Challenges remain as a parent, and one of the biggest I guess, is stepping aside.
And what I learned is that no one else can make me safe, or give me security. I am my own safe harbor. In the middle of this past winter, when the foundation of my life was falling away, I had myself to depend on—strong, determined, clear-headed, stable and available for my kids. If that’s who I am when an emotional earthquake hits, then what—or who?—could I possibly have to fear?
Whatever pain I’d experienced, and still would in the days to come, I knew I would have laid down my life for him. I felt the same when my daughters were born. It is a wild feeling that reduces us, or better reveals to us, that we are animals, ready to bear our teeth and claw someone to death to save our own. I’d never felt as vulnerable.
I feel for kids today, encouraged to stand out and be unique, yet not cross over into self-importance and narcissism. And they do this against a digital backdrop of unrelenting, largely souped-up photos of friends posted online.
I teared up, unable to swallow or understand why such an ordinary moment threw me off balance. I drove on, feeling undone by the power of kindness, the sort we are sometimes granted by strangers and the sort we sometimes offer them.
As a writer I value the time and space between writing my words and readers reading them. The distance provides a buffer in which to reveal my vulnerabilities. As exposed as I was on stage, immediacy created intimacy. My spoken words conjoined me with the audience. I, too, listened closely to my words. My amplified voice revealed deep longings and powered spiritual angst in a way words confined to a page never could.
No one could argue that society hasn’t changed since Disney’s animated Cinderella first hit the big screen in 1950. We have gay marriage in many states, many more women work and hold positions of power, more couples – of all types – raise kids. Yet women seem to work harder than ever sculpting, waxing and altering their bodies.
I also thought about what it means to be part of a family. You don’t choose the family you’re born into, and while you may choose a life partner, you don’t get to choose the family that comes with that person either.
I’ve always believed in the power of the words, “Thank You.” One of my favorite quotes about gratitude is from Meister Eckhart: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
Perhaps hardest thing of all is realizing we can’t save our kids from themselves. As they grow older, they make their own choices, choose their own paths. As parents, our influence wanes, our voices among the many they will hear and heed. This is inevitable. But it is terrifying.