Reflection Part 2: The Virgin Mary and Finding Nemo
In Finding Nemo, Marlin says, “I promised I’d never let anything happen to him.” Dory responds. “That’s a funny thing to promise…you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.”
I thought I understood what that meant. Of course kids need to learn from experience, and sometimes they need to make their own mistakes in order to grow. Of course sometimes those experiences are painful. That’s part of the human journey.
Then the Three came along.
I can no longer hear stories of child abuse, or tragedies like house fires, or natural disasters without my intestines turning to ice. I have sat with Jamie on my lap, looked into his angelic face, and told him, “Nothing can ever happen to you.”
Not much fun for little Jimbo.
This realization about parenting requires a whole new level of strength that I will need to cultivate. They will skin knees and maybe break bones. They might do things that require stitches. They will lose friends and fight with boyfriends or girlfriends. They will be rejected. They will fail at something.
The image of the Blessed Mother as Our Lady of Sorrows shows her with seven swords stabbing her heart, the Seven Dolors. They began for her with Simeon’s prophecy, given to her when she brought her baby to the temple: that he would bring about the rise and fall of many in Israel, and that a sword would pierce her heart.
All the Hallmark commercials and children’s movies tell us that parents are supposed to be able to fix the problem. The dad who can say just the right thing; the mom who can kiss away the “owie.” But what do parents say or do when the problem is beyond their fixing? How do we explain to small beings that the pain is a necessary component of living?
Don’t get me wrong. When I was teaching, if I saw someone being mean to one of my students, I would confront the perpetrator with fury to defend one of my “kids.” If I saw someone trying to hurt one of my babies, emotionally or otherwise, I would dismember them with my bare hands.
Okay, not really. We are human. We hurt each other, intentionally and unintentionally. Accidents occur for no reason. As a parent, one of my main goals is to teach our kids resilience. Yet even the idea of seeing them hurting feels like a sword in my heart.
How can I bear that, to let go, to not be in control of what happens to them? I am pretty good at not freaking out when they fall or get upset. How does any parent bear that heart-wound of witnessing intense or lasting pain?
That’s why I write these pages. I write to remind myself to be fully present to them with whatever feelings they have or experiences they share. The fear of not being able to protect them from life does me no good, and it does not save them. There is no saving from pain or loss or grief.
In Shadowlands, dying Joy says, “The pain then is part of the happiness now.” If I wish moments of pure happiness for my children, then they must also know its opposite.
Otherwise, nothing would ever happen to them. Not much fun, or much of a life. And that is what I want for them: a fully lived life.