February 25, 2012

Love Thine Enemy

I have never wanted to punch someone in the face so much.  When other people annoy you, mistreat you, defy you, harass you, or just scream at you for extended amounts of time, you can make the choice to walk away.  With your children this is not always the case; there is a second level to the equation which is the instinct that demands you stand there and take it.  And not only take it, but take care of them while you take it.  It's the best lesson in loving thine enemy.  Instead of gratifying your need to validate your own feelings, you have to dismiss them completely in order to validate the child's experience.

The other 51% of the time is the greatest ecstasy that you will ever feel.  There is something very rewarding (and almost equally as devastating) as knowing that you are largely in charge of a person's destiny, or at least in giving them the tools to fulfill their own destiny.  Nothing is more fun than imaging the potential your child has, and the happiness you feel when you teach them a skill or inspire progress in some way.  I'm still a young father who has yet to experience the other side of that coin; I dread the day when I'm bound to do something that scars him for life.

I have frequently caught myself throwing an arm or even my whole body in front of him when a car passes, or there is a loud noise.  I deny him certain things he wants out of nothing more than white-knuckled resistance and a belief that I'm serving his best interest, then stifle a laugh when he throws an absurd fit.  Every moment of every day is a tightrope walk between what one should do, and what one shouldn't do at any given moment, and the knowledge that no matter what I do, there will be mistakes along the way.

About 2 years ago I wrote a blog about love and parenting opining about the intensity of love a parent feels to a child.  It was written before I was a parent, and only shortly after starting the adoption process. Now, after being a father for a little over a year, my ability to write has gone down hill but I can speak a little more concretely about my experience of parental love.

In the previous blog I hypothesized that parental love would be on par with puppy love.  I have to say that I think I was right.  I never get tired of looking at him, watching him try something new, listening to him say broken versions of words in which he gets almost nothing right but the inflection.  I fight the urge to include him in my Facebook profile picture, but usually fail.  I watch him sleep.  I take pictures of him doing something he has done a hundred times.  I write his full name down and admire how good my last name looks with his first name.  It is an ongoing puppy love that I do not anticipate coming to an end any time soon.