And yet, the answers we come up with might very well reveal a lot about the parent dwelling within each of us as well as the universal nature of parenthood in general.
Heck, it’s the sort of question that might even help us understand the so-called ‘Meaning of Life’ we’ve all been wondering about for the last ten zillion years or so.
What if you knew your baby’s destiny?
What if, for some reason beyond our comprehension, you and your partner knew, even before the birth of your baby, that he or she was going to become a world famous writer?
Or a Hollywood star?
Or what if you both understood that he or she was destined to become a seven-time DUI repeat offender, or a notorious tax evader, or a ruthless dictator?
Or, (ugh), a serial killer?
How about if their life came gliding into yours with the harrowing guarantee of serious addiction in their stars?
What if you knew that they would never find that ‘certain someone’ to be with or marry? What if, on the very day that they were born into this world, you were assured by a telegram from the cosmos that this infant in your arms would still be single and unemployed and living in your spare room at the age of 38?
I know I know, the randomness and the outlandishness of my examples are extreme to say the least, but play along with me.
Think about that stuff for a moment, if you will.
As a pregnant woman or the partner to one, what do you think your initial reaction would be? And do you believe you would hold strong to it, down through the years, even knowing what you know?
Do you believe in your heart of hearts that you are capable of loving a future outlaw as much as a future surgeon, or a professor, or whatever? It is, of course, impossible to answer these questions that I am posing with any real certainty. Heck, to try to convince anyone otherwise would likely relegate us to the soothsayer bin, where no one is taken too seriously anymore.
But I bet you I can guess what you truly believe your initial reaction would be, no matter if your unexpected future was revealed to you.
Can I try?
Okay, here we go. Your response to any of these questions would go something like this:
“No matter what. No matter who this unborn baby in my belly (or my wife’s belly) is destined to be, I am determined to love him or her with all of the love inside of me. For as long I am alive and even longer if that is at all possible.”
Am I right?
Something like that?
I hope so.
But, you know what? I had a feeling that’s how you’d respond. And do you wanna know something? I believe you. Okay, who cares, right? Who cares what this writer guys thinks? I understand perfectly, but still! I had this suspicion about you as a parent that I think might just be partially based on my own experience with being a dad. Beyond that though, I think maybe it might also have come from being affiliated with something much more complex and illuminating, something that is harder to understand but that lies within the deepest crevices of our guts and our proverbial souls, if you will.
Sounds like some kind of weirdo idea slathered in New Age dipping sauce, huh?
Ha! I know.
Yet chances are, if you were the one posing the question to a stranger on the street or to your very best friend, you would be expecting an answer from that person that is almost eerily similar to your own response.
I wonder why.
The thing is, when you take a look at how most parents-to-be manage to stand courageous in the face of the sort of futures for their babies that we can predict nowadays, the kinds of challenges and afflictions that modern medicine can sometimes spot before a baby is even born, it tells us a lot, I think, about the very nature of our love for our children. And the unending supply of commitment and adoration that lives in us but that is exclusively reserved for the children who we end up raising, whether they come from our womb and our blood or not.
I don’t know about you, but I like thinking about this kind of stuff from time to time.
I haven’t gotten that far yet, I guess. Maybe I never will, who knows? But I am beginning to think that it has something to do with my own particular struggle to make sense of my own life as I get a little older (I’m 42 in a few weeks … send wine!).
See, the older I get, the more I tend to see the fact that I became a husband, and then a dad, as the most important things I ever did. Not in any conservative traditional way, mind you, because I am about as open-minded as they come, but more in the way that it has become apparent to me now that no matter when I die, even if it happens here in the next few moments, in the very seconds after I publish this thing you’re reading, if a rogue 747 comes exploding into my bedroom or, more likely, my heart just says, “Hey, enough is enough!” and yanks the cord out from under my tomorrow, I really feel like I have known the most electrified supernatural kind of love that a human being can ever really know.
I have loved a kid, you see.
From the moment that I knew she or he was there, in their mama’s belly, hell, even from the moment when I suspected that they might be in there, I have known the kind of hard-hitting thunderbolt love that some people like to attribute to their own particular brand of God or religion or whatever, but which I have suspected all along was living down inside me because I grew it there, not because some deity parked it there. It’s a force of nature living down inside all of us, no matter who we are, no matter how bad we have messed stuff up.
As members of the human race, we have to own up to how ruthless we have been, and how sinister we will be again, but there are some things about us that I find quite beautiful, things that cannot be denied. Namely, that maybe, in the long and winding course of another person’s life, my own love, a downpour pouring down on them relentlessly, unending, maybe that might just make a serious difference in the end.
We’re lucky, I guess, that when it comes to our kids, to our most hardcore love, we can never really know the future.
But even if we could, would that ever change a damn thing?
Image: M. Bielanko
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