The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.
~Henry David Thoreau
Single parenting is an island.
There are moments I’m terrified I won’t be able to grasp what’s real when I get off this island because it’s so completely consuming. Even worse, I worry about making terrible decisions and ruining something in the kids’ lives because there’s no one present to say STOP! What in God’s name are you thinking?
It’s exhausting…and painfully lonely. Because even though I’m surrounded by constant noise, there are no witnesses. Some nights I’m not even sure what’s happened after the dust settles. The exhaustion becomes so normal I’ve stopped noticing the aching muscles after bedtime is over and I’ve collapsed on the couch. And I use frustration as an excuse for loosing my temper when childhood warrants patience.
Monday night my daughter drew a heart with a Sharpie on her jeans. Not a big heart…nothing crazy. But I lost it. Totally. Freaking. Lost it.
Because if they don’t respect how hard I work to put clothes on their little bodies, clearly no one sees.
Oh my heart. My sweet little girl. In a pile of tears because her mama can’t hold it together over a little creative expression. Of course at 7 she knows better, but she’s just a child who made a silly mistake.
And I’m disgusted with myself.
I want to call someone, anyone, to come over to our little island so I can go somewhere to breathe.
But there was no deep sea rescue that night. Just the three of us. In our tiny house. Trying to figure out life together.
And I wonder, in all the grasping I do for what’s real, if there is something I’ve been missing?
What is it we as parents are really accomplishing each evening in the raising of our kids?
How Lord, in the monotony of dinner and dishes and laundry and packing of lunches, do we find the real?
Sometimes I’d give anything for the fog to clear…. to just see what the next step is supposed to be.
I have an odd pastime of reading blogs and books and anything written by people with terminal cancer. Not in a morbid I’m fascinated by death sort of way, but in an I’m desperate to understand how people live when they know they’re dying sort of way. And yeah reading these stories is devastating, but there’s also beauty and purpose in someone at their most vulnerable and weakest giving this gift to those like myself who are blind and ungrateful for what’s real and what we still have a chance to reach out and touch.
Because if we knew this was our last week, or our last month, what parent among us would choose to jet off to Fiji and put our feet in the ocean? Or touch the Great Wall? Or run into the office on a Saturday?
These things sound ridiculous of course when compared with one more routine week raising our babies. Nothing anywhere can even begin to compete with that.
And so, dear fellow parent, searching for meaning in the mundane of growing children. This I what I know for sure.
Whatever it is you would cling most tightly to, whatever it is that would break you most to no longer be able to do.
That is the real. The truth. The marrow of this life.
We are, every day, exchanging our moments for something. This day we will not get back. Yesterday either. You cannot retrieve it. Are you giving your life to what matters?
We are all terminal.
There will be a day in the not so distant future when your babies will be sitting around a table with their families telling stories about you.
We are all terminal.
Do you know what this raising of kids really is?
It’s the legacy of a terminal parent. It’s your contribution to the forming of a soul that will likely still be on this earth when you are not. It’s treasure beyond any material thing this life has to offer. But it isn’t blatant or flashy or even always graspable. And for us going it alone, it’s an even greater challenge. Because we don’t have a partner to sit down with each night and find the meaning through the fog.
There is not secret to life but this.
The price of your island is hair braids, back rubs and bath time.
Its choices. And decisions. And consequences.
It’s doing x when everything inside of you wants to do y.
It’s giving in the absence of receiving.
Please Lord don’t let me squander my legacy because I thought the price was too high.