Sunday, October 02, 2011

Having influence often means trusting theirs

Most of the time, as a parent, and even as citizen of the world, I have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing.

It's not as if I don't look around and see all the things that others do differently. Do better.

The truth is, having so many directions to turn makes every step we take seem precarious. Go this way and you meet a dead end. Turn that way and you may fall off a cliff.

It's enough to make a parent crazy.

Raising children is life's eternal experiment.

Someday we will unleash these people we made into the world, our bath-phobic, pajama-wearing-in-public, screaming-mimi children will eventually be the bosses of themselves. I'm not sure I will ever be ready.

As I think of all the possibilities, I find myself wishing for perseverance instead of luck. In my anxious, hovercraft parent brain, failure is inevitable and luck is not only fleeting it's fickle. The same providence that wins the grand prize in the lottery also temps many a not-so-happy fate, of which we parents can't speak.

Yet, from the important to the seemingly inconsequential, decisions must be made. Navigations charted. And though we can see our destination, we rarely have a clear path to its shores. We can never really know with certainty which choice will affect which outcome.

What should we encourage? What should we dissuade?

I hate dance class. I've made no pretense of liking it though I wish, for Ittybit's sake, I could manage a better poker face.

I've been working on that.

We all carry our own experiences. Prejudices. Pride. Things that makes rebellion so intoxicating.

I talked her out of Girl Scouts and into 4-H.

I plan on indexing flyers for pee-wee football in the revolving file.

I'm wondering if I can convince them Disneyland is really just a bowling alley in southern Maine. "Hey kids ... look ... It says 'Vacationland.' I hope Mickey isn't on vacation."

I'm hoping neither of my kids get tattooed, but I know I'll learn to accept their bodies with scribbles. If I must.

I ebb and flow with and against convention.

She wants to be a ballerina-veterinarian who sings on stage. He wants to run away from home and take me with him. I'm sure he thinks I'll support him, even in his resistance from parental interference.

I shouldn't laugh. Must. Not. Laugh. It probably doesn't matter, I'll always embarrass them.

Instead, I just move from moment to moment wishing for calm and peace and hoping I don't inflict any lasting damage to bodies or psyches.

Who wouldn't like to raise a doctor? So long as they don't have to sell their souls lest they default on student loans.

And yet, when The Champ came to me and said the only thing he wanted for his “fird birfday” was a skateboard, I barely hesitated. Safety first: Helmet. Pads. Board. The three musketeers, all for one and one for all.

I'm not sure what possessed me: I just kept invoking the holy trinity: Helmet. Pads. Board.

And as he was working on balance, low and slow on the driveway, I quietly thanked the force behind his interest that I didn't have to sit in the bleachers at the Little League field passively rooting against someone else's kid on an opposing team.

But I know I can't keep them from the world. I can't even control how they move in it, truth be told. I can only hope to influence and that my influence, even with the best of intentions, isn't misguided.

He's a year older, now, and still dragging his board out on the driveway from time to time.

When a local skatepark opened this week, he wanted to go and bring his board.

But when he saw “the big kids” doing their thing ... he wanted to leave it in the car and just watch.

Then he wanted to go home.

And practice.

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