Saturday, October 27, 2012

Parenthood: The Perfect Storm

It’s my favorite season of the year.  Heat yielding to coolness.  Blue skies. Falling leaves. Pumpkin pie.  And hurricanes. 

Well, they’re really an afterthought, right?  Like you're planning this amazing party, you’re all excited, and somewhere along the line you realize you are just going to have to invite your crazy uncle, or your mother-in-law, and it changes everything.  Just like parenthood does. 

Currently I’m joining thousands of East Coasters anxiously watching the approach of Hurricane Sandy.  (And if you’re not on the East Coast, think of whatever your region’s pet cross is: wildfires or earthquakes or droughts or tornadoes—not sure how you manage those, they scare the Pinterest out of me…)  We’re facing the cross of the east.  Biting nails and stocking pantries.  My mind swirling in counter-clockwise patterns, I just jumped out of bed at midnight because I couldn’t sleep, and now was finally the time to start writing.  I mean I’d planned for years to write a blog, and suddenly I have to… because the stress I’m feeling over this “perfect storm” strongly reminds me of something else.  Parenthood.  Boom.  There it is.

Standing on a diving board.  That’s the typical description I give of “preparing” for parenthood.  You’ve climbed the steps, walked the plank, and you’re just standing there, toes on the edge.  Looking down.  Wondering how cold the water is.  If it’s as far away as it looks.  If you’re somehow going to go in the water all wrong, like sideways or over-rotate and hit the ledge below or something, and really get hurt and look like an idiot to boot. And you don’t know until you jump in.  Many adults stand there for years.

I was kinda pushed in, but I’m sure I’ll tell you that story later.  For now, all eyes are on the swirling mass of white on the Atlantic.  Where will it hit?  When?  How hard?   All the locals are thinking that.  I just came back from the Mart de Wal (yes, I refuse to say it, it’s a love-hate relationship, very complicated, get into that later), and you could see these questions in everyone’s eyes as they bought the last minute things they think they’d need.  Like batteries, Cheetos, and five games from Red Box.  I happened to go with my ten-year old daughter, and somehow you’re always ridiculously brave when you’re with your kid.  “Let’s yell, ‘Grab all the milk and bread you can hold!!  AGHGHGHH!'”   I love the big goofy smile that spreads over her face when I’m a big goof.  And I get goofier when I’m nervous. 

“I’m being a chicken,” I announced to my husband in lieu of good night tonight.  I had just had him reread me the litany of how storms work, and how this one would involve falling water and swaying trees, and no I did not (actually) need to purchase life-jackets and a raft. Which I was tempted to do. He really is such a smart guy. (I mean, he married me, after all.)  He is also one of the rare human beings who, without any formal training, could handily predict the weather, design a road, or give you directions from exactly where you are right now as you read this to absolutely anywhere, usually without consulting anything at all but his cerebral cortex. 

But back to my temptation towards flotation devises: Before motherhood, hurricanes were way fun.  I’d help my dad make big x’s with masking tape on all the windows.  (To this day, I’m not sure what this was supposed to do really… perhaps hold some pieces of glass together for an exotic craft project should the window get blown in?  I dunno).  But it was fun.  And we’d get out all the old Advent candle nubs out of the shoe box above the stairwell, and the hurricane lamp, and pray for a power outage so we modern children could have FIRE just like Little House on the Prairie and maybe school would be canceled.  (For dad that is; he was a teacher.  We were homeschooled, so the point was rather moot on that.)  But now… I’m a mother hen, and my chicks are small, and need to stay dry.  And fluffy.  Storms are not fun anymore.

A friend of mine is expecting her first.  (Child that is, not hurricane.)  I always tell an expectant mom, “I’ll pray the labor goes beautifully!”  (And then I always pray right away, for fear I forget; hate when I promise to pray for something then forget later…)  And she always gives an earnest, “Yes!  Thank you!  Please do!”  Because it’s scary.  And even when you’re pregnant, and you know something serious is on the radar, you still wonder where will it hit?  When will my water break?  And how hard is this all going to be?

And sometimes, it’s beautiful and wonderful and a piece of cake and a lark and oh-my-gosh can’t wait to do this again without the epidural!  Or sometimes, the experience is more like mine.  But either way, your life is changed forever.  Irrevocably.  And while you may miss some aspects of the mysteries of the diving board, you never regret actually being in the water.  Though sometimes it’s perfectly okay to hold on to the side to take a breather. 

