- brush the kids' hair,
- carry tissues, so no one has a bubbly nose, and
- make sure shirts and sweaters are buttoned straight.
Let's be honest: I will never have things under control. Kids are people, real people with their own minds, souls, ideas, neuroses and weaknesses. I don't and can't and hopefully don't want to control them. At best I can control some of my (and their) circumstances.
* * * *
I ran into a mom the other day with a special needs child. I don't know what the child's issues are, but I recognized the suffering in the mother's eyes. This woman knows what it is to fear that her child's life will never be what it should be. She knows the anguish of thinking her child may never fit in. She knows the despair of sensing that all she can offer him and all she can do might never be enough to protect him from rejection and pain.
Those things are hard to deal with. They're far harder to wrestle into submission than endless doctor appointments and therapies. It's not as if this woman can make a phone call and check off the "Handled complicated feelings of shattered dreams" and "Addressed angst caused by not-knowing how to deal with this" items on her list.
I wanted to take this mom for a long, heartfelt chat over a good cup of coffee, to let her pour out her heart. But as we were talking her son woke up. The boy woke with a grin; he had a great smile.
The child didn't have tangled hair or a gooey nose or a mis-buttoned shirt. The miracles that his mother is called upon to bring forth are bigger: miracles of patience and longsuffering and everyday determination to look at her son as her son, to accept him as he is, and to wrap him not in her grief or fear, but in her love.
Sometimes what we're called on to control is our tendency to run in circles howling, "I can't take this!" That's hard. But then, self-control is the hardest.
One day not long ago Little Guy said, "I'm scared you're going to die!"
I replied, gently, "You don't need to be afraid of that: of course I will die. Everyone does. It probably -- hopefully -- won't happen soon. But one day I will die. And what will happen then?"
He looked at me solemnly and said, "I will be sad."
I drew him close and told him, "Yes, you will be very sad, probably for a long time. But you will go on, and do what you have to do. Things may be harder than you want them to be, and you may think you can't handle it. But you will go on, and you will discover that you are stronger than you think you are. And you will be okay."
There is life beyond our fears. But you don't get there if you don't walk through the fears, if you allow yourself to panic because it's not all under control.
It's never going to be completely under control. In its own weird way, I find that comforting.