You were small once. You were so small in fact that you used to fit in my arm between my wrist and the inside of my elbow. I can remember this. I can remember the fear and the excitement and the intimidation of being a new Dad.
I can remember the way you would look at me, which was amazing to me. You seemed as if you were amazed by everything.
Then again, everything is amazing when it’s new. And at the beginning, everything is new. The world is a new place. Trees are these huge astronomical things that plant from the ground and grow tall.
The sky and the clouds and all the colors of the rainbow are so crisp and clear. Simple things like a floating red balloon, held by the hand and attached to a string become so incredibly wondrous, to the point of sheer fascination.
The world at this point is supposed to be eat, play, and sleep. That is all. The word itself is truly remarkable. And things we say and the things we do mean so much. The wheels on the bus go round and round. The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish.
And the people in our life, aside from just Mom or Dad, but importantly, grandparents and aunts and uncles, cousins and family; there is this magical sense of everything, and yet, to the parent, there is this rewarding sense of creation. There is an equal fear though. And I admit this openly. There is concern. There are late night visits to the doctor because of a fever. There are nightmares and there are monsters either under the bed or in the closet. There is the fear that somehow, ability and love will fail or fall short. I admit to this as well.
There are fears, which otherwise go unmentioned. Fears that reflect on the parent alone and not the child at all. This has nothing to do with the child; not in any way whatsoever. This happens because the child is a mirror. This is a creation, yes, but more importantly, the child is a recreation of life. And for the parents, there is a memory of youth. There are the memories of unresolved moments. There are the memories of danger. There is the idea of personal defects which might possibly pass along to their child. And with all our faults, experience, and history, there is a need to steer our children away from danger and the previous conviction of life on life’s terms.
The idea that parents always know best is inaccurate. And I say this as a parent because as a father, we almost become a separate entity in the world. Parents aren’t human. No, really. it’s the truth.
For the most part and traditional cases, Mom and Dad are the first real people you meet. You see them this way, as figures, larger than life.
There is a title here, which we adapt to. There is a meaning behind the words “Mom” or “Dad” which we associate with according to our experience in life. Not all titles are reputable. Not all parents fit their title and not all situations work out in the easiest of ways. Unfortunately, it is true that life comes with disappointments and people do disappointing things. Not everything works out well, which is a valuable lesson because this can help us to reduce the pressure of being angry and find the grace of both earning and providing forgiveness.
There is a fear that parents have. This might not be so with every parent, but I can say this with all certainty. There is worry. There is the constant truth that there is no avoiding life and for the parent, there is the understanding that no matter how hard a Mom or Dad tries, life will happen.
Kids will fall down and scrape their knee. Someone will say something mean or hurtful. Feelings will be hurt. People cry. There will be things that happen that change our sense of wonder and amazement.
There will be times of personal insecurity. There will be times when personal or emotional challenges cause rifts in the relationship. I know this for sure.
There will be cases of divorce and question of which side to be loyal to. And there will be mistakes between all parties, which can be repaired, so long as the repair is allowed.
There will be this terrible let down in life, because at some point, children will grow enough to understand faults. And rest assured, we all have faults.
But here it is, I go back to being a Mom or a Dad being a separate entity, and as such, parents are not supposed to be human. They’re supposed to be heroes.
However, I suppose it can be a let down to learn that parents have faults too. They have problems and dilemmas, defects, and sometimes, parents do the wrong thing. We say the wrong thing. Some parents collapse and they give in. Sometimes we yell. And then we think back to when we were kids. We literally acknowledge that we have become the parents we had when we were young. Then we shake our heads because we do or say things that we swore we would never do if we ever became parents.
Above all, parents make mistakes. We are wrong. We are frequently wrong to be exact. And do you know why? This is because we are no different from anyone else on the bus. We don’t always know what to do or what will happen next. We act out of emotion or fear and just like the kids on the bus, no one wants to be picked on or excluded, and because of this, parents can be childish.
We think we’ve been there too. We tell our kids, “I was your age once,” which is true, but this does not mean we went through the same things.
Not all things are the same and more accurately, parents direct their kids in a way because of old hang-ups and hassles from their unresolved childhood.
We might have undergone similar exposures. We might relate but in all fairness, nothing is the same. And we talk and we teach and we try to keep our children from harm, but in the end, there is no way to escape life from happening. There is no reason to argue or fight or hate or be mad with people. Life is too short for this.
You were only two years old when we had to bring you to the emergency room. We took you there to get stitches on your chin. You were crying. I wasn’t home when you fell.
I wasn’t there to see you fall from the chair but I was there to take you to the hospital. It was late and getting later. I remember that. We had to wait for a plastic surgeon because the cut was at the bottom of your chin.
You eventually stopped crying so long as we didn’t mention the cut. It was wintertime. In fact, it was a cold, windy day.
The surgeon came in. He was exceptionally well-tanned for that time of year. His hair was wind-swept after coming in from the cold, outside breeze. He seemed as if he was bothered; as if we interrupted his night, which we did because he was home at the time of the call.
Safe to say I didn’t like the man. He minimized the entire situation. Yet meanwhile, you, my little girl, which is a life that I took part in creating and bringing into this world, you were in his care.
We brought you in the back and I knew the tears were on the way. I knew what was coming. I just didn’t know how this was going to go.
They wrapped you in a little papoose to keep you still. They gave you something to numb the pain so they could stitch you up.
All I can remember is you were crying and looking at me. All I remember is screaming, “All done!” because we taught you to say this when you didn’t want something anymore.
