A few weeks ago I held my youngest nephew, Connor, and I experienced a feeling of fierce and loyal love–a feeling that I am convinced we experience in times of great transformation and trial. As I held him, I looked at my 34-week pregnant wife, and for the first time, I felt and sensed a glimpse of what our future would soon hold. I remember then passing Connor back to his father and feeling completely blown away and ready to step into parenthood. Yet the truth is likely more harrowing than sheer excitement and giddy anticipation. The truth is sure to be harder than the joy of holding a newborn. The truth is sure to test our patience and resolve.
Our child is about to arrive in a fragile, seven or eight pound frame that we will want to protect, shower with love, and help in every way possible. And for a while, life will probably exist of many days that call on our abilities and perseverance to do just that. Life will likely feel like and mimic the building of a foundation–a great push to provide necessary circumstances and environments to foster growth and withstand pain. And with each passing day, we will teach our child and prepare them for the greater world–one where our patience, protection, love, and loyalty will still be needed, but they will also be capable of demonstrating and living into such qualities–that is the hope. It will be an experience like no other, and as I can try my best to visualize what life will look like in the coming decades, the events of ages past have often proven to challenge many of man’s preconceived notions or plans –and with that, I am forced to consider Mike Tyson’s famous line, “Everyone has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth.” Somehow, these words force me to contemplate my responsibilities as an educator.
In the classroom, I am forced to constantly adapt to the punches that attempt to derail even my greatest strategies and intentions. And while I am wise to plan, I am wiser to consider how such plans might unravel and what I may be left with to resolve, rebuild, or altogether scrap in order to start over. That is one way that I view parenthood as I sit on its cusp and express inquiry, joy, and admittedly a healthy dose of “What the hell is this going to be like and how will I ever prepare?!?” As these thoughts pace through my mind with little caution and great rapidity, I revisit the notion of hope, though not as it pertains to what our child may become. Instead, I think of hope as the great equalizer.
Despite socioeconomic circumstances and life challenges, one can only rob their own being of hope. And yes, amid a landscape of social injustice and sociopolitical upheaval that our country finds itself coping with today as a result of our flawed nature and dissonance, I recognize that opportunity is viewed and experienced as relative. Yet still, I have seen men and women of great advantage plummet to unforeseeable depths just as quickly as I have witnessed others from adverse conditions rise and capitalize–and with the myriad of details inherent to these admittedly broad sweeping examples that for the sake of focus I wish not to expand upon at this time, I pray that themes central to our child’s development are not lost in a shuffle that may cloud judgement or overshadow the constant need for love, loyalty, and patience.
Now, as I reflect on the challenges and opportunities that have allowed my wife and I to build our own foundation that has best readied us for the joys and tribulations of parenthood, I find myself listening to “Cat’s in the Cradle” time and time again, and like reading a book at various stages in life can offer new discovery, so can the rhythm and language of Chapin’s fabled song that tells the story of a father proud to have provided for his son and family but later regretful that he did not give his son enough of the greatest commodity of all: time. It almost serves as a precautionary tale that challenges the fabric of our complex culture: provide all that you can and simultaneously devote all of the time that you can to your family–a task that I know only from a distance at this stage in my life.
Considering my ramblings and the past nine months of contemplation, I hope more than anything to demonstrate the strength, courage, wisdom, love, loyalty, humility, and perseverance necessary to teach my child, listen to my child, and raise my child in a way that makes them proud to call me their father. After all, a great truth that I have learned from teaching over the past eight years is as simple as it is hard: being extraordinary begins with being present. Fears of inadequacy that man lets creep into his mind and way of life can quickly be erased when he simply steps into the light and allows it to display all of his wonderful being–cracks included. So let the juggling act begin–I am as ready to fail as I am to learn and grow.