At work I joke a good bit about our roles as "Section Leaders." It's a typical retail scenario: we bring in product according to projected sales based on a percentage increase compared to previous sales...blah blah blah. It's all very technical, and not, at the same time. Essentially, I try to fill shelves, have extras to keep shelves full when they sell down, and push sales by having the right products in abundance. So when things sell better than expected and our shelves look cruddy, I like to say "it's a tough racket this whole 'predicting the future' thing." It's a good one, people love it.
As the parent of a 2 year old, I feel like I actually can predict the future sometimes. I make sure the cup of juice is in the center of the table...otherwise it will end up spilled on the floor. I put the cookies in the cupboard after a late night binge...otherwise they will be obsessed over when seen first thing in the morning. I put the safety on the chainsaw...otherwise...no that one's a joke! But you get the picture. There's a language that cause-and-effect speaks and parenthood allows you to decipher it in a way that perhaps nothing else can. Not just because getting juice stains out of the carpet is a pain-in-the-neck, but because consoling a child who's hurt herself doing something you could have prevented feels rotten.
The other day I was talking with a friend about her teenage daughter and the complications that have followed since that simple term teenager was applied. She was lamenting the paralysis she's felt watching her daughter make choices she doesn't see as best for her, but knowing any advice or consultation might be ill-received simply because she's Mom. Attempting every day to convey her availability, she patiently waits to be invited into the emotional whirlwind guiding her beloved's decisions; hoping to rejoice when they allow compassion and justice to prevail, console when they do not, or simply hold when these triumph but still break her baby's heart.
What happens when the person dearest to us asks for our silence when we can so clearly see the future of their decisions?
Years ago I brought a girl home to meet my parents over Christmas. I was clearly smitten with this girl and had just months prior uprooted my life and moved across the country to be near her. Convinced she was the one, I wanted my family to meet-the-hell-out-of-her and prepare for our inevitable future together. As young romances often turn out, she ended up breaking my heart and pulling tears out of me in a way I never thought possible. After I was able to function like a regular person again my parents confessed they immediately felt something was off about her, like she was hiding something. My sister felt it too. And as I learned, she was hiding something. Last night I called my folks to see if they remembered these early feelings and whether or not they wished they'd said something to try and help me avoid the heartache that eventually followed. My mom said she and Dad agreed they'd honor my freedom to choose who to love, regardless of their reservations. And so they held me when I chose the very path they'd suspected might hurt me.
Two years and five months into parenthood I can't begin to imagine holding my tongue when I see danger down the road. Likewise, I can't quite imagine the sorrow that must come with wiping away tears when that danger proves harmful. Luckily, I have plenty of time to listen to those before me who've survived their vows of holy silence.