Thursday, December 01, 2011

what my son taught me about parenting cliches

Alexander Morgan Murphy, November 30, 1993

Cliches happen for a reason -- they're usually true.  The days are long and the years are short.  I wanted to slap all the well-meaning pundits when my kids were 6, 4, 2 and 6 months.  Now I'm trying to look them up online so we can start a cyber-support group.  
How else to describe the twisty, achy, wincing of my heart all day yesterday looking at baby photos of my son, trying to match his elation at turning eighteen, and trying not to weep when I caught the wanderlust gleam in his eyes.  Good God, how to parent well when I'm trying to figure out how to fold his over six-foot frame onto my lap for story-reading, to secretly call all the colleges he's turned in an application and tell them to never mind.

He was born determined to upset all my expectations.  And, from the first, he's always exceeded them.  Parenting human beings is an astonishing enterprise.  You build yourself a cozy little view of what it means to rear offspring, spend hours day-dreaming the impact of genetic distribution of the family chin or forehead thinking these to be grand dreams because you think parenting is about going to the park and making cookies and reading stories.  But the babe comes wailing into the world insisting -- without the slightest bit of irony -- that we, his parents, remove world hunger and then create world peace.  We were just hoping to get a good family photo around the hospital bed.  

I'm discovering that as at infancy, so at 18 (or 13, 15 or 20) our offspring have not altered their grand expectations of us.  They  may have become a bit more satisfied with a well-prepared macaroni and cheese casserole, say, but not at the expense of their insistent expectations of greater things:  that, starting with Mom and Dad, Christ's Church would feed the poor and that our elected government would be peacemakers rather than politicians.  That there would be enough of everything for everyone and that justice would always prevail.

On his way to his first day working as a Congressional Page. January 2011
Parenting is exhausting.  Not because of the reasons you think -- the four-times-a-night feedings and the temper tantrums and the ear infections and the flu and the growing pains and the homework and the groundings and the refusal to take naps and the breaking curfew and the doing-who-knows-what-when-you're-out-of-my-sight anxieties.  That's all child's play compared to the weight of knowing my kid was born into this world wired for perfect parents, Edenic economies, and never-ending shalom. Instead they got us.  

And we got them. Without an owner's manual.  

Not only that, but they come carrying heavy generational luggage, faulty genetic codes, and that annoying quirk from your in-laws.  If parenting children wasn't so beautiful, it could almost seem like one of those practical jokes gone horribly wrong.  

But know this.  Children come with a secret superpower -- they want to love us.  They want to be part of the family.  They are hardwired to be forgiving and gracious.  We don't give this to them and we certainly make things sometimes nigh to impossible when we try to manipulate, coerce, manufacture and all-other ways press them into a little images of our version of Christ.  Or the spitting image of yourself or your father.  Or, really, anyone else we had in mind for them.  

Enjoying his first legal cigar on his 18th birthday.
Please note that he is wearing the cardigan sweater and slippers
 left to him by his great-grandfather, Lester Morgan.

It's a tricky business I find works best when I'm contrite, dependent, expectant, curious and -- yes -- even, tired.  This is when our Father God, Brother Christ, nurturer Spirit leads us toward each other in forgiveness, good humor, and new mercies.  I'm still naive idealistic enough to hope that it will be the better version of myself that my kids remember most.  The days I have grace to spare, energy beyond 9am, and good humor enough to laugh at the stuff they think is funny.  After twenty years at this gig, though, I'm beginning to suspect the best parenting moments are happening when I'm least self-conscious.  

By the way, I gave up on finding the manual.  Even on writing my own.  Let me be clear, I am keeping track of some truths (including those wrapped in cliche).  It is possible to be wrong and start over.  You can face your worst fears as a parent and be OK at the end of the day.  Maybe even better than when you started.  Your child will need you to give them more than you have to give and this is a good thing.  It does take a village (and may God forever bless our village). 

And it flies by faster than you can ever imagine.

Thank you GrantDeb Photographers
 for these priceless senior photos.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...