There isn’t another experience in my life that has brought me as much joy and satisfaction as parenting.
There also isn’t another experience that has caused me so much anguish and so many sleepless nights. Parenting is the most penetrating form of love imaginable. Raising children with both parents present, in this troubled world, is no easy task and single parenting is substantially more demanding. There is chaos and calm that comes with loving our children so fervently, moments when the world seems to spiral out of control and moments when everything is inexplicably at peace.
Last Thursday, when the house was finally quiet, I slumped into a small heap in the corner of the front porch. I stayed there, in the darkness, waiting for the heavy confusion to pass. Inside my brain, it felt like there was a one handed juggler, trying to keep a hundred iron balls in the air—work, finances, two teenage sons, illness in the family, career change looming, unfinished creative projects—I could not even control my own thoughts, much less the disordered pieces of my life. I don’t want perfection for my kids, but I want them to live in a stable, supportive home. How can I provide that for them when I am reduced to a mound of angst on the floor?
Found during a parent’s meeting at my younger son, Dylan’s, school. After a couple of rough years dealing with the separation and divorce, he is in a solid groove. His grade average is 87%, one of the best in the class. The teacher’s only complaint is that he sometimes roughhouses with the other boys in the class. I smile obligingly at this grievance. Dylan is bursting with pride when I hand him his report card. We go out to lunch together and talk about batting averages and the secret to throwing a perfect slider.
My oldest son, Ramón is off course. He should be in his second year of university, but he is floundering, leaving a wake of unfulfilled goals behind him. I am breathless from offering him so much useless advice and counseling; only he can navigate through his own indecision. I do the good cop-bad cop routine with him all by myself. Some days I find creative words of encouragement and motivation, other days I just want to kick him in the tail.
It has been a particularly grueling week at work and I am just starting the three hour drive home, from the mountains in northern Nicaragua. Ramón calls and asks what he should make for supper. I give him a few ideas and make a conscious decision to enjoy every mile of the journey, particularly the clouds that have absorbed the color of eggplants with the fading light of dusk. When I get home, Ramón has made rice, red beans, fried plantain and sliced tomatoes. The three of us eat together and make plans to go to the movies over the weekend.
There is no one else. Parenting should be a sort of tag team event, one covering the others back when fatigue sets in. But I look to my corner and there is no one there, so I dive back in. Some days I would love to come home and have someone to cook supper with, to shake off the day, to talk about trees, clouds, hope and despair. I would love to melt into another soul, symbiotically, so we could figure out the whole mess together. For now, it’s just me, iron balls in the air, angst on the floor and questions with no answers.
There is no one else. I am free to figure this whole mess out on my own, with no contradictions and no interference. I can come up with my own recipe for creating compassionate, conscientious human beings. I can change the ingredients at will and there is no one to tell that it is too sweet, too salty or spicy enough to burn like passion. I can use raw, fresh ingredients in this recipe- love, courage, tolerance, patience, kindness and responsibility. These flavors will seep into their lives and help them to find their own purpose. I am confident that they will impact this world and the lives they touch positively, thoroughly.
There is no one else, just me. Father-mother, mother-father, wandering through a labyrinth of chaos and calm.
Author: Peter Schaller
Editor: Renee Jahnke