Occasionally, a parent-to-be will come and ask me for advice about parenting. Crazy, right? They’re so focused on what could happen or what to do, they miss one of the most important elements of the whole process. It’s not for lack of trying or thoughtfulness, but most of us start off with a mindset that fixates on certain facets of parenting. It’s an element I often miss, too, but I’m really steeped in thinking about it tonight.
We imagine the hardships. We dream about the outcome. But we miss the moment.
The problem is, the “moment” is hard to get at. Other moments and feelings interrupt this perfect place. It’s one where we see our kids for who they are, who they were and what the could be in split-second. I’m not talking not about self-help meditations on philosophical realization. I’m talking about the difference between having bad eyesight and putting on a pair of glasses.
Growing up, I had a prescribed track that carried certain expectations. I fought against it because I wanted to grasp my own destiny. It seemed like my parents didn’t quite understand me anymore and though I think that’s a pretty standard milestone for teenagers, I wonder if things would’ve turned out differently had they looked with their own eyes instead of masking me with expectations.
You see, anticipation can lead us astray. We place expectations on the actions of our kids or partners or pets or whoever happens to walk in our path, and we can’t help but evaluate the answer before we’ve observed the moment. This is never more clear to me than when I’m in the car, tired as hell, and I drive on fumes (in my head). I’ve used a sort of auto-pilot to get myself home. It’s a muscle memory. And I’m reduced to my body carrying me home. It’s not ideal, honestly. Probably not entirely safe either.
But that’s what we do to other people. We use an emotional muscle memory to deal with each other. Mostly on our kids. We assume a lot with them. And it starts well before childbirth. We anticipate the living shit out of this experience and mostly for good reason. We want to do it right. We worry, as do I, about the next steps.
I guess what I’m saying is: Don’t miss the moment. Because it won’t miss you when you’re gone. And there’s nothing worse than being late to a party thrown just for you.