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Pushin’ a Rock

There are times in the life of any parent, or so I would suppose, when the daily struggle to raise a child — or in my case MANY children — to a happy and fulfilled adulthood becomes a Sisyphean task. There are only so many times one can engage in yet another battle over the pointless — “Fine! Just give me the toy and then no one will play with it!” — or a war of the absurd — “Well, just how exactly is he looking at you funny? No, I’m not really seeing it…Look, could you please stop looking at your brother funny?…Okay? Happy now?” – before Camus’ jaundiced view of an unintelligible world begins to seem sensible, almost rosy. After all, with his worldview, there’s no point in worrying about success or failure — both hold no meaning — we are simply to take pleasure in each day’s activities, however fruitless.

Fortunately, I do believe that what we do today is significant not only in the here and now, but also in the distant future. And so it really is important that I do the right thing. It matters whether or not I discover which button to push with each child. How to motivate this one to a greater generosity of spirit, this one to better decision making, and instill in them all the social skills and graces necessary for them to one day navigate unassisted from the point of waking to the blessed relief of sleep.

It’s daunting, to put it mildly. Especially when I really, truly have no idea what I’m doing.

With three out of four of my children, I can indulge in a bit of back-patting. Smiling my modest Mona Lisa smile in the face of praise from teachers, caregivers and friends. “Well, we do try,” I say, casting my eyes down. Then meekly adding, “But really so much is simply how he came into this world.” Cue the self-deprecating grin, aaaaaand…scene.┬áHonestly, I’m very good at modesty when I think about it hard enough.

But with the fourth, I’m at a loss. The struggle is constant with the rewards fleeting — often erased mere moments after they’ve been achieved by yet another glaring failure. It’s all a phase, we tell ourselves. He’ll grow out of it, and then we’ll find ourselves laughing over all this. We experiment with a few awkward titters. A brittle giggle cracks and breaks into an embarrassed cough.

And still we soldier on. Because leading a child from boyhood to manhood is a privilege, a sacred honor, and (most of the time) a joy. Nonetheless, I think I may begin collecting door stops, cinder blocks and cross-ties. Because once we do get these boulders to the top of that hill, I’ll be damned if they get a chance to roll back down again.

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2 Responses

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  1. Barbara says

    Oh, honey, there’s not a parent alive that hasn’t pushed that rock at one time or another. Rest assured that most of them turn into actual, functioning adults. The ratio of sons who turn into sociopaths is small, very small. You’re a good mom.

  2. jodi says

    Thanks, Barbara. I try to keep telling myself that. :)



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