Raising children is complicated. Or is it? The first pediatrician our children had said something so profound to my wife and I when our oldest was only weeks old. “Forget the videos and all the other stuff. Your only job for the next two years is to keep this baby boy alive.”
She could see it in our eyes. The questions. The doubt. The planning. Were we living in the best neighborhood for our child? What would we do about elementary school (five years away)? What about the latest craze in infant in-home-caretaking, the “Baby-Einstein” videos? She had seen it countless times before, the cataracts of being a new parent blurring our vision of what was really important.
What she did not realize was the influence she would have on me all these years later. Almost 18 years into this journey of parenthood as I’ve found myself in dozens of scenarios where I’ve been at my wit’s end with the sense I would never be able to keep my head above water in the tumultuous emotional rapids of child-rearing I would hear that pediatrician’s voice, “Just keep this baby boy alive.”
I could easily retort, “it’s more complicated than that,” but I would always ask myself, “is it really?” Every time my grasp of my own emotional self-preservation life raft felt at its end, and I would remind myself about just keeping my son alive, I would also remind myself my son is on his own journey: I just happen to be his lifeguard for the first few chapters.
And what made me reach those moments of feeling like raising my son had become too complicated? Every single time it was because I was either trying to make his journey my journey, or influence his journey to meet my expectations regarding which branch of the river he should choose to negotiate. When I take my desires, and expectations out of raising my kids it becomes pretty easy.
I mean, it’s just that easy. Or is it?