time and tide

My youngest started school today.

She was excited. She was ready.

It was a good morning, lots of memories.

A bit fraught, a little bittersweet.

We did okay.

We watched her walk to the door.

So confident.

She’s my hero.

But there were tears in the car and, later, more at home — ours, of course.

She was ready. We weren’t.

A flood of feelings while we watched the teacher walk our daughter up to the door.

Later, I thought about the times I’ve watched my children turn their backs and walk towards the future, watched them walk away from me.

It’s hard.

With the older ones — one is twenty and the other is almost sixteen, now — I remember them little.

I remember the feel of their small hands in mine.

I remember their voices.

It’s hard.

I’ve stood there in the night, countless times, and watched over them — watched the gentle rise and fall of their chest, watched the tide move in and out as they slept.

I stand there now, tonight, watching while my youngest rests after her very exciting first day.

And, well, it’s hard.

As hard as anything.

Maybe even harder than with her older brother and sister.

Because I know what’s coming. I know what she’s walking towards.

What she’s walking away from.

And, honestly, it’s a little bit like mourning.

There’s a death in there, somewhere . . . somewhere in me.

I remember the life that’s passed. I hold onto the hope of the life that’s to come.

They turn their backs, they take their steps.

I let them go.

I pray they’ll come back.

— — —

That’s what I want to be for them, as their father — a safe harbor to return to when they need it, a touchstone they can carry along the way.

I don’t feel any compulsion to guide their steps, to point them in the direction I think they should go. I don’t feel a need to shape them, to mold them in my image.

Their own images are so much more interesting and wonderful.

It’s more rewarding for me and, really, more useful for them to just watch and marvel over who they are and what they become.

I know lots of parents who talk about how proud they are of their children. Most of the time, what I hear is how proud the parent is of themselves.

“Look at what I made.”

So I don’t say that I am proud of my children — I am proud of them, of course, but not because I think I had anything to do with how wonderful they are.

No . . . what I am, is grateful.

I’m grateful that they were given to me, grateful to have so much that I really don’t deserve.

I’m grateful to have such wonderful people in my life, grateful to watch them grow and become even more wonderful.

I’m grateful that I didn’t do too bad a job with what the gods gave me.

I’m grateful that I have had each of them there to walk with me for a while through the highs and lows of my own life.

And I’m especially grateful that they’ve let me tag along as they’ve made their way through the world.

I pray that it will always be so.

— — —

The same day that my youngest started school, my oldest invited me to come by and see his new apartment.

This is his first place, a place of his own.

He’s working very hard. It’s a struggle, sketching out your own little piece of the world.

I remember his first room, the little apartment we lived in when he was born. I remember putting his crib together.

And now…

I was impressed to see how he’d made a place of his own — something I was far too immature and weak to have done at his age.

He’s always been stronger than me. He’s always been my hero.

I’m glad he’s doing it. I think it’s outstanding.

And, yeah, I still mourn . . . probably more than a little.

But I’m grateful that he invited me.

— — —

And that same day…

The same day my youngest started school…

The same day my oldest invited me over for a visit…

That same day, my middle child — and the middle is sometimes such an awkward place to be, but she’s exactly the younger sister that her brother needs and the big sister that her little sister loves . . . and I love her for it — she reminded me yet again of how glad I am that she’s my daughter.

She’s funny. She’s kind and sensitive.

She’s boldly talented, writing songs and recording them and setting them free into the world. She has far more bravery and creativity than I had at her age — maybe even more than I do now.

She’s my hero.

And I’m grateful for her, grateful that I have a teenage daughter who actually talks to me.

I’m grateful that she shares her ideas and songs with me, grateful that she trusts me and shares her life with me.

I can’t wait to see where her path takes her.

— — —

I can’t wait to see where all three of those paths lead.

I pray they don’t go too far.

— — —

I am rich with children.

And I am grateful.