Remembering the fury, it is up to us, even
Though we feel small compared to the loose
Ocean, to keep sailing and not land,
And figure out what to say to our children.
– from “On the Oregon Coast” by Robert Bly
There has been a lot of flying in my life recently. It used to be that I could read, or sleep, through a take-off and landing, and sometimes much of the flight. But since 9/11, with each take-off and landing, there is some involuntary thought about the horrifying things that can still happen to people who wake up in the morning with no awareness about what the day will bring, who think it’s going to be just another flight, or drive to work, or morning jog and are unaccountably surprised by something terrible.
I’m spending this week in California with the Deacon and Deaconess, and their two beautiful girls. It is hard, at times, to love a child and also hold an awareness of what the world is and what can happen in it. What do we tell children about that, when we tell them anything at all?
Last year, the night I got robbed on a street corner, I came home and watched a video of my niece, Elisa, taking her first steps. I must have watched it seven or eight times that night before finally falling asleep. It wasn’t that it made me feel any better about the world. It just reminded me of the kind of joy that, remarkably, is still possible, given everything. And watching her parents this week, it seems to me that getting that reminder daily is part of what makes the exhaustion of parenthood navigable. As such, perhaps it’s less a matter of what we say to the children, more a matter of what they say to us.