During the luxury of a first pregnancy you have this rich, fantastic experience of imagining your baby not just as an infant, but all through his or her life. In most of these fantasies you imagine your child as a sports phenom, a musical prodigy, a high-IQ intellectual achiever, POTUS, or maybe winning a world-renown prize. And you picture yourself in the background or standing proudly off to the side, beaming in the reflected glory of your progeny. Clearly, your (and your partner’s) DNA played a BIG part in this result.
Reality sets in not long after that baby arrives, when you realize your one job is to keep this howling creature alive through 24 hour intervals. The baby does not care if you have eaten a meal, taken a shower, or that you were asleep 5 minutes before his most-recent demand. Mother Nature knows this and did two things:
- 1. She made the cry of the human baby impossible to ignore, and
- 2. She made human babies so cute and irresistible that we WANT to take care of them.
Not long after we get the hang of taking care of this new baby something shifts. Baby will want to do more on her own, to become independent. So here’s where my Slingshot Theory begins.
Pretty much right after you greet this baby you treat her like a very large marble, and you put her in the pocket of a big slingshot. As a Mom you spend a lot of your energy and strength pulling back the metaphorical pocket holding your bundle of joy, and when you can’t hold on any longer your baby is catapulted into the Infinite. I picture myself standing next to the flaccid slingshot, panting and sweaty, mouthing a little prayer of safekeeping.
Because as much as you try to convince yourself that you control the way your child interacts with the world, the reality is you don’t. You should protect and guide your child, but at key points along the way you have to let go. Your first day back to work, her first step, his first day of school – all of these events are navigation away and apart from each other, and they make it easier for the bigger “firsts.” All you can do as a parent is to give that child the tools and resources to leave you, to become independent, to render you obsolete in this job. Still, you are both at the mercy of the Universe.
The greatest joy the Universe can bestow is to return that child back to you as an adult and ultimately, a friend. At least until you enter your dotage and need somebody to take care of you until the Universe claims you back.
So, today I want to salute all mothers who have kids out there in the Universe, or are about to launch them. And I salute the children who have come back and kissed those mothers.
And to my own children: I never doubted that you would grow up to be the fine, kind women I know today. You honor me by living your independent lives, and that is a blessing all its own.