You were screaming, “All Done!” and “Please.”
I started to cry because literally, I would have cut my own face off if this meant you wouldn’t have to go through this again.
Yes, I would have died. I would have taken all the pain in the world if this meant that you would never have to feel pain again.
The nurse turned to me. She went to ensure that you are fine and that you are just scared.
“Don’t talk to me,” I replied.
I growled through an angry, clenched jaw, “The more you talk to me, the longer this will take.”
Around the time of the last and final stitch, you looked at me and pleaded, “Daddy, Please! Help me.” And put simply, I could not take this. The pain I felt in my heart is something I cannot measure in terms. However, all I could do at the time was cry.
The nurse turned to assure me once more. Only, this time the surgeon explained, “I will have you removed from this hospital if you cannot contain yourself.”
The surgeon had his mask on. His eyeglasses were down on the bridge of his nose. He looked at me as if he were in charge. We locked eyes. He looked at me from above the rim of his eyeglasses in somewhat of an authoritative glance; as if I were less than (or at least this was my interpretation). His head was somewhat bent downwards and eyebrows up as if my emotion was disturbing him.
I stood in the room, crying for my daughter. I was not doing anything to interfere. I just cried. I cried because I could not stop this. I could not save you. I could not help. However, when the surgeon explained that he would have me removed, I broke my character into something this man was very unfamiliar with.
I explained very quickly and very clearly that there is one important fact, which the surgeon overlooked.
“They’re gonna have to get to me before I get to you. Now, I think you should finish and sew!”
I do not promote violence. I do not even endorse my own behavior but at the time, I can say that I have never felt so helpless in my life. Needless to say, the surgeon finished his stitching and they let you out. We both hugged you as tightly as we could.
The surgeon came over to me afterwards and apologized for what he said. He explained that he does this all the time. But then he said he is also a parent and he understood and apologized for his temporary moment of insensitivity
“But let me ask you,” inquired the surgeon.
“You really meant what you said to me back there, didn’t you?”
“You have no idea,” is all I said.
In fairness, he doesn’t. I would have brutalized that man in the matter of seconds. It’s true. But this does not make me a father.
This only shows that yes, I have feelings and yes, I have faults and yes, I make mistakes. I think emotionally sometimes. And yes, I am human. Yes, I give into my fears. Yes, I have faults just like anyone else in this world. And unfortunately no, there is no “How to” guide that tells people how to be a parent. There is no course we can take or pill we can swallow that automatically brings us to greatness and relieves us from our mistakes.
Along the way, I have had to learn not to adopt the problems of others to become my own. Throughout my life, be it during times of mania or depression or otherwise, I’ve had to learn that no one among us will ever be perfect. No one escapes life. Some improve, some don’t. I just want to be one of the people that improve, at least a little, consecutively, and one day at a time.
You were so small once. You fit in my arms. And there were times which I look back at now and I see where I missed the best opportunities to read you a bedtime story. My favorite was called Silly Sally (She’s the one that went to town, walking backwards, upside down).
There are times when I should have stayed longer or done more and played harder. There are times when I let my own ideas overtake my better sense of judgement. There are times when I dropped the ball. There were days when my own faults got in the way and my assumptions and fear took over. There were times when being human was not helpful.
I get it.
I claim this. I own it. I acknowledge this and I’ve grown from this. The one thing I have learned in the last almost 17 years is that being human is a tough job. So is being a Father. And being a kid isn’t so easy either. I forget this sometimes. I think we all do.
Another thing I learned is that apologies do not always result the way we would like them to. And oftentimes, the best apology is to learn how to change so that we don’t have to make the same mistakes again. Sometimes the best way to apologize is to let someone heal. I offer this to you as a future lesson so that if and whenever you have life come up, you might want to have a different perspective.
I see you sometimes and I think to myself, “She’s grown up now.”
You don’t fit in my arm the way you used to. That’s for sure.
You’ve grown now and your life is taking on a new direction. There are good things in store for you. I know there is. And no matter what, I’m always going to be proud and I’m always going to love and care for you. You will have countless influences and people always around you, looking to tell you what to think or how to believe. I don’t want to do that. First, i don’t want to do this because this isn’t helpful but secondly, your world belongs to you and not to me or anyone else in your life.
Life moves really fast sometimes.
All we can do is learn and grow to the best of our ability. All we can do is utilize our experience and grow and remember that as hard as we try sometimes, we cannot stop life from happening.
We can’t stop time from moving. And we certainly can’t erase time (or the things we said) but if I could, I know exactly where I would rewind to. Maybe I could read to you about the very hungry caterpillar. Or, maybe, just for old time’s sake, I could read to you about Silly Sally and how she went to town, walking backwards, upside down. Remember?
On the way she met a pig. A silly pig. They danced a jig.
Words do not always do us justice. I guess this is why I write. Music helps too. I listen to it sometimes. And I listen to this to remind me that you are growing in a world so much bigger than a backyard. I wanted to put this here in my collection for you so that one day, if or when you open this, you can look back and remember that with me as I am, good things, bad things, faults and all, no matter what, I love you.
Sweet dreams, Princess.
Peter Levine writes a lot on trauma in childhoid from hospital visits. If kids can’t throw it off due to being held down or hurt even as a doctor or nurses try to help and heal it leaves powerful vibrational imprints that may manifest in anger that needs discharge (and, of course, sadness..powerlessness) I love this post children sense the hiddem emotional climate of the parent or rebel against it unknowingly. There in lie all our complex convolutions amidst the search to survive live thrive and love.