The other day my sons' father sent me a wistful email that just said "You know, I thought parenting would get easier as they got older...". My reply was that when they're little and hurting, bandaids, hugs, and a rousing episode of Stuffed Animal Theatre (a nightly bedtime ritual he created to entertain the kids, using their massive collections of stuffed animals) usually did the trick. Hurts back then were skinned knees, a nasty teacher, an unexpected 'no', a spat at pre-school. We could heal half a dozen hurts, do laundry, and make lunch with one hand tied behind our backs. Those days are gone.
The phrase "I feel your pain" had to have been coined by a parent. We feel every hurt, every fear, every sadness that our children do, even when they're adults (maybe even more then). Their pain echoes in our souls while we pray & hope, wanting desperately to pull out the neosporin and a bandaid, kiss the boo-boo better, and seal the deal with a cookie and the magic words "You can stay up late to watch the Oakland A's game" (or, with my younger son, the 216th showing of his 101 Dalmations video). A dear friend once remarked that 'white hair is what happens to mothers during all those nights spent worrying about their children in the moonlight'. Love that oh-so-appropriate thought. We pass the wee hours aching to scoop our hurting child up from the raging river, carry him or her so carefully and gently through the icy rapids, not caring that we're cold & wet with muscles straining, and deposit them safely in the lush, sun-drenched green meadow on the other side, where we'll watch them run off laughing, tossing us a careless wave as they move on to the next adventure. We want that with all that we have and are...but it's not in our power.
Maybe, just maybe, we can wait on that distant shore, toss a branch or a rope, call out encouragement, but mostly we just have to wait and watch and pray and root for them. We know what's waiting just a step or two past the foaming river. We know the solace, joy and life waiting for them on the other side, even if all they can see is angry water and treacherous rocks. We've been through the river, been battered against the rocks, sure we would drown, maybe even wanting to drown. And we know what awaits when they pull themselves, stronger and wiser, from the grasp of that torrent. We know that they'll feel warm breezes in their hair, roll in the cool green grass and laugh out loud from the sheer joy of living.
We know this, but they don't. And so we lay awake in the moonlight, remember when they were little and innocent and warm curled up next to us listening to The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear, and wait for them on the shore.