He arrived, a reluctant demon, loath to be exorcised from his unwilling host. He ripped, he tore, he kicked. He used his substantial size to terrorize and in the end, after the body of the possessed was spent…exhausted…completely beaten down in battle, he decided…maybe being born is an okay idea after all!
Today (actually Sunday but I'm late posting as usual) marks the 25th anniversary of the birth of my first-born. After doing his very best to kill me, and only succeeding in wounds that would eventually heal, this scrunched up, red faced, nine-and-a-half pound, pointy-headed little egg roll was laid on my chest. I took one look at him…. and understood what perfection was.
My perfect baby Ryan, whose name means little king, remained perfect. He slept, he ate, he laughed…. exactly when he was supposed to. Okay, except for those 6 months after his little brother was born when he saw that his kingdom was in great danger from a usurper and his head spun around 12 times, his eyes rolled to the back of his head and he transformed from royal prince back to demon again…. but only for 6 months. He returned to his state of perfection as soon as he was reasonably sure he had squashed the insurrection and had simply gained a new subject.
The problem with first-born children (and perhaps all…I’m just speaking from experience) is not their problem at all. It’s the problem of their parents. From the moment they arrive, we praise, we clap, we encourage by using words like perfect, and marvelous, and wonderful and again, perfect. There is nothing they can’t do, and we are quick to take note and share their most amazing accomplishments with all who will listen. …and if they don’t do it, we let them know, in no uncertain terms, that they a perfectly capable of perfection. We expect it. And soon they become very aware that it’s required of them.
But the day comes when they simply can’t live up. It might be grades, it might be personality, it might be sports ability…whatever, and the non-stop clapping diminishes. The words of encouragement are replaced often with words of disappointment. They’re not sure how it happened but they know that they are falling from grace.
I’m overstating my case a bit because, in fact, we really don’t expect our children to be faultless human beings. We are doing these things to encourage them to be the best they can be. And with first children we are so in awe, so sure that we have actually produced the greatest ________ (you fill in the blank: President of the United States, nuclear physicist, classical composer, painter….) that was ever born. And because we’re brand new at this whole parenting thing and want to make sure the next_________ is properly nurtured, we go just a little over the top!
I was a first child. I really had a perfect childhood. But the day came when I realized I wasn’t the most beautiful, intelligent, funny child that ever walked the earth. I was just a normal kid like everyone else. Algebra was my first hint at that…. French class, my second! The list after that is just too long. And I spent the rest of my school years…and still continue today…waiting to disappoint, though desperately not wanting to. Waiting to fail someone… parents, teachers, friends, bosses, co-workers. Anyone who expected more of me when I couldn’t or wouldn’t comply. Eventually, I stopped trying and just rebelled against the whole stupid nonsense.
My perfect son reached that point, like many others, when he hit late Junior High. And I was hard on him. The more I expressed my disappointment, the more he rebelled. And I knew exactly what he was doing…I did it myself. But I never relented. Mostly.
I’m not sure if I’m any smarter today or if I would be capable of doing things differently. I know I would try. But I, as all other parents, did what I thought was the right thing; the best thing for my child.
For that reason, I can’t apologize to my son for all my faults and transgressions as his parent. His turn may come and he too, like all of us, will struggle with the what ifs and how tos. And he will do his best, like the rest of us.
So today, his birthday…a time when I always spend prolonged moments reflecting about the day of his birth…all his subsequent birthdays and the wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) days in between, I want to say one thing to my little prince…my little demon.
You are still as perfect to me as you were that first moment and you always have been. Not because of what you do and how well you do it, but just because you are. Well, that and the fact that you’ve grown into a man of imagination, creativity, thoughtfulness, resourcefulness, talent, intelligence, curiosity and humanity. As I knew you would.
I will always be possessed by the perfection of your spirit.
Happy Birthday my sweet.