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10.05.2011

Age before beauty, pearls before swine. All that we have is the passage of time.

Sometimes having this second shot at parenting feels like one of those movies where the middle aged guy pulls the old switcheroo with their teenaged kid or go back in time to relive their lost youth. They get all their memories and feelings and experiences intact able to redo the whole thing right.

Except, of course, in our case we didn't go back to reraise our own kids - they don't have the same experiences or the same background. So we aren't actually getting a redo to fix our old mistakes. At the same time, we do have a chance to do things better and to help guide their father, our son, in a positive way. That's a bit of a redo - the chance to help Buddy sort things out for himself and his kids. The big question is: what advantage has our experience actually brought?

The biggest thing I notice about all the first time parents I see on the ballfield, in the doctor's waiting room, and at school is the insecurity of being unsure about what they're doing. Most mask it well enough but the hard little secret we all know is parenting is scary business because there are no guidebooks and rules to help make the right choices (except the erroneous voice of your own mother rattling around the back of your brain) and say "I know for sure I'm doing the right thing". Many have it right, some seriously screw it up, and we all make mistakes. But that day to day struggle that keeps us up each night questioning raising our voices, denying a privilege, forcing the confession of a lie, and making them eat those damn beans has no absolute right or wrong answer. What I know absolutely is that, with the exception of extreme behavior and cruelty, it's all as water over a stone, shaping and smoothing them through years of caresses and nudging.

Alas, as the movies always turn out, you can never really go back. And that's frightening too when you're raising a child who will have to survive what you have laid out for them. This time around I do have more confidence. We do know what the kids will face as they grow older and understand a fairly clear path to help them there. We can pace ourselves better knowing outcomes and realizing that nothing will come in too much of a hurry. But that doesn't exclude us from doubts, mistakes, and skating uncharted roads. After all Buddy was never the jock that Tio is and Kit is gay. They are unique people and that makes everything up for grabs.

I wouldn't want it any other way.