Keeping a new view of our children
When my daughter was born, I had an unexpected feeling. Tangled in the flood of love and gratitude and awe was panic. The awe really was holding hands with the panic. She is such a new little person, I thought. Wow. At 39, I’d experienced many adult years of managing my time the way I wanted to. Sure, I had to go to work, but I could always call in sick. Didn’t want to see that person? Cancel. Rain check. So easy. There was always a side door, an escape button. But now with this new person so utterly dependent on me, when will I ever be able to sleep?
And I didn’t really sleep those first few nights. I just kept looking, checking, evaluating the level of this new commitment. This was unlike any other commitment I’d ever made, including marriage vows. This one is for 18 years minimum, I thought, when I knew that it was, in fact, for life. And the feeling itself was so new that I admired both the dread it created and the determination that almost immediately inspired me to meet this challenge. Yes, I suppose I saw this raising of a child as a challenge. She is now six years old, and I falter all the time. This commitment remains, but the newness is not always available. That blood memory is fading as she grows and as I change.
Having a child also exposed latent bonds to my parents. My dad, now passed, taught the classics, Latin and Greek. I only took the Latin, not the Greek. He told me that the word respect comes from the Greek where “re” means “again” and “spect” (as in spectacles!) is “to see.” So: “to see again.” He took this to mean that when you see someone, each time you see that person, you want to see them with new eyes, see them anew, take them for where they are right now and not where they’ve been. As if you could set aside the entire history of your relationship and see them for the first time.
It’s a tall order, respect. It’s what I need to do with my kid, and what I frequently don’t. It saddens me just how much I fail to see her with new eyes. Can you love someone with everything you have and just fail them constantly? But she keeps me in check. It’s the six-year-old who tells me, with great confidence, just exactly how I should be parenting her. And she’s often right. It’s humbling but delightful. She’s still, after all, a relatively new person. And so, I leave work to pick her up, hoping that I will see her again, but as if for the first time, with new eyes.