February 15, 2007

Morning Metaphor

We get them out of bed, help them dress, feed them breakfast, try to give them what they need to have a successful day at school.

I don’t want to find all the parallels, or strain the metaphor, but at some moment this morning I saw that our daily preparations for the day were like a metaphor for the parent-child relationshipof preparing them for life.

Usually, I have K ready at least 5 minutes before the bus comes, and we wait and watch for it. We can sometimes talk a little bit, and I can ask what their day is going to be like (do they have music today? Gym?)

This morning, breakfast took longer than usual, and I was pretty sure the bus was about a minute away as I rushed to try to get her lunch bag into her overstuffed backpack. She was still adding stuff in there, and she had rolled up some sort of parchment-looking map which stuck out of the top awkwardly. With the lunch sitting on top of the notebooks, it looked like it could never be zipped shut. I had stationed M to watch for the bus, and when it becomes visible through a certain window we know we have 30 seconds until it stops in front of the house, give or take 3 seconds. As soon as I touched the zipper on the bag, M announced a bus sighting. 30 seconds. Practically speaking, I wasn’t sure I was going to even be able to close that bag.

I told her to get her coat on as I tried to zip the bag up around the lunch container. 20 seconds…

I dragged it across the floor as I struggled with the zipper. 10 seconds…

I got it zipped up to the map, but I didn’t want to crush the map by shoving it in there. At 5 seconds I hoisted the bag up onto her back and opened the door.

The weight of the bag could easily pull the zippers back open, because of the way it was zipped, but I didn’t have time to tell her that. I barely got out “It’s not completely zipped; have a good day; I love you!” as she was hopping down, avoiding the ice, and getting onto the bus. I was afraid that she wouldn’t try to fix it and it would spill open between the bus and the door of the school, or in the hallway.

I stood there watching the bus leave, closing the door to the cold, and I wondered if she was prepared for her day. I wondered if it would have been more practical to suggest she carry the lunch or map separately, or whether that would have turned into an argument. It was too late now; she was already off.

Before you have children, you think you have a long time to teach them everything. But it’s more like this morning. You really have a very short time when they’re prepared to hear any given message, and you have to choose what to tell them; you have to choose what to emphasize. You spend a lot of time preoccupied with necessary practical concerns. And once you’ve had your shot, that’s it.

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Posted by James at February 15, 2007 8:50 AM
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The Prophet is one of my favorite books. I am not a religious person, but there are several short, poignant books that I re-read each year to remind me that there is a spiritual side to life.

On that list is The Prophet, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Siddartha, the Tao of Pooh and others.

Posted by: leslie at February 15, 2007 11:14 AM

Ah, you just reminded me of my high school biology teacher, who had a T-shirt that said "Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny." And that was back in the late '70s, when clever T-shirts weren't so ubiquitous!

Posted by: Karen at February 15, 2007 11:29 AM

The hectic morning rush, the confusion, the wondering if you've covered all the bases and if they are ready for their day (and the fear that you might have missed something) captures perfectly the feeling of wondering if we are raising our children right. Do they have the right values? Have we taught them right from wrong? Will they make good decisions?

This really poignant observation really touched a chord, maybe one you have to be a parent to fully feel or understand.

Posted by: Lefty at February 16, 2007 4:35 AM

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