Every parent knows the feeling.
The first time I drove on ice the feeling of helplessness disconnected me from my ability to act. Few times before had I experienced this feeling of a lack of control; definitely never quite on this scale. Though I spun the wheel the opposite way, me and my little SUV continued to slide into unavoidable disaster. My knuckles whitened even more, my jaw tightened together as my eyes squinted and brow curled at the sight of another car - all braced for impact. I came to sudden halt as my tires spun and slid sideways, undeterred into a curb. Luckily, the curb came before the car, and it was enough. Of course, I waved and smiled at the other car then slowly moving through the intersection because that’s what inexperienced people who feel the heat of embarrassment do amidst the frantic pulsing of their heart narrowly escaping calamity.
As a parent, I’m growing a bit more accustomed to this feeling. To be quite forthright, there are many times strength and confidence and experience give way to helplessness. No matter how much effort I give, we slide out of control toward unavoidable disaster. My frustration boils over and spills out in the midst of our tense words leaving us even more undone. And there we stand worlds apart, all on our own, our hearts still pulsing - one the transgressor, the other the transgressed. Our hearts are one in the same. They reek of sin and self, of defending and demanding, of wanting control and satisfaction.
Parenting is an art of improved loses. Those like me who scurry around to gather the pieces breaking busy themselves with falsities such as good, better and perfect, while others who lose well lock sites on tomorrow and refuse little wins in the name of being right and in control. The key here is tomorrow must contain a hope more promising than a tidy, well-adjusted family. This is where the Gospel must invade your parenting, eradicating sin and displacing self.
Truth: in you, what your child needs cannot be found. Only in the truth of the Gospel will your kids find real life.
The polarizing feeling of not understanding your child and not able to connect with your child visits every parental relationship. No one escapes the mystery of a child growing into their own, still your child but stretching into person and filling their own skin even more. It’s mired in damnable and divine. The sentimentalist in me wants to keep them close and controlled, but my responsibility founded in the Gospel is to lead them into tomorrow and then push.
My responsibility informs my action in the moment, or afterward. It is in that understanding of tomorrow being dependent on my needed guidance in my child’s life today where my head clears from helplessness and fortitude is reclaimed.