By now you have probably read this amazing piece, which is spreading virally: Notes From a Dragon Mom. If you haven't, please click over to read it now. It's written by the mother of a child who is dying.
The line that hit me the hardest is this:
"And there’s this: parents who, particularly in this country, are expected to be superhuman, to raise children who outpace all their peers, don’t want to see what we see. The long truth about their children, about themselves: that none of it is forever."
That is, I think, what is the what.
I am planning a small, simple birthday party for my grandmother, who has Alzheimer's. We are getting together in the common room of her facility for coffee and cake. It will be a beautiful cake. I asked my friend, who has the best bakery in Toledo, to do something delicate and flowery and old-fashioned. Something ladylike. And we've invited her friends, and my children will be there, and we'll give her presents.
It is not so much, but it's what she will like. She's not my same grandmother anymore. She knows who I am (although she sometimes thinks I'm her daughter, not her granddaughter) and she loves me, but she's not the same. She used to be curious and sarcastic. Now she is tentative and quiet. She still hugs me tightly.
None of it is forever.
I decided to make something of myself. I moved, and I work a lot, and I'm in a demanding grad school program that is forcing me to learn about net present values and VUT formulas and cost systems. When I decided that I wasn't just a mom, just a divorcee, just someone who'd failed, I stepped off the cliff. Stepping off was terrifying, but essentially effortless. Everything that's come after has been more hard work than I've ever done before. More hard work than I thought I could do.
I am doing it for myself. But I am also doing it for my children. A little bit because I like to give them material security after never having it (they didn't realize, but I did). But mostly because I want them to see that you can choose your own course. You can be good at something. You can go from thinking you suck to knowing you are worth being wooed.
I can't make my children happy. I can't make myself happy. I can only keep trying to be useful, and to show my children that they can be useful. Why are we here, if not to help each other? This business school curriculum is making me examine the idea of value. Is it something to be increased at all costs for the shareholders? That, I would argue, is not value, any more than doing everything right for your children, everything that increases their brain power and health and ability to fall asleep at the right time in the right place, is worth all that effort.
None of it is forever.
One of the ideas we've been working on in my program is that value is something to be created for all to enjoy, that value is for all the stakeholders, not just the shareholders. (This does not preclude making a profit, any more than science and faith preclude each other.) Work is good. Creating things is good. We build because we're human, and we can.
In the same way, we parent because we can. And we do it as we go, with love. No business plan–a mission statement instead. Success is not measured by what our children become, but by who we let them be now and by who we let ourselves be now. We hold on loosely to create the ties that bind.
None of it is forever. Except love.