I’ve been on my own with the boys this week while Jason’s in DC for work. It’s been a really good week, for the most part, but it’s been very rejection-heavy on the writing front and yesterday Gryffin and I had an argument where I raised my voice and he struggled not to cry and it just wasn’t… great. He went out to play basketball afterwards and I just sat with my head in my hands for a good while.
Eventually I started making dinner and when he and brother came back in, all seemed to be well again. We ate dinner and then the three of us played a few rounds of two-square in the driveway. When we finished and we were back inside and I was mixing Isaiah’s medicine, Gryff came over to me and handed me a slip of paper. It was an apology note. At the bottom there was a picture of the two of us inside a heart.
There are really only two things I know about parenting.
- It hurts. In a million and one ways. There are arguments, yes, and frustrations big and small. It hurts to hurt them, always. But mostly it hurts just to bear witness. It hurts to watch them try new things or attempt to make new friends. It hurts to watch them get hurt. It hurts to sit in the car while they walk into the auditorium to audition for the school play or onto the soccer field to meet a new team, knowing that they will be vulnerable in ways that you cannot soothe or solve, should things not go their way. It hurts to watch them grow away from you.
- It heals. Also in a million and one ways. Just watching my boys move about in the world — shooting hoops with the neighbors, reading books, running down the stairs with their walkie talkies, dancing while they brush their teeth — heals deep places inside me. When “despair for the world grows in me,” to borrow a line from Wendell Berry, when I am overwrought by the sadness in the world, all I need to do is glimpse my oldest doing his version of the “orange justice” or my youngest running through the yard on our kitchen broom pretending to be Harry Potter and I feel like I can breathe again. Is that too sappy? I don’t know. Probably. I just know that on days when I want to get back in bed, they make moving forward an option and they teach me as much as I teach them.
This morning I was looking through some photos and came across this one of Gryffin from Easter last month. I looked at it for a long time while I drank my coffee, thinking about him and his faux-hawk that he works so hard on and his Ghostbusters shirt and the Flaming Cheetos that he took on his field trip today. I thought about all the Calvin & Hobbes books he checked out from the library and how he sneaks pretzels from the snack bin when he thinks I’m not looking and how he woke up this morning talking about Mario Maker as though we had been in the middle of a conversation the whole night long. I thought about him and I looked at this picture and gave thanks.