So, forget about loss. The bleak conjuring of crushed bicycles or the cold loss of alienation. Whatever is coming is coming.
Think of this as a poem.
Like most parents, I live in the dual spaces of ecstatic joy and plodding effortfullness. Working at getting things done that a parent needs to get done, as if that is somehow the purpose of living…getting things done. The decades long process of raising a child puts one at constant risk for the loss of spontaneity and play. Replaced with talking at and lists. Do this. Do that. Get it done. And for whom? Whose lists are these anyway?
We become calliopes of demand, honking and clanging at our children, fueled by consumerism, and success panic, leading ultimately to what? Task master as love? Doing as being? Leaving, most likely. The empty nest. The goodbye.
I saw it in my exhausted departure from my own mother’s house. We finally released our mutual choke hold when I turned eighteen and I walked out to a friend’s car to disappear from her orderly life. Not remotely prepared for the world, but going anyway. She has not really seen me since. A few moments of connection, honest moments I can count on one hand.
There is the pang of missed opportunities that remains across across all the years, a generations old emotional stone that spreads its chilly ripples as I struggle to be a lively engaged parent to my son. What’s the use? Its going to go to shit. Arguments about car keys and back talk. The shattering of increasingly brittle trust and paths that lead to darkened emotional spaces, dirty and disorganized. Leave the lights off. It’s better not looking.
And then I see him laughing, and I’m laughing too. We’re across from each other on a chilly morning in December, just days ago, our knees touching. A warm cup in my hand. The floor cluttered with cast off items and wadded paper. The table piled with drawings and plates, log jams of colored pencils. The explosive laughter grows as we realize the second, the third layer of the joke, seeing that realization blooming in each others eyes. Oh man, RIGHT NOW we’re never gone. So hard to remember. So hard to declare.
We can be grief-stricken animals if we let fear be our lead story. Loss becomes our only valid sign post for living. Loss is our marker that something real has happened. And so, our future is irrevocably defined by the events of our past when we had no choice, no control.
Well, piss on that. Okay? I’m just gonna say it.
Because inside me, when I fall into that funerary mindset, that rainy droning burial of my child’s hopes, my anger rises to meet it. My son has the courage to laugh. My son has a light in his eyes that startles me with its intensity, humor, mischievous joy and strength of will. My son sings, “get up, stand up” and dances across the living room.
And in a flash, I follow my anger up and out. What the hell? For my my sweet laughing wife. For my son, bright eyed and beautifully chaos smitten. For every child standing in the shadow of judgement and policing, I follow it up. My anger is my shield and my sword against the stupid, repeating, idiotic stories of failure we cut our milk teeth on. Enough, of that bullshit.
So forget the departures. The bleak conjuring of crushed bicycles and police tape or the cold loss of alienation. Whatever is coming is coming. Shake your fist at “what’s coming”. And turn your attention to now. Right now.
Hold your child close and tell him/her loud and clear. “I love you. I love you so much, I can’t stand it!”
They’ll know exactly what you mean. They always do.
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Remaking Manhood is a collection of Mark Greene’s most widely shared articles on American culture, relationships, family and parenting. It is a timely and balanced look at the issues at the heart of the modern masculinity movement. Mark’s articles on masculinity and manhood have received over 100,000 FB shares and 10 million page views. Get Remaking Manhood IN PRINT or on the free Kindle Reader app for any Mac, Windows or Android device here.