The Carnival Ride of Parenthood

I was never in a hurry to become a parent. Both of my brothers had children before I got married, and I saw how children changed one’s life. Most importantly, it seemed to me, was the carnival ride of emotion to which you exposed your heart. A significant part of parenthood involves heartache – either from what you do to your child, what they do to you, what someone does to them or what they do to themselves.

Just recently I had a small taste of the heartache that parents endure when their little ones deal with physical suffering. My youngest – my just one year old – had to have a small cyst removed from his shoulder. It was an outpatient surgery as they had to put him under for the procedure. There were two occasions during those several hours when I felt completely nauseated. One was when the nurse was walking away from us with him. The other was when I walked into recovery and looked into his face. He had that awful “just coming off of anesthesia” look that created a small panic within my mother’s heart. In typical young child fashion, after a day of being a little sleepier than usual, he was his perky, mischievous self. Surgery? What Surgery?

With my oldest, I’m dealing with a different kind of heartache. He’s at that tender age of almost five when he’s trying to figure out how to make friends. When we were at a park the other day, there were a group of children playing in some sand and as my son walked close to them, he heard one of them shout, “Stop it!” I noticed him a minute or so later, hovering on the edge of their play area, yelling at them. They didn’t seem to be paying much attention, so I called him back to me. He had the angry look on his face that every mother knows — the one that is barely covering up the hurt. He had thought the children were yelling at him. I reasoned with him a bit, saying that it was more likely they were yelling at each other, and he should go talk with them – ask them what they were doing.

With painstaking slowness, he made his way back to them. My heart was in my throat the whole time. I was praying I hadn’t thrown him to the proverbial lions. I saw him have a short interchange with the oldest child; and when he turned around, he had the biggest, most beautiful smile. As he was running back to me, he said, “They’re building a sand castle!” He sat down next to me and said, “They make me happy. They’re my friends.” Rejection? What rejection?

Up, down. Up, down. Round and Round and sometimes backwards – really fast. Is this a warning against parenthood? No, not in the least. I will always say that there is nothing like loving someone this much. This sort of love expands your heart. Whether triumph or disaster, parenthood is worth the risk. Would it feel as stretching, as remarkable, without the hard spots and heartache? My philosophical side and my heart – prone as I am to protect it – says no.

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