My toddler slides a guitar strap around his neck. His fubsy fingers strum a choppy tune as I smile from the couch. Maybe he’ll become a musician and escort his dear old mom to the Grammys. “Bradley Cooper took his to the Oscars,” I’ll joke. A funny face can trigger an equally audacious thought about a comedy career. His love for heavy-duty construction equipment somehow means he’ll one day build houses for a living. Kids play pretend. Parents, we do too. We all want to see our kids cultivate amazing lives for themselves. We’ve got eighteen years and the end game is a happy, healthy, kind and productive adult.
The more I mutter the phrase, “He’s going to be,” the more I realize it’s tied to a unquenchable desire for security. I want to know I’m guiding him toward his best life. That I’m doing a good job. I don’t know what he will be. I only know what he is. He’s a wonderful, sweet, funny, intense, energetic boy. However, I dishonor the moment and teach him to over-value the future by prognosticating. The phrase also burdens him with unnecessary expectations. He can be anything he dreams (although, I realize that’s not always true).
It wasn’t true for a lovely teammate on my high school basketball team who died of an asthma attack. It wasn’t true for a good friend, who left us after crash on a rainy road near her house in 2002. Lives don’t last forever. This truth clobbered my psyche as I worked as a general assignment reporter. Heartbroken mothers and fathers used a different phrase “She’s never going to be… He’s never going to do…”
Obviously, its easier to turn my thoughts toward bright fantasies and exciting futures for my kids. It’s easier to pretend they’re mine to keep…that they’re promised eighteen years and then some. My daughter and son are only promised now (just like the rest of us). The awareness stings. I make promises to the present moment; to flip around to see a front-end loader on the side of the road, to laugh at silly jokes after a long day. It persuades me to pay attention to the same incoherent tune, over and over and not to say “He’s going to be” or “She’s going to do…” The truth asks me not to worry but rather to adoringly hold their little hands knowing it’s all in God’s (The Grammy’s and grandkids included).