Erik Larson

Sep 28, 2009

Children

There is this inescapable fact of the children. Whatever lives we dream for ourselves and whatever talents and aims we might pursue, it’s a precept we share, each generation from the last, that our own children ought to have access to these fruits in kind. And the stark reality of parenthood is that in a child’s formative years it is only or at least mainly through parents’ effort and committment that they are prepared to face for themselves adulthood, and to some day light whatever fires of discovery and success they might imagine on their own. We take this awful burden upon ourselves from the moment of their conception.

And so a man convinced of his own talents and driven to fulfill them may well find himself giving short shrift to his very offspring. He makes a Faustian bargain that he tries to deny, but of course can’t. It’s aways possible that his own talents might better have been used, for some general good, if he spent his precious time more with his sons and daughters than with himself. And so for those of us who see in the future only the completion of our own projects, we can’t escape knowledge of all those minutes, hours, days, and months withheld from our children. Their voices and desires and tears haunt us. And in these quiet moments of honesty we know that we can’t just “have it all”. We will choose.

A person who stifles his personal dreams for his family may end up with nothing much at all. A person who turns away his family may end up the same. Many people, aware to various degrees of this conundrum, spread everything around into a dull uniformity, a kind of feel-good hedging of the future. I had a good job. I was a decent husband. Blah. Blah. Mediocrity. Some are honest enought to see a choice; God laughs at these people even while I think he loves them, for the choice is impossible to make without gouching deep and inexorably into our souls. We do not know what grows from the seeds that we sow. We will never, once parents, choose our future path with the freedom and innocence we once knew.