Eve wipes the sweat off Sarah’s forehead. Her daughter is mumbling in her sleep and her eyes move rapidly under closed eyelids. Eve checks the temperature for the twentieth time. She peeks at her watch. “How much longer till the next paracetamol?” Eve lies down and hugs Sarah hoping to lure the fever into her body.
Ten years later, Sarah is on stage. She plays Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. Eve moves back and forth on her chair. She whispers the lines Sarah has trouble remembering. She glares at her daughter on stage, hoping to establish a telepathic connection.
Tom squeezes James. “Good luck in college!”
“Remember, bullies are cowards!”
“I know dad, I know.”
“Here, take this!” James grabs the pack of condoms and pushes it deep into his pocket. He looks around and sighs in relief – nobody noticed.
Helplessness is the dark side of parenting. We can only do so much. Our children need to learn walking on their own. We can hold their hands and catch them when they fall, but we can’t walk for them. What else? We can make sure they get their vaccines in time. We can carve positive ideas into their brains hoping they will last. We can prune their emotional tree so it grows strong and straight. We can create habits that hopefully keep our children on their paths in times of tumult or distraction.
But that’s about it. We can’t grow for them. We can’t go to school for them. We can’t struggle for them. We can’t succeed for them. We can’t say “No!” for them.
As our children grow, our helplessness grows too. When they are all grown up and claim their lives, they will have to make their own stands. Even repeat our mistakes, which appears to us as such a waste of time and energy.
And when worse comes to worse and we lose our child to a drug, a crime, an ideology, or a gang, all that’s left is picking up the pieces. Sometimes the body.
Please keep this helplessness in your mind for a moment, the love for your child, the painful empathy that comes with it, the sweet memories you desperately hold on to, the anger your vulnerability gives rise to, all these unreasonable hopes, and the growing resignation that parental helplessness are but a cross you have to carry.
Now multiply these feelings by a zillion and you have a hunch of how God feels.
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