity up for anything. Nothing can compare.

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