She takes my hand as we walk, and it’s enough to recalibrate true north. I look down at her, regretful about the past hour, about the low parenting moments sandwiching everything I wished I could be. Why did I snap like that? Why am I not present? Why can’t I cope with this? Why am I not better for them? We walk in silence, hand in hand, and the simple feeling of her small hand resting in mine feels holy somehow, lifts me from my guilt, invisible to the stranger passing by but the shift feels the size of a mountain inside. And then at once, she lifts my hand to her face and kisses it. Lowers it back. Keeps on walking.
And in that moment I heard ‘I forgive you’, ‘you are enough’.
I fall into the trap of thinking I need to be perfect for them more than I even realise. Perhaps the overarching story I tell myself is that I need to be perfect in order to be loved period. That mistakes and wrongdoings will stack themselves one by one into a tower one day sure to fall, obliterating me from anyone I ever loved.
Obliterating me from anyone I’ve not loved, even.
Loveability at all costs from all people.
But goodness, these children teach me a different way.
Their age affords them the ability to be quick to forgive, to prioritize harmonious relationships over judgement and separation, to define what unconditional love looks like. And I’m grateful for the cushioning it provides, because the grace they grant me is such a force that it completely spills over me. Teaches me a greater love to bring to my marriage and my relationships. Allows me a resting place to be who I am. Blasts the word ‘perfect’ right out of the water. Weaves me into the accepting web of these three people my entire soul is gratified to call Family.
Perhaps our greatest determinant is to ask ourselves “What would a child do?” because when it comes to true north, tell me who, if not children, lead the way.
As leaves fall and winds come and grass grows and creeks dry up and time clocks its ruthless mark on our stories, my children will lose their innocence. Unconditional love will be a feint whisper underneath the steady hum of rolled eyes and character assessments and discussions with friends about all the ways I’ve fallen short. This is inevitable, if any standard teenage locker room is anything to go by. We brace ourselves for these times, hoping we’ve weaved a sticky enough web that they can still make out the beating pulse of their family within it.
But these years, when showing up however we come is literally all we need to do to make them happy, when they’re eager to kiss our hands to smooth over the wrongs we’ve done, when they demonstrate what it means to wholly love – without any thought not to – I recognise fully what a gift it is. And I’m reminded again that it is in fact they who are teaching me.
Ella and Billy, Chookie and Bee-bee, I don’t know where on God’s green earth you came from but I’m drop-to-my-knees thankful it’s with me you are. However fleeting.
I’m yours, forever.