A new life came into the world this week. I’ve known the new father since he was five and his mother is one of my best friends. This is the first grandchild in my circle of friends and her arrival has kind of knocked the wind out of me. It’s just that this cycle-of-life thing is so crazy–it seems I was just reprimanding this little boy for running through my house with muddy boots, and now he’s a father.
The new parents are young and blissfully, essentially, naive. Their ignorance acts as a necessary buffer to what life has in store.
But not me, I have been at this job for over 21 years. I sit on my 50-year-old perch and ruminate…
I start out and all I expect to do is have a baby. I just plan on holding a bundle–a cute, cuddly bundle. That’s it. That is the extent of my preparation.
I never expected that bundle to grow gangly and get those big teeth. I never imagined her being twelve and not fitting in with the cool crowd. I never expected him to yell at me or hole up in his room, not resurfacing for what seems like days. I never considered that someday my baby would wound me with his words.
“I didn’t sign up for this shit!” I rage
But no one is listening, because this is the story of the ages. Yes, you certainly did sign. You just never bothered to read the fine print. No hormone-crazed mom-to-be ever reads that damn fine print, nor do they ever remember the misery they put their own parents through. It never seems to dawn on us that things will eventually come full circle and we will actually have to raise this bundle into adulthood. We never see it coming.
I never stopped to consider that my little, precious bundle might someday smoke pot on the roof. Or my loving, joyful toddler would someday blame all her adolescent woes on my ineptitude as a mother…and then in the next moment collapse in a heap of tears because she was being teased at school–the real problem surfacing at last. I never expected the bedroom door (that I decorated with juggling clowns when he was two) to slam in my face.Yes, you did ask for this, the smiling clowns mock. You signed for the full, bumpy ride.
Parents have to hold it all. We have to keep all the balls in the air, even when we just want to lie down. Some days this job is just too damn much. If we had known it all beforehand, would we still have gone through with it? Would we still sign up so readily? Luckily for the human race, this type of foresight is unavailable to potential parents. Even with all the evidence floating around every day, pre-parents are still incapable of understanding just how complex this human-raising gig is. It’s like our creator left a black hole in our brain, leaving us incapable of comprehending this simple, elemental fact:
Parenting is really, really hard.
If we understood the depth of this pre-baby, life on earth would come to an abrupt halt. Procreation would end.
But it just so happens that parenting is something you have to experience to understand, so procreation continues.
Because no one in their right mind would voluntarily sign up for this bullshit.
And that’s just it. We were never in our right mind. Love and hormones took care of that. Then sprinkle in some beauty and grace and we’re all goners.
Just when you think you can’t go on any longer, when you fall to your knees because you cannot and will not work any harder,
a set of skinny arms will wrap around your neck just because he needs to be close,
or a plump hand, with dimples where knuckles will someday be, will slide into your own,
or your door slamming boy will unexpectedly ask for a hug and whisper, “I love you, Mama,”
and you will soften. Love will do it’s work. It doesn’t take much of this potent elixir to bring us back to grace. The circuit flips and we are intoxicated once more. One hit carries us through the physical and emotional exhaustion, all the time anticipating the next glimpse, the next taste of that pure and powerful drug. Love is the most addictive substance there is. Love makes this impossible job Holy.
And while we are stumbling around, chasing after these elusive, intoxicating moments of grace, time spins out of control. One minute we are nursing a new baby and the next we are in labor and delivery watching our grand-baby come into the world. We stand by with our mouths agape and wonder: How? How did it all happen?
Life spins by too too fast and yet, it doesn’t. The minutes creep like stones and they fly by like dandelions on the breeze. How can this be? How can they coexist? But they do.
And all we can do is move forward. One foot in front of the other. Sometimes blindly. Sometimes with our eyes wide open.
But, oh, please God, let me see the glory in it.
Let me live in that place of awe.
Let me see the glorious ordinary.
Yes, parenting is damn hard work and it’s easy to wallow in the drudgery–in the work and the responsibility and the worry.
But a child embeds in your soul and with this comes an intangible magnificence–an essence so remarkable it alters your every cell.
I need to stay and wallow there. Yes, I must choose to wallow in this magnificence. I need to drown in the fleeting moments of beauty and grace so they can fuel me through the inevitable mess of this life:
This life that I created. This life that is here to stay. This life that is hard.
This life that is magic.
Love perfected and whole, you arrive.
Words throng my soul but none come out.
A traveler meets his joy and his despair at once.
Dying of thirst, I stand here with spring water
flowing around my feet.