Had I not been a father, a parent, would I have loved less deeply? Would I have seen the world differently? Would my soul be less mature, my life less fulfilled?
Counter-weights on a teeter-totter, our children can cause us to rise to truths more noble than any solitary life could ever imagine. Likewise, joyfully we can raise them up. Lift them off the ground, causing their hopes to soar into the clouds, allowing their souls to take wing. Elevate them to see above the trees and beyond the next hill.
A case in point is the conversation I had with my daughter just before she left for college. She seemed despondent and I asked her what was going on.
“I don’t want to leave,” she said.
“Why?” I asked.
“I don’t want you and mom to grow old.”
I laughed and told her to the contrary that her staying home would most likely age us quicker. She rolled her eyes. “Look,” I said, “your mom and I aren’t some kind of fence rail you can nail up and expect to stay put. We’re really, really alive; flesh and blood, just like you, with our own hopes and dreams.”
She nodded, but I could tell she wasn’t convinced. So, I went on. “Remember when you were five or six and taking ballet lessons and were a Ginger Snap in the Nutcracker?” She nodded again. “That was a wonderful moment for all of us back then, a lot of great memories, but what if, I had the power to freeze that moment in time and we’d never move forward. What do you think would happen?”
She paused and thought a moment. “I guess I would never have been able to play
Clair in the Nutcracker.”
“Another great moment for all of us, especially your mom and I. We were really proud of you. But what would have happened had we frozen that moment?”
”I guess my toes would have gotten pretty tired by now.”
I laughed. “And, what else?”
“Never would have made the cheer squad in high school.” She answered.
This time I nodded. “No football or basketball games to cheer at. No first prom, no scaring mom and me half to death your first time out driving alone...”
“I think I’m getting the point, Dad. But what are you going to do when I leave.”
“Continue on a promise I made to your mom when I first married her.”
I took her out to the garden where I showed her a sun dial I had given to her mom when we were married. There was in inscription on the face, written by Browning, and I asked her to read it.
“’Grow old along with me for the best is yet to be,’” she read.
“Exactly,” I said. “Exactly.”
Storms at night remind me of the promise of joy in the morning; a promise of hope. It was just such a storm a few months later that caused me to reflect back on this conversation. As rain pelted the windows, my wife lay snuggled within my arms before a warm fire in the den. All of our lives were now moving forward. I caressed my wife’s cheek.
“She’s going to do fine, you know,” I said, unexpectedly.
“I know,” she breathed. “She told me about your conversation, about not being able to hold on to the past. It was sweet.” She turned to look at me. “Just like her first baby steps, you helped her to grow.”
I took her hand, squeezing it. “Maybe, but she helped me to grow more.”
My wife sat up facing me. “Really? How?”
“Our talk reminded me that we have a purpose beyond the moment, a commitment to fulfill. Her trust in coming to me; drew this out of me, matured me.” I sighed. “Helped remind me of things I thought I’d never forget.”
My wife smiled and settled back into my arms. “We all forget and need reminders from time to time.” Her gaze seemed to be toward the fire. “Maybe that’s one of the reasons God gave us children in the first place.”
I paused to consider this. “I love you,” I said.
“I love you back.”
She snuggled closer; I held her tighter and felt more blessed than I had ever felt before. Our daughter had brought this blessing, this revelation upon us. Our children, counter-weights on a teeter-totter – we lift and we are lifted.
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