Parents: Right Now Is All You’ve Got

Last night, a drunk driver crashed into my friend’s parked car, pushing it across the grass to rest against her neighbor’s stone porch. Minutes before the crash, my friend’s daughter and grandson had been in the space obliterated by the drunk driver but they’d driven away before he turned the corner. They were all fine. The car was dead and the driver was arrested but everyone else was fine.

But it just goes to show what I’ve known for a long time.

Anything can happen.

I just put that out there for folks who think the world spins on an “If/Then” axis.

Chief among such folks would be parents who convince themselves from baby’s first cry that the end result of all their incredible effort will be a flawless child and then a perfect adult. This might be true if a drunk driver doesn’t come zooming around the corner.

Linear thinking is the parent’s ultimate trap. 

Thinking that anything can happen isn’t ridiculously pessimistic. It’s realistic. But it does have a tricky flip side. Because if ‘anything can happen,’ dear parent, the flip side is ‘you can’t control everything’ and, wow, is that a tough one to swallow.  It might mean that a lot of life is random.

Love what you’re doing – don’t bank on there being a pay-off.

Today’s the pay-off. It begins and ends in this minute. Hope for the best but don’t count on it. What happens when your children grow up is just what happens next. It’s not your reward or your parenting score. Parents as good as you have had their kids killed by a drunk driver or heroin or a meteor. It’s a tough deal but it’s true.

Right now is all you’ve got.

 

On the Birthday of My Oldest Child

 

IMG_4065I was never one of those moms who grieved their kids growing up. I thought it was great.

I didn’t want them to be babies forever. Or to be toddling around the house indefinitely. I didn’t want to stand on the sidelines of wet soccer fields with a cold cup of coffee watching confused kids kick the ball to each other on Saturday mornings that seemed to last for months. I liked being the mother of little kids but only because of its impermanence.

I love that my kids are grown up. And I say that without the least bit of angst.

Oh, I look back and I remember them as little kids. How I carried them everywhere, how I stroked their cheeks to calm them, laid on the couch with their little selves asleep on my chest, sang to them songs I made up and that no one else heard. Our private songs.

I remember all that and am glad for that time. But I don’t miss it.

I wanted them to grow up into people. Strong, smart, decent people. I wanted them to have their own lives that didn’t involve me. I wanted other people to love them. I wanted them to love other people more than me.

I don’t understand mothers who grieve every step of their children’s growing up. I don’t get the tears at the kindergarten door or the angst at the driver’s license test. The weeping at graduation baffles me. The whole point of being a parent is to raise kids, not keep them as pets.

To those moms who mourn every torn teddy bear stowed in the attic, I say this: each time of life is wonderful in its own way. No time is more precious than another.

Life is a necklace with a lot of beautiful beads.

Jan and Elizabeth