Where is the love? (Sappy parental musings.)

I’m a guy, I love beer and kung fu movies and calling out the years of muscle cars that drive by, and talking about “feelings” and “love” is a lot easier when I can follow it up with a punch to the kidneys or something so the awkward, honest moment passes more easily. But it’s also kind of weird to ignore stuff like that in order to be more “guyish” or something, so here goes…

Last night, my daughter was a little sick and we let her sleep between us. She’s getting a cough, and it could be gone tomorrow or turn into the more serious bug some of her friends are getting, so it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on it.

She was flipping around and tossing and turning, and she kicked my wife in the head and created a vicious kink in my back by planting her feet in the small of my back and pushing as hard as she could for an hour or two, but no big deal, I don’t really sleep well anyway. Unless someone is wrecking my spine, then I sleep soundly for hours I guess. Whatever.

At one point, I could see in the moonlight that she’d flipped again, and her head was pointing toward the bottom of the bed and she was uncovered. I flipped her back and covered her up, and I could see her smile a little and cuddle into the blankets and sigh, and I had one of those sappy parental moments where I was just filled with love for my cute, sweet little kid. The moment stretched out, and I had the thought that I hoped she would find someone in her life that would love her as much as I loved her right at that moment. Every parent has had a moment or two like that.

So as I’m stretching my spine back into shape and waiting to see if I’ll actually sleep again, I spun that idea around some more. So, I love my kid, OK, and every parent has those moments like that, and so on. Taking it a step further, I realize that my wife’s dad probably had that exact moment, and I suddenly wondered if I ever had or ever would live up to his hope of providing her with such a complete love… I mean not even 5 minutes ago, I had this experience of a “complete love” for someone, so I know I’m capable. But how often do I give that complete love to my family or my close friends, or anyone else out there, ever? Maybe not even the Full Monty, maybe just a nice big chunk of that “complete love?” Compared to what I’d felt 5 minutes earlier, I realized that I’m sleepwalking most of the time, and the tiny, stingy part of myself that I give to others pales in comparison to what I’m capable of, and it doesn’t feel like enough. I’m sure I’ve had this thought before, but it still makes me feel cheap when I recognize it; I’m hoarding “the good stuff” for some important use later on I guess. But a) what is it that I’m stockpiling it for, what event, what person, what situation, what ideal set of circumstances? and b) what if there is no “later on?” It just doesn’t feel like enough, and I woke up wanting to change it. 

I’m sure I’m not alone; everyone has so much untapped potential, but it’s very easy to walk around in a news-saturated, low-fat, commercially-sponsored, Bluetooth-enabled daze. Sleepwalking. It’s much easier to have half-engaged conversations shouted between 2 rooms because we’re all engaged in our important work and can’t stop for 4 minutes to really talk. Stuff like picking up the mail or taking out the garbage has to come up in conversations at least sometimes, but is that really it? We lull ourselves into half-living and at some point, that somehow becomes enough? We’re all born with pretty limitless potentials, and we actively spend our days muting those potentials and tiptoeing around them. Weird. I’m thankful that I get constant reminders that there can be more, and I’m thankful that I actually notice them every once in a while.

So I start my day humbled, knowing with new clarity that I’m capable of so much more, and knowing how much work it will take to get there, but being thankful for those little (huge) experiences that at least let me know that I’ve got work to do. It’s so easy to sleepwalk, and it’s easy to forget that I don’t know what I don’t know, so any little hint that actually makes it through my thick skull and highly refined defenses is really inspiring. I want to be open to loving those around me as deeply as I’m able to do it. 

It’s awkward to put even put a sentiment like that into writing, to “expose” that feeling, but it shouldn’t be. My wife and kid had an early start today, so I haven’t even been able to share these musings with my own family yet, and even when I do, I have to sort of get the nerve up, because it’s kind of weird or embarrassing or something. I’m sure I’ll find some way of bringing it up some time between unloading bags of barkdust from the car and emptying the dishwasher. Anyway, I’ve got to go now anyway, I’m going to go chop some wood or watch some NASCAR or something. You know, guy stuff.