Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day 178: Story Time

Who doesn't love a good story. It's why we go the movies and watch our favorite shows, and it keeps the pages of a good book turning even when our eyelids are heavy.

We're drawn to tales of adventure, romance, fantasy and even danger because they take us to a place where we can live vicariously through the characters. We can feel and do without limitation. We can try on roles and relationships we'd never experience in real life. And all without any of the risk that comes along with actually feeling and doing.

But what happens when we are the characters?

It's sobering to think that I'm the primary author of my boys' beginnings. Because the tale I want them to tell when they look back and the way they're stories are playing out in the present are sometimes two very different things.

Of course there are the good days which could be recounted nostalgically: My mom was so loving and patient. She really cared about how I felt and what I needed, and she was always connected, never too busy. She let me explore and discover, and she encouraged my curiosity and creativity even when it wasn't convenient for her. Our relationship was more important to her than anything else.

And then there are the bad days: My mom was angry a lot. She was impatient with me when I was still learning, and sometimes she would yell even though I didn't know what I had done wrong. She was more concerned about me making a mess or breaking something than about the fun I would have or the amazing things I would learn taking risks and thinking outside the box. I felt like I couldn't do anything quite right.

Being an imperfect person, and an intense one at that, I don't see the former in our future. And I pray that the bad days are few enough that they won't be the only ones that color the boys' impressions of childhood.

But where in the middle we fall is still unknown. Because the rest of their stories are unwritten.

Every day, every interaction, every moment is a chance for me to show them that loving and patient mother...or not. And all those experiences, good and bad, are compiling on the pages of their lives, no matter how badly I want my apologies, tears, hugs, and kisses to erase some of them. And they too, will be unable to change these chapters.

As I write on my own blank pages now, I'm very aware of the effect my beginning still has on me. The positive things written for me as a child far outweigh the negative, but still I find myself longing to go back and dab a little whiteout on the smudges. Just enough so that the struggles I have now are a little less and so the hold those experiences have on me loosens enough for me to escape their repetition.

But as much as it pains the editor in me to admit it, all the chapters written up until this very moment are already printed. For them and for me. The only power I have to change them now is to alter how I let them influence me today. And on the bad days, it's some comfort to know that my boys will have the same opportunity.

As they slowly take over the authoring of their own stories, they'll get to choose to let the negative shape them or guide them toward better things. My only hope is that the positive words I write on their opening pages will make it far easier for them to do just that.

Life is no fairytale, but a happy ending is possible for every one of us if we choose to write it that way. So as I do my best to pen happiness and love into their lives, I'll also remember that they're watching what I do with less-than-perfect. Am I showing them that I can write happiness and love into my own life?

1 comment:

  1. Ah, I try to model my parenting by how I would love my children to remember what kind of parent I was when they were children (and then teenagers, young adults...) in 20 years or more. It is still difficult to fight against the natural tendency to try to control the children, but at least I can see my goal :-)