We so eagerly await them, dread them, desire them and then despair of them. Our children are our greatest blessings and our most brutal teachers. We cannot give them back, nor return them from whence they came. Once here, their claim on us is the pivot upon which so much of the rest of our lives shall rest.
At their first arrival, our world shifts. It becomes enormously different and elementally wrapped around a six-to-10-pound package that demands our attention and screams its way into our hearts. A child's helplessness is a needing cry that opens our souls to places not yet learned. We respond with a sometimes clumsy love, reaching to hold, to fix, to comfort and shield this newborn part of us. Welcomed and wanted, the hours and windings of each day now fold in around this small bit of life. We are parents.
The years swing through and by. High chairs become Hot Wheels and diapers become Barbie dolls. Swings and sweaters, training wheels, Nintendo's and "not-yets" so soon become "nows." School age moves into teenage, and our children begin their morph into almost-adult strangers who tolerate our presence just barely. We yearn and strive. We ache and delight for these creatures -- this issue of our wombs and loins. These bits of us are the holders of our own dreams, because we so wish for them all that we once wished for ourselves.
Ah, but children will be children and they are not us. The little ones that climbed our laps to reach and touch our smile and followed us into bathrooms and ball games are no more. They have become well and truly themselves. They let us know this time and again as they flout our reach towards them and ignore the wisdom-evidence that our own living might impart. With gut-held love, we watch as they journey into mistakes and poor choices, deaf to our gentle -- or not so gentle -- attempts to swerve them from sorrow and pain.
So, we learn to let go. Aching to protect and still guide, we raise our hands in disgust or dismay as they move away from us with disregard and defiance. Or, as sometimes happens, our children seem to simply slide from our view. They are here and then gone -- down avenues of such unlikely behavior that they leave us breath-caught and heart-stunned.
We learn to be forever hopeful and ready for surprise. For these children we so love can be mercurial and remarkable as they approach the firming up of their "who-ness." A child marked as tragedy, may depart and return new-molded from an adventure neither shared nor remarked upon. They simply come back wearing that well-loved smile that has now settled upon their adulthood in the found place of their own "grown-up" land.
The child who held our heart in their hands has become their own person. We now must honor and welcome the adult who walks into our arms. But in both our hearts -- if we are honest, open and willingly brave -- there remains that powerful love of parent and child that calls us each to the other, no matter the days or years that stand between us.