For Mother's Day, for their mother, I have turned over my blog to our children, Matt and Erin. We are more than a little proud of who they are and how they live. This is what Matt has to say.
I think there’s a good chance that my folks would openly dispute this, but if I’m being totally honest; I think my mom is a little bit disappointed with me.
I don’t think she’s disappointed in me in the traditional, “my child knocked over a convenience store, took the money to Vegas, and ended up in the clink” sort of way, but I think there might be some lingering disappointment nonetheless, and at the root of it is an affliction that neither she, nor my father can ever really understand.
You see, my name is Matt, and I am a textbook-case oldest child….a trait I share with no other member of my immediate childhood family. Mom is the youngest, Dad is the middle, and Erin’s the baby.
Broadly speaking, we members of the church of the eldest are often comically conservative in the way we approach life. Generally, we thrive on the approval of our elders, we show up on time, we keep our hair cut short, our shirts pressed neatly, and have well balanced, risk-averse 401Ks.
All of this is fine and good, maybe even great to some extent -- there is profound peace and stability with this sort of approach to life, but there’s something missing –a spark of spontaneity, excitement, the thrill of a calculated risk executed to perfection.
Frankly, I’ve always thought that mom finds my occasional lack of this sort of spark to be most disappointing.
Even as a kid, I think mom was a little worried that I took myself, and life, a little too seriously. I recall her basically daring me to get my ear pierced, knowing that I’d never do it, or chiding me to lighten up a little bit when she’d show up to a school function wearing her Bubba Teeth and Trucker Hat.
Deep down there’s just something about mom and me, despite all of the powerful similarities, that’s just fundamentally different, and she has always been a little worried that the difference would keep me from seeing a bit of the tapestry of life that was really special to her. Even if I had “the big stuff” figured out – a stable career, a happy family, a well-balanced retirement plan – I’d run the risk of missing the point of all of it.
And I think, left to my own devices, she might be right to worry; I feel a very strong pull towards the peace and stability offered by a life of the mundane. I’m a stability junkie and that’s part of my makeup, but I’m fortunate, I’ve got a whole choir of voices reminding me to lighten up a bit….and sometimes --- I even listen.
Many of those voices have been chronicled on this blog over the years. My sister, my extended family, and most importantly my wife are all examples of people who seem to have found the right balance between stability and spontaneity, but the last couple of years have brought a new, squeaky, slightly lispy voice into that mix.
Her name is Emma, she is my 3yr old daughter, and she has a trait that she shares with no one else in her immediate childhood family – I’m the oldest kid in my family, Sarah’s the oldest in hers, Noah is our oldest child, but Emma, she’s the youngest, and when you meet her, she’ll make sure you know that.
When Emma was a baby, and even into her toddler and now early childhood years, more than a few folks looked at her round little face, and blond curly hair and wondered aloud, “She doesn’t really look like either of you”, then they’d see a picture of my mom as a child, or even as an adult, and they’d see those blue eyes, the round face, and the easy smile, and they’d say --- “Oh…..THAT’S who she looks like…..”
Let me be the first to tell you, the resemblance is more than skin deep.
It’s the little things Emma does ---
the way she turns a phrase – particularly when she’s up to no good.
the way she looks at you when she thinks you’re full of it - Sarah calls it Emma’s “THE HELL YOU SAY??” face
the way she shows powerful love and concern for her family
the way that it’s clear that Emma’s quietly in charge of whoever and whatever is going on around her
These are ways I know that Emma is already, three years in, marching to the beat of her own drummer, singing her own songs, and confidant that she can make the world a little bit happier and brighter if she’s given some room to wiggle.
When I look at my daughter, I see a little bit of me, a little bit of Sarah, and a LOT of my mom.
I anticipate that her Marty-like spunk, attitude, and already sharpening wit and mouth will probably lead to some “challenging” parental moments. We will deal with those as they come.
It is my prayer for our daughter that she hangs on to those sparks, that piece of my mother, and says “THE HELL YOU SAY?” to an often over-serious world and consumer culture. I want her to always use her voice to occasionally remind us “firstborns” to loosen up a bit, take some risks, and live life.
I think that’s something that mom would agree with wholeheartedly, and frankly, be pretty proud of.