One of the tough things for me as a parent is that very little of the work of parenting yields immediate feedback. Parenting has a long end-game and no one really ever knows how well they are doing until the bulk of the work is done. Sure, there are hints along the way, but I don’t yet fully know who my children will become. Part of this is exciting, as I get to “meet” a little more of my babies every day, but part of this is scary…as you might be able to gather, I’m not so good with unknowns.
Am I balancing my career and my family as well as I think I am? Or when they look back on their childhood, will there be a business-trip-shaped void?
Am I striking the right balance between being firm and respectful in my discipline?
Are my frequent compliments making them self-confident or self-absorbed?
How are our house rules and my modelling shaping the development of their eating/work/spending habits?
Okay, yes, I know I may be over-thinking this a bit. After all, today my children are happy, healthy, and thriving. But there is still such a question mark about what the future will hold for them. Surely there will be struggles and difficult times, but how will the foundation I am laying for them now stack up later? Will they be happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults? Will their strengths carry their weaknesses? Will they carry any burdens or scars?
My son’s been having a bit of a hard time with peers recently and one thing that has brought him a lot of comfort is the idea that our lives are one long story book and that in any given moment, we are just in one chapter of the book – maybe even just one page or one paragraph. He is comforted by knowing that there are plenty more chapters to come. I love this metaphor as well and know it to be true having lived through many great, and not so great chapters of my own life.
Every time he asks me to “tell me about that book thing again, mom”, my mind drifts to the many blank pages that lay before him. I don’t know what his story will be and I know that my character will get fewer and fewer lines as the book carries on. It’s bittersweet, really. Unknowns are terrifying, but so full of potential as well.
I suppose it is that sense of hope that carries me, and so many other parents, through this long journey. Each day we get up and do the best we can, not knowing how it will all play out in the end, but drawing energy on the dreams we have for our children. We are setting up the story (the exposition for my fellow English geeks) and with hope upon hope, a happy ending awaits.
There really is nothing like the blind faith of a parent’s love.