It is funny, I find, to be on the other side of that Bob Dylan lyric. Like most people, I so strongly identify with being part of the youth, part of the now, part of the future. One of the oddest things about being a parent is feeling that I've shifted to the other side of some continental divide. Especially since I live in the land of perpetual youth known as graduate school, I spend most of my time with the sense that my life is still before me, with the major decisions yet unmade. And that's true, in some important ways; it's not like i'm old and dried, here, with my half-done dissertation and my ponytail. But still: Elliot has a future that is not mine . It is very literally beyond my command; I won't be around for it all.
I think one of the most important challenges of parenting will be to learn to be glad about this. I think that I am doing okay so far (and it helps here that I have good role models in both my parents and my parents-in-law). It's a hard thing to balance living in the now with your kid--really loving who they are--with also being excited that they are giving that self up all the time, to be a new and different person.
It's so easy to get attached to what you can't keep. In a lot of women's writing, watching your child grow up is sort of equated with a weird fall from Eden: it's like there was this perfect moment when your child was first put in your arms, and everything else is a lesser bond, a sadder state of affairs. And this is a dangerous emotional road to follow, because if you follow it too long you can end up, as my mother-in-law once said, with a thirty year old "still sucking at your hind-teat." Which...well. You can't argue with that.
Still: even my early encounters with a growing child make me realize that growth often feels like loss. I'm sure this only gets harder.
Anyway, just reflecting here...there's lots to say. Also let me pass along my two mantras which (along with the hind-teat comment) are what I am thus far trying to keep in mind as I ponder all this. First, my Grams, who is a saint on earth, is always so joyful about parenting. I was talking to her recently--she's 89--and she says that for her watching her kids grow was more exciting all the time. "Even still!" she says. "Even now!"
Second, there is a wonderful Sweet Honey in the Rock lullabye, the lyrics of which I just learned are from Kahil Gilbran's The Prophet (so...okay, I liked them better when I thought they were written by a wise old woman, but whatever). They help me remember that Elliot's growth is not really about me, at all, however poignantly I might feel it. It's about his right to his own freedom, and that is a good and happy thing.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit,
not even in your dreams.