Giving him the love and space to create his own future

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My son and I stood at the summit of Baldy Mountain, on what felt like the top of the world. He wanted me to take his photo sitting on the edge. I have no idea what was going through his mind as he sat there, looking toward the dissipating haze of New Mexico’s eastern horizon, but my spirit brimmed with the emotional memories of the day he was born.

In the months before his birth, I voraciously read every how to be a parent manual out there. I believed that parenting could be treated as an academic enterprise, just another subject to learn, an expertise to be acquired. When challenges arose, I’d just flip to the right page for the answer.

The day we went to the hospital to be induced, I felt confident that we had this thing under control. I’d put myself through Dad 101 and was ready to roll.

Then everything went to hell.

His mom’s vitals started to plummet. Undiagnosed preeclampsia was starting to ravage her internal organs. It was time to get the kid out. The doors to surgery closed in my face as the gurney rolled away. They didn’t cover this in Dad 101. My confidence evaporated, replaced by sheer panic.

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1020. Male.

Scribbled on a sticky note, left on the nurses’ station counter. The first official documentation that I was indeed a father. I had a son. I had no idea if I would be doing this parenting thing alone.

The only detail I can remember of those first few hours was seeing his long, skinny feet stretched out in front of him, my first glimpse of my son. Look at those feet. Then I saw the rest of him. There was no manual for him. He was one of a kind. Dad 101 was gone, irrelevant. In that moment, my body full of adrenaline and worry, I knew one singular thing deep in my gut.

My purpose in his life is to give him the love and space to create his own future. 

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Seeing him on top of Baldy, more than 15 years of life under his belt, reaffirmed that purpose. I haven’t just thrown him to the world and the wolves. I’ve caved into the temptation infuse my own aspirations into his; it’s a natural default when we’re faced with uncertainty. I’ve had times where I’ve overruled his decisions because he doesn’t have the experience to know better. I’ve shared my life’s stories in the hope that he can gain insight and lessons from them.

But my gut on the day I met him was right.

My purpose in his life is to give him the love and space to create his own future. 

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It’s a purpose without measurable metrics, perhaps. I suppose parenting in general is one of life’s unmeasurable endeavors. My gut still tells me it’s the right way. For him. For me.  I’ve chosen not to create or insist on his life’s path, but rather to guide and support his unique metamorphosis.

Those long, skinny feet are now larger than mine. I’ve acquiesced to the fact that he’s now the tallest. He’s surrounded by an amazing group of friends and awes me with his creativity, intelligence, and dedication to his passions. I don’t know what’s really in his head and heart, outside of what he chooses to share. There are times when I’m sorely tempted to intervene with a how to lesson for life, but I try to keep those contained to the absolutely necessary, places where wrong turns are costly.

In retrospect, I’m grateful for the panic in which his life began. It forced me to abandon Dad 101 and simply enroll in this unique, lifelong experience of being his dad.

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Christopher Tidrick

Be real. Love always. Share beauty. Lead well. Learn more.

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