My son starts school today. There is little fanfare when you are “middle school, been-there-done-that.” And yet, we still had an exciting morning of early alarms, first day photos, hurried breakfasts, good-luck hugs, and rushing to the bus stop. There will be old friends and teachers to see, new friends and teachers to meet. Familiar hallways, different classrooms.
It is a time when anything – and everything – seems possible.
In reality, it is the calm before the storm. Within days, we will rush through homework and dinner to attend sports practices. Weekends will be filled with more practices and games. There will be deadlines to meet, schedules to follow, and stress to bear. But within the chaos, all will seem predictable and safe.
At least I hope so.
More and more as a parent, I find myself wishing for an easier time. When I was my son’s age, life seemed simpler. Yes, there were problems. After all, it was the early eighties. The war on drugs was beginning. Jobs were lost. The Cold War was in full swing. People were abused, abducted, and killed in senseless crimes. Families were broken. Yet the troubles then did not seem so great compared to what we face now.
Maybe it is because I was just a kid myself. Maybe it is our globalized worldview or the pervasive 24/7 news cycle. Perhaps the blame can be put on technology and social media.
Maybe, just maybe, it is the same as it ever was.
All I know is this: I worry more. About human trafficking, opioid overdoses, nuclear war, economic instability, cyberbullying, hate groups, terrorist attacks. Everything seems so intense right now. And though I am typically optimistic, I feel stuck in a never-ending state of frustration. Frustrated the fear of what might never happen is taking over the joy of what is actually right in front of me.
I wish my son could experience a world free of heartache or pain. One void of ideological division and without violence or war. But in truth the world has never been like that.
As parents, we are tasked with so much it is easy to become trapped in the sheer overwhelmingness of it all. Advice comes from every side, as does the criticism. We want to be informed, do everything “right” so we might avoid mistakes and judgment. That, of course, is impossible. We will never know everything. We will fail (a lot) and sometimes be judged. That is parenting.
In the end, our sole purpose is to raise compassionate, self-sufficient, productive adults. And while we do that, we are to provide a soft spot to fall.
And so, this school year I will focus on bringing peace to my own little world. I will allow my son to be a kid awhile longer, to linger in the innocence of a life where the only worry is whether his baseball game gets rained out. There will be plenty of time to fear things when he is an adult, a parent.
For now, I will simply continue to …
-provide a haven, a safe place where he can freely discover who he is and who he hopes to be.
-encourage him to open his wings and spread them as wide as they go so he can explore.
-show him there is more good in this world than evil even when others try to convince us otherwise.
-set an example by treating people with patience and respect regardless of what they do or believe.
-remind him to be kind, embrace differences, and lift others up.
I will continue to tell my son …
-when everything seems wrong, seek what is right.
-if something bad happens, counter it with good.
-when someone else runs from a challenge, walk toward it.
-if others are selfish, give of yourself.
-when seeking direction, be the leader.
Show this world that you will not give up. You will not give up on yourself. You will not give up on others. You will not give up on happiness. You will not give up on peace. You will never give up. Because even though life outside may seem cruel and unfair, the world you create inside – for yourself – can be one of joy.
CREATE YOUR OWN WORLD. One where you feel …
SAFE. Surround yourself with people who care about you.
LOVE. Give your heart to those who cherish you.
CONFIDENCE. Spend time with people who encourage you.
VALUE. Be with those who appreciate you.
PRIDE. Find the people who support you.
WORTH. Determine your own standard.
CONNECTION. Share your time and energy with people who deserve it.
ACCEPTANCE. Befriend those who respect you.
In the quiet moments, when I wonder if I am doing too little or making the wrong choice, I will be sure of one thing. I loved my son more than enough. I loved him without question or condition. I loved him with my whole heart and beyond. I loved him so much that I wanted him to thrive in an imperfect world so he might one day be the change and the light to drive out darkness whenever it came.
The world I want for my son is the one he creates.
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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE