As Christians we are not meant to be less human than other people, but more human, just as Jesus of Nazareth was more human.
One time I was talking to Canon Tallis, who is my spiritual director as well as my friend, and I was deeply grieved about something, and I kept telling him how woefully I had failed someone I loved, failed totally, otherwise that person couldn’t have done the wrong that was so destructive. Finally, he looked at me and said calmly, “Who are you to think you are better than our Lord? After all he was singularly unsuccessful with a great many people.”
That remark, made to me many years ago, has stood me in good stead, time and again. I have to try, but I do not have to succeed. Following Christ has nothing to do with success as the world sees success. It has to do with love.
~ Madeleine L’Engle Walking On Water, pp 59-60.
As a parent I identify with L’Engle’s conversation with Canon Tallis. It’s not that Sweets or Bud have ever done anything that was “that destructive.” Still, the days where I could look at them for hours are gone. Even before they could talk they were the “most beautiful boy” and the “most beautiful girl” I’d ever seen. I know, yours were too.
Don’t get me wrong, I marvel at the people they’re becoming. It’s just that when they catch me, it’s not cooing or a cutely mashed up word I hear. There are no new Vinny Mans or Popscillos. They don’t just talk. They talk back. “Dad, why are you staring at me?” or “Dad? You can leave my room now.” Those are not the most pleasant interactions.
I used to wonder what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I do a better job at parenting? When Bud was young and needed a nap things were easy. I’d put him in the bouncy chair or take him on a five minute car ride and he’d fall asleep within a few minutes. Now it seems that most of my tactics raise anxiety instead of reducing it. With him. With me. Sometimes their mom calls to vent. In measured tones she says, “You’re not going to believe what he just said to me.” She describes what’s happened. What she tells me, is the same thing he said to me a day or two before. I sigh. It’s not me. I know that now. Most of the time. But it’s nice to have that confirmation.
Bud is becoming his own person. Sweets is often fast to imitate her big brother. That’s double trouble from two fabulous kids whom I love dearly. And now I remember that the five minute car ride eventually turned into a twenty minute one with the heat on. They stopped when he and later she were done with naps. Their mom and I had no say in the matter.
There are bunches of changes to come as Bud moves through his teenage years and Sweets follows. Individuation is like that. Bud’s already showing me that he hasn’t only learned the lessons his mom and I were trying to teach him. He’s absorbed everything. He’s going to continue to do so. Me? I’m not sure I’m a better parent today than I was ten years ago. I am different. There’s no Super Dad. Just a guy who tries to love him as much as I can.
I thought that’s what a Super-Dad was, a guy who loves his kids as much as he can.
Absolutely. That’s what a great mom is too.
And yet, getting to this point is like the day you bring your first-born child home. You’re escorted to the hospital door and the orderly or nurse says goodbye. There’s no manual. You just leave.
The kids start to grow up and the way they look at you, you might as well be wearing tights and a cape. They wear Mom and Dad colored glasses. Until they don’t. The transition is similar to the one with naps. They just stop.