for when you're older

June 23, 2011

dear jude,

my goals as your parent are to help you learn, protect you from crazy stuff, and arm you to cope with your life ahead. i'd like to keep you safe and raise you to use your brain critically... and maybe to be a creative liberal, that would be spectacular. but there's something more about that– if you didn't turn out to be a left-leaning nerdy art person... well that would be ok too. it would be more than ok, it would be great! if that's who you are you should be it without a glance in my direction.

i don't have a lot of expectations of who you will be or what you will do on the long road ahead. my greatest hope is that you will find the things you love, whatever they may be, and pursue them and be wildly irrationally happy. i hope there's love for you, like i've found with dad. a partner, a friend to bring on adventures and to run errands and buy soap. beyond those two bright thoughts the path ahead is up to you. they aren't my dreams of the future, they'll be yours.

know that i don't expect you to be any certain way. just yourself, healthy and happy. you have your own path to walk and mistakes to make that will shape you to be a man. without mistakes we don't grow, i make plenty of my own. i might not always agree with what you do but don't confuse "mistakes" for disappointment. it all rolls up into who you are, and who you are is pretty awesome. learning about being human is hard.

i tell you this because once you become an adult you'll see a whole world of people who live in the shadow of their families, trying to live up to someone else's expectations and ambitions. guilt pain and fear become the binding chains of relationships. my greatest possible fear is that no more than those brittle bonds will hold our family together. i'm sure i'll mess things up as we go along, in my own way, i'm not as naive as all that. but i'm ever so aware of those chains and i hope desperately to work our way out of their reach.

most importantly: you don't owe me a thing. i didn't become a parent to put you into emotional debt. i did it because i wanted to. pure love and obligation are at odds with one another and i genuinely don't believe they can coexist. guilt and requirement are burdens that coerce and taint our relationships. i love you more truly than you can imagine, and for that reason i don't want to hold your affection ransom.

and if, at some point on your journey, being fulfilled means leaving me behind don't look back. it is the ultimate culmination of parenthood to step back and watch your child walk forward on their own. every moment drives towards it, every lesson i share with you is endless preparation for making myself obsolete. i give you the skills so that one day you will no longer need me; the brightest and darkest moment of all.

and if, one day much later, you come back to visit me and call me mama in a moment of ancient affection for all the long miles we've gone together and the hard work done, the cuddles and hugs and the fights and apologies– that would make my heart sing. but do it because you feel it, because you want to, not because you have to.

all my love,
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