Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We never know what kiss will awaken a child

Here is another of the columns I wrote about my daughter when I worked for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Her birthday is Friday. This was published on August 23, 1985.


In the Walt Disney movie Sleeping Beauty, baby Princess Aurora is visited by her fairy godmothers, each of whom gives her a gift.

They give wonderful things, such as the gift of beauty, and song. I always loved that scene, because
I thought it was the dream of all parents - to know what wonderful gifts your child possessed. Even when the scene was interrupted by the wicked Maleficent, I still felt that Aurora's parents had the better of it.

Maleficent, in a fit of rage, cursed the child so she would prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die. However, one of the good little godmothers hadn't given Aurora her gift yet and so was able to mitigate the curse. Aurora still would prick her finger, but she wouldn't die. She would simply sleep until awakened by true love's kiss.

But as bad as that still was, at least Aurora’s parents had some idea of what to expect.

What parents wouldn't like even a small clue as to what gifts were embodied in their child and what the future holds for her or him?

Unlike Aurora's parents, we can only wait to see what gifts will emerge in our children. We have to await patiently the unveiling of the marvelous secrets they hold within.

Twenty years ago today, a nurse handed me a tiny bundle whose eyes and fists were so tightly shut I was convinced they never would open. No sooner had the door shut behind her, though, than those fists unclenched and one tiny hand closed around my little finger. At the same time, those eyes opened and I found myself looking into the bluest blue eyes I had seen up to then, or since.

And I fell instantly, irrevocably, head-over-heels. sky-rockets-and-brass-bands, earth-shakingly, totally, in love.

She and I looked at each other for a long time. I don't know what she saw, but I saw the most magnificent blending of her father and me that could be imagined. Somehow, the best of both of us had gone into her making and out of two such different people had come this unique individual.

Some of the gifts became visible early on. Even as a small child, she could draw well. She understood color and line and space early, and it shows in her artwork, in her room and in her clothes.

She has a stubborn streak that is serving her better all the time as she figures out how to manage it. She has an uncanny instinct about people, and I've learned to pay attention to her first impressions. She loves animals, music, family gatherings when her uncles start telling jokes, and fast cars.

She has a generous spirit, and no meanness exists in her soul. She is gentle and can tell a joke well. She is loyal and will brook no slight to those she loves. She is a good letter-writer and loves to read.
She already knows how to forgive and is learning patience.

I'm not saying Maleficent left her alone. She doesn't leave anyone alone. She moves about, playing tricks on us all, dealing out a short temper here, giving out selfishness there, and robbing most of us of the ability to see our gifts.

This last is Maleficent’s favorite trick, I suspect. All people, with the exception of a lucky few, have to fight through lack of belief in themselves before they can become comfortable in the world. Some never make it and go through life convinced they are impostors, undeserving of the success they've achieved.

If I had three wishes to give our children, t would give them the ability to believe in themselves, to see the gifts they already possess and to be open to those gifts that haven’t fully revealed themselves to them yet.

But when the babies arrive, there aren't any fairy godmothers, and there aren't any instructions. We parents have to simply do the best we can with what we have at the time.

So it happens that when parents think of their children, our minds form that eternal parental question: How goes it with the child?

As I consider my child on the 20th anniversary of her birth, I realize that there is never going to be an answer to that question for me.

The only answer that matters has to come from her, for her.

The hard truth is, no parent can provide the kiss, the answer that will awaken the child's sleeping self.

Parents can only provide an atmosphere in which the kiss can happen that brings the child into full awareness of her or his or her capabilities.

But there are some gifts we can give them. One is keeping quiet so they will have a chance to hear that answer when it comes.

And the other is to let them know they are loved, that they do not sleep unguarded.

Happy birthday, my darling. 

No comments: