February 28th, 2015 § Leave a Comment
As a parent of teenagers, I get this sentiment a lot. “They’re mostly good kids. And with these things, you have to be realistic.” Be realistic. The trouble with reality is that far too often it sucks. I have no intention of being realistic.
That’s not to say I am unsympathetic to the harsh realities of being a teenager. It can’t be easy being judged by a jury of your peers when your peers happen to possess the devastating combination of being the most judgmental of people while being of the least sound judgment. Walking that five-year gauntlet would be rough without having to do it while everything about you is changing. Mind, body, and heart are shuffled about. Hormonal effects are real. Girls become women and boys become men – the body first, while the mind usually lags. And how do they feel about all this? Who knows? So, yes, we can all agree that teenage life is not all roses and cupcakes.
All the more reason not to be realistic, no? Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about style or availability. They’re going to dress funny. I get that. They’re not going to want to hang with Dad. A given. Nor are we talking about a dumb decision here and there. Of course that’s happening. What I’m talking about is accepting as a part of their nature things like being self-absorbed, like they can’t be bothered to be considerate, respectful. I’m talking about their acute vulnerability to be people pleasing, to go with the crowd. Treating them as if they are incapable of courage, sacrifice, self-control.
“They’re mostly good kids. With these things, you have to be realistic.” Have you seen reality lately? It sucks. “Realistic” is not where I intend to lead my teenage kids.
February 12th, 2015 § 5 Comments
If ever you’ve wondered whether or not you could love a child, not your own, don’t. The answer is you can. Definitely. Our foster child has been with us since October. We’re at about the four month mark. And I can tell you without a doubt, I love this boy. Initially, the fact that he was someone else’s kid was the backdrop of all our interactions. I was a caretaker in a “place holder” kind of way. I understood this. No, I more than understood it, I relished it. In doing so, initially, I kept a certain distance between us. That’s all changed now.
The shift can be measured in any number of ways, but one clear metric is the number of times I kiss him. The first month, I don’t think I kissed him once. The thought was, “I wouldn’t want some dude kissing my kid.” This baby has a father and he, not I, ought to be kissing him. Right. This knowledge kept me guarded in my interactions with him. Remember his place; remember my place. That’s all done now. I’m kissing him all the time. When I get him from the crib – kiss. When I put him down – kiss. Holding, bobbing – kiss. Walking – kiss. Kiss here. Kiss there. Can’t help myself. And I’m Korean. I’m genetically predisposed to disdain public displays of affection. But this kid, he’s turned me into a gay French dude at fashion week in Milan. Kiss. Kiss. More kiss. I haven’t kissed so much since … well, since my own kids were babies.
So, yes, definitely, you can love a child, not your own. As I write this, I realize I need to amend this declaration with this caveat: Yes, you can love a child, not your own, provided you love the child well. My calculated interactions turned to uninhibited embraces through the hard work of 2 AM feedings, diaper changes, soothing inconsolable cries, through sacrifices. By labor, I grew to love. By doing, I began to feel. Love as a whole is not what we’d like it to be – an effortless response to a bottomless reservoir of passion. It’s not so simple, not so one-dimensional, not so linear.
And maybe we ought to esteem this sort of love – the kind that begins with our hands, and runs through our heart, and ends with a kiss.