If you’re a parent, you’re saying “blah blah blah” already.  Because you know.  But if you’re not yet, and are on the edge, and thinking about it, and planning, and wondering, and waiting and… seriously, jump already.  J  Or at least I’d encourage you to try, unless there’s a valid reason for postponing the whole kid experience of course.  Like if you aren’t actually married, or there’s a great hardship, or if tragically the pool is not an option at all.  And no, not because misery loves company.  But because our children need… company.  We have a population shortage in so many countries.  Closer to home, we are depriving ourselves of what really, really matters in life, if you’re married, and just (just) waiting.  I find it so tragic when couples wait, and then try to become parents too late. 

Because in general, “being prepared” is a fallacy. All the milk and bread in the house is not going to help if the tree near our driveway falls on our leased mini van.  Which it totally better not do, cause I would be seriously put out about it for a least a week.  But my point is, like for Sandy here, you just can’t fully and perfectly prepare for parenthood, any more than you can prepare for swimming when you’ve never been in the water.  So c’mon in!  The water’s fine.  Most of the time.  Except when the toddler has a stomach bug and your husband’s away, and you’ve slept three hours and the stove is broken.  But diving in is always worth it all.

Which takes me back to today, and good ole’ Sandy.  I am so grateful for the times we live in… yes, there’s plenty of problems, but really!  We’ve got ourselves a beautiful half-filled glass here.  Wunderground gives us fair warning that this hundreds of miles large storm is coming (pardon me a moment, must retrieve my paper bag) and mostly what to expect when you’re expecting a hurricane. We can virtually hold hands really through all the storms of life now, texting, Facebooking, etc… I remember the one time I was in a storm cellar and would have loved to reach out to the world outside the thunderous tornado that loomed above, and now we can. Just recently I got a friend’s post from a storm cellar with her kids (and yes it all ended up okay).  What a consolation to be able to type, “I’m here alone in the dark right now; think of me and say a prayer!” I’m hoping this blog can be kinda like that, cultivating the knowledge that we are never alone in our storms, whatever they may be.  And yes, mine currently involve children and diapers and nursing.  J

If there’s a lesson to any storm, it’s that we are small, and God is immense, and the winds and the sea obey Him.  Here’s my favorite storm prayer, attributed to St. Bridget—(I first read it in the Pieta prayer book.)  It is elsewhere attributed to St. Maximilian Kolbe.  In any case, I didn’t write it, and it seems to “say it all,” so here goes, I mean, In nomine Patris, etc:

Jesus Christ a King of Glory has come in Peace.†  God became man,†  and the Word was made flesh.†  Christ was born of a Virgin.†  Christ suffered.†  Christ was crucified.†  Christ died.†  Christ rose from the dead.†  Christ ascended into Heaven.†  Christ conquers.†  Christ reigns.†  Christ orders.†  May Christ protect us from all storms and lightning†  Christ went through their midst in Peace,†  and the Word was made Flesh.†  Christ is with us with Mary.†  Flee you enemy spirits because the Lion of the Generation of Judah, the Root David, has won.†  Holy God!†  Holy Powerful God!†  Holy Immortal God!†  Have mercy on us.  Amen.

As for this baby blog (as in wee little newborn blog, not blog exclusively about babies, or weather for that matter) thanks for reading!  I will strive to be mildly entertaining and at times borderline inspiring should you choose to return.  I will further pledge to avoid preachiness—cuz Lord knows that would be an absurd mistake—while also sidestepping heresy, schism, apostasy, and plagiarism, as far as my half-a-master’s in theology, common sense, chronically sleep-deprived state, and limited spiritual prowess allow.  I plan to write as often as my sieve-like memory and multiple children allow.  I’m sure you’ll keep me accountable.  Oremus pro invicem! - TLC

Parting thought: I'm finding that the context of Mark 4:41 has a lot more “punch” if you aren’t reflecting on it in the living room, or even before a painting of the scene.  Instead, go (mentally) to the storm at sea, hear the howling gale, taste the salt spray slapped in your face by the furious waves, watch the roiling ocean and the bending trees on the shore and think with the awe of the apostles, “Who is this . . .that both wind and sea obey Him?”  

No comments:

Post a Comment