Thursday, September 21, 2006

Where dreams go to die...




Of all the things I remember, that first morning I ever held you, what looms largest was tucking your tiny fingers, coiled around one finger, into my palm. You were so strong, so vitally aware, and I thought that was likely the norm for babies. Later I'd learn it wasn't always like that, but more just who you are.


Like all first-time parents, my pledge was to always take care of you, to take up for you, be your champion and friend, keep anyone else from hurting you, ever. All the normal stuff, probably. And I remember being terrified, just flat-out petrified, 21 years old, virtually clueless.

You were the first person I ever met who was actually related to me. It was weird, seeing my own facial features reflected back, for the very first time. I just knew you were going to be inquisitive, smart, a reader, a thinker, intense...and strong.

Thankfully, you are just those things.

The plan was, at that moment, sun streaming through a dingy hospital window, your tufty little fuzzy head leaning on my shoulder, for you to surpass me. To leave behind in the dustbin of history whatever recessive gene or defects we, your parents, might have passed along that made neither of us live up to our full potential, so that you wouldn't struggle as hard as we'd had to to that point.

Today, that plan officially failed, 17 years later. And while I can accept you having a future you choose -- everyone deserves that much in life, even if we all don't get just that -- I can't help but feel terrible about it on some levels.

Which is worse, I wonder: having a parent who respects your individuality and autonomy, within reason, or parents who guilt, manipulate and force you to try and cram your square self into their round hole? I've only lived one of them, and you've lived the other. Hard to tell.

You say right now you will get your GED eventually. You'll enroll in E-COTT in the meantime, work more, get your license, get an apartment. Great. I worry, though, what lies between the saying and completion. It's never been your strong suit. In fact, less so with you than either your father or myself. We both learned of its necessity. You're still focused on the glittering promise of it all, blinded by the hope rather than burdened by the actual work of it.

I never imagined turning you in to the truancy board, back when you were 21 inches long, newly minted, beautiful in your tiny perfection. But I never imagined a number of things that've happened, like everyone else, I suppose.

It's true: I feel as though I've failed you. Still, in my heart, I know you've failed you much more than anyone else.

Just as I once imagined, you are brilliant. If we had a dime for every time a teacher has said that to us, we'd be living in a mansion - and every word of it was true. You're some other things, too, that I never was: unbelievably stubborn, unmalleable, stalwart. Not sure yet if that will serve you better than what being the exact opposite of those things has served me. Suppose either end of the spectrum is probably bad, in its own way.

I do know, my darling once-baby, you've just chosen what may be the hardest path to start out the gate with and one I'd never choose for you. Know how hard it is even with a diploma and a degree. But, fundamentally, it's your choice, your life, your music to dance to. I can only join in when requested, hold your hand when needed and love you, no matter what.

And so, I do. Even if right now, you might believe otherwise.




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