I fell instantly and hopelessly in love with my kids when they were born. That moment when I held each of them right after birth still brings me to tears occasionally (yes, I’ve become a sentimental, old man). There’s so much love and hope in that moment that it is simply overwhelming. I had never truly understood how my parents felt about me until I had my own kids. Then, I knew. The love you feel for your kids is a natural force that rivals gravity in its certainty.
While I think the single greatest thing parents can do for their kids is to show them that they are loved no matter what, that love is also blind. We like to think of our kids as better versions of ourselves, but this hope makes us blind to the reality of what it means to be human. Blind to the struggle that is inevitable in life even for the happiest and most well-balanced among us. Blind to the challenges that await them as they try to figure things out. Inherently, I know this. But knowledge and practice often repel each other.
In Train’s melancholy song “Blind”, the chorus pivots on the line “I don’t mind being blind, if you don’t mind doing time.” The song is about how love can lead you to ignore the obvious despite the repercussions. That’s how I feel about parenting. I’m so caught up in helping my kids be the best version of themselves that I’m blind to the struggles that exist right in front of me. I’m not choosing to ignore them, but I’m certainly sweeping those dust bunnies into a corner so that I can say the floor is essentially clean.
Teenagers are hard-wired to escape the orbit of their parents, to become the center of their own universe. They take a few tentative steps away until it becomes a full-fledged dash. They close you off behind that figurative and literal door. You search for small clues that help you understand them. You ask questions that they don’t want to answer or they answer in some rote, robotic way that seems innocuous and banal. The clues are there if you choose to see them, but sometimes, the most difficult thing to see is right in front of you.
More experienced parents will tell you that they’ll come back around one day. That it will all work out if you’re patient. That may be true, but the journey through the parental equivalent of Siberia seems impossible sometimes, and you wonder if you will come out on the other side intact as a family. It’s like any moment in your life where you experience stress; you wonder if it will ever be the same again. It won’t, but it won’t be like this either. At least, that’s what I tell myself.
Parents are hard-coded to worry about their children. My dad once told me the worry never goes away even when your kids are grown and have families of their own. That sounds like some sort of life sentence if you ask me, but it’s one I’m willing to bear because I love these two more than they’ll ever know.