We were chatting with my grandparents. My dad, hovering in the background behind them, had taught his parents how to use Skype and was eager to show off his newest grandchild. Miriam, wide awake, vacillated between staring at the pretty bright screen and tilting her wobbly head up at me.
“You,” Grandpa added, his speech impaired from a recent stroke, “are –” (pause) “everything to her.”
How true that is. We are our children’s everything. The conduits through which they understand and pass into the world and into heaven.
I was reminded of this when Ben and I returned from our recent trip to Oregon. Being the start of the school year, my husband had stayed behind to work, and while Ben behaved well on our trip, his mild crankiness toward the end told me that he missed his dad. Upon our return, as we turned the corner around the security gates and exited Grand Rapids airport’s A-Concourse, Ben spotted Jared and ran — sprinted — to him and his waiting arms.
His eyes locked on his dad, Ben exclaimed, “Mama, Dada, Ben-Ben, Piggy!” (He was holding his stuffed pig.)
In other words, after a week of separation, his whole world was restored.
I hope I always remember this concrete example of the sacred trust we parents have in the gift of our children. It’s too easy for me to be caught up in affairs outside their purview. But for my children, my very young children, everything they do right now refers back to us in some way. We are their pole star.
The debates we have over marriage and family — the endless prattle of pundits, politicians, and pop psychologists — must begin with this in mind. The reality of a child’s family is their ultimate reality and the foundation of their entire understanding. Too often we selfish adults think only of ourselves in the decisions we make. But the words our children cannot voice must reverberate and guide the course of our grownup decisions:
“You — are — everything to her.”