Notes From A Dragon Mom On Parenting With No Tomorrows
You should, must, read this: Notes from a Dragon Mom from the New York Times.
It is an essay by Emily Rapp who is mother to an 18-month-old, Ronan, who will die somewhere around his fourth birthday. Ronan has Tay-Sachs, a rare and incurable progressive disease that kills at an early age.
It is a tough read, but like all things that take some effort - one that will pay off. Because Rapp shows us through her love for Ronan what the essence of parenting is. Her story is heartbreakingly sad but her approach to parenting a terminally ill child is one that all parents should take to heart. She reminds us to treasure our kids every day; to focus on the here and the now and to appreciate love for love's sake.
We’re not waiting for Ronan to make us proud. We don’t expect future returns on our investment. We’ve chucked the graphs of developmental milestones and we avoid parenting magazines at the pediatrician’s office. Ronan has given us a terrible freedom from expectations, a magical world where there are no goals, no prizes to win, no outcomes to monitor, discuss, compare.
This was my day with my son: cuddling, feedings, naps. He can watch television if he wants to; he can have pudding and cheesecake for every meal. We are a very permissive household. We do our best for our kid, feed him fresh food, brush his teeth, make sure he’s clean and warm and well rested and ... healthy? Well, no. The only task here is to love, and we tell him we love him, not caring that he doesn’t understand the words. We encourage him to do what he can, though unlike us he is without ego or ambition.
Parenting is the continual process of learning to let go. It is the hardest lesson that we have to learn and our children force us to experience it in small steps and big leaps almost every day. Rapp chooses to love even though she knows the pain is not only inevitable but also around the corner.
I have no inkling what it is like to be in her shoes, her house, snuggling her sick child. I can not reach across the pages and minimize her anguish. All I can do is thank her for reminding me what is important and what is true. The little things we agonize over are generally less important than this minute, this child, this love we feel. Rapp reminds us not to waste it:
This is a love story, and like all great love stories, it is a story of loss. Parenting, I’ve come to understand, is about loving my child today. Now. In fact, for any parent, anywhere, that’s all there is.
I've spent the last few days thinking about Emily Rapp and her family and I have shed a few tears - for her and also, selfishly, for me. For the times that I haven't appreciated what I have in front of me and for the day when I too will have to let go.
Do you feel like you live in the moment and appreciate your kids? How do you gain perspective?
Last year, I wrote about how my friend came out to her parents in the middle of the night and what an anti-climax that was.