When we lived in Texas, there was a nearby neighbor who was an elderly woman. She had a son living with her who was definitely more than 35 and had some sort of drinking problem. At bad moments, he cursed her and slammed out of the house. One day, another of her children approached us to let us know there was a restraining order and would we mind keeping an eye out for him. Then, maybe a month later, he obviously moved back in with his mother.
The day he moved back in I was standing in the front yard. Phaedra was toddling around and screaming delightedly at Ezra who was dashing around on a tricycle. I watched the neighbor for awhile to see if this was a problem that warranted me calling the woman's other children. As I pondered whether to call, I realized that alcoholic man headed into middle age, used be that woman's four-year-old, tearing around on a tricycle.
I looked at my children and wondered what power I had to select their futures for them.
Also, I've recently noted how many happy, successful adults I know who were problem children. I mean the sort of trouble that probably kept their parents up staring at the walls, wondering if the police would call. I think of the wildly colorful paths some have taken to get pretty much the same place I'm at. I hear the stories, and I can see their high school teachers shaking their heads together wondering just what will become of that one.
This awareness makes me less judgmental of other parenting styles. When Ezra was born, I thought I had the exact formula to raise just the right sort of person. It did not take long before I knew I could not actually stick to that formula, because it seemed to ignore the real life version of me as a mother and my real life child. I felt guilty, and then I felt like I just had to do my best. I thought I might need to make a therapy fund instead of a college fund.
Now, I just don't know. I cannot imagine what will make these little people happy when they reach adulthood. I cannot imagine whether they'll be easy or hard as teenagers, although I do make the occasional prediction.
Ezra once said he planned on being a vagabond when he grew up, and I thought how that could be a pretty good life for at least a little while. And I have been letting go ever since, letting go of any sort of expectations regarding the right life or the straight and narrow path to happiness.