This I Believe.
This I believe: When the temperature dips below a chilly 30 degrees in my quaint little wine-country town, and white frost covers the grass and crunches when my daughter walks across it in her pink frog slippers; when my husband covers the semi-dwarf orange tree with a tattered old pea-green wool blanket and prays that the frost doesn’t kill the ends of the leaves; when his “experiment”–his avocado tree, a specialized variety from Mexico that can stand several days of cold night air–makes it through the night, then I believe that being a good parent doesn’t come from books from the library or those scanned briefly on Amazon.com, and it doesn’t come from having the newest Mercedes SUV or from wearing the most expensive clothes or shoes, and it isn’t about owning the biggest house that sits on three acres of vineyard land either.
When I was twenty, I believed that I was good with children. “You have a natural gift,” people would say to me, and so I took jobs working at after-school programs, summer camps, as a nanny, in schools and as a counselor, though I never thought about having children of my own. Then when I was thirty, I never thought I’d find the right man in time to have children. Now that I am forty, and rolling and reeling with undulating emotions that can no longer be blamed on the curse of my astrological sign, but rather on my age, and now that I have two children of my own, I have wondered where this
so-called natural gift has gone, or even if it existed at all. Was it mere exuberance and the energy of youth that enabled me to have the patience, the curiosity, the spontaneity and playfulness so needed when being present with children?
This I do not know.
The brilliance that flashes before my eyes daily, when I witness the creativity, the genius of my 4-year-old son and my 2-year-old daughter, is something that even in my twenties, I did not foresee or anticipate would stir in me such immense joy and, equally, such immense sorrow, sometimes simultaneously.
The joy comes from witnessing the purity that allows my children to experience wonder, fascination and success in finding the biggest green leaf, or a bumpy old rock, or a perfect walking stick and carrying it all the way home and keeping it safe and precious for days.
The sorrow comes from what I have lost. I’ve lost the ability to look so easily at life with such simplicity, such presence, such joy. And I know the loss that comes as I watch the baby disappear, in its place a toddler, and now the inevitable seems certain, clear, obvious: They will grow up much too soon, leaving me with my thoughts, mere shadows and memory.
This I believe: When the moon comes up over the tiny mountain that I can see from my son’s bedroom window and when he is breathing a perfect relaxed breath in his sleep, and when I can breathe alongside him, resting his head on my chest, then this, I believe is peace, something as close to wholeness and godliness as I can imagine. I believe that this is what makes a good parent, as the soul awakens deep in the night, with the sounds of a child’s faint breath in the background, the glint of the pea-green blanket thrown over the orange tree, and the slight imprint of my daughter’s footprints still alive on the grass.