I don’t recall deciding to have children. I am not saying it wasn’t discussed; I am sure it was. I just do not believe there was any sort of plan. Within a year of our wedding, we were parents. Within three years, we doubled our number. Before ten years passed, we doubled again. It’s funny. I cannot decide between sushi or pizza without at least an hour of internal debate and, yet, I had four children without any consideration about whether I was ready. Whether we would be good parents. I endured child-birth, survived formula and diapers, first steps, first words, scrapes and broken bones, hospitals, strep throat, play dates, carpools, bar/bat mitzvahs, family vacations, bullies, report cards, ask your mother, parent-teacher conferences, “he looks just like you,” “she behaves just like you,” fort-building, no, we aren’t getting a dog, get to bed, turn off the TV, I’m not your real father, I’m not sure how long a period lasts, (I think a month), grandpa died; holy shit. What was I thinking?
Regrets? I’ve had a few. And, yet, today I met the most amazing young woman. She was born without arms. I cannot imagine the hurdles she has faced. But, she tells me she is going to law school next year. I start to tell her all of the challenges that face young lawyers. But, I quickly feel like an idiot. Life is filled with two kinds of people: Those whose lives are defined by their limitations and those who see their opportunities as endless. And, as always, my thoughts turn to my own children. I know I want them to be better than me. Yet, if I knew the formula, I would have taken advantage myself. So, here is the conundrum: I am flawed. How do I inculcate in my children a perfection that I have not been able to achieve myself? I see my worst traits reincarnated in my children. If I have learned anything as a parent it’s that there is nothing more difficult than sitting on the sidelines and watching your children hurt – and not knowing how to fix it. But, I also see the greatness. The potential. Each day is another learning experience. But, in the end, my kids are amazing.
I remember the sage counsel offered by my father on his deathbed. You can only do the best you can. It is so easy to screw up your children. The wrong advice. A hurtful comment. Disrespect your spouse. Condition your love. The pratfalls are literally endless. And, yet, children are amazingly resilient. Love them unconditionally, and almost everything else will usually work itself out. When the dust settles, my legacy will not be any thing I accomplish professionally. It will not be how much money I earn or spend. It will not be any award or honor, or how many people show up to my birthday barbeque. My life will soon be forgotten. Except by the only four people who matter. My success or failure as a parent will probably not be measured until I am gone. I cannot imagine anything that I will do in life mattering more than tending to my children. I have always known this. I was a father long before I met my wife. And, I will be a father long after I die. Somewhere in the balance lies a truth about myself that scares me. I cannot seem to fix the things about myself that are broken. But, redemption is found in a life spent doing everything in my power to protect and inspire my children. And, hopefully, that should be just enough.
(Oy vey. The absence has hurt our numbers. We have dipped below 200,000 readers for the first time in 18 months! Pass this one around. And, if it sucks, find another entry and pass that one around!).