We weren’t meant to live like this. We were created to live in a community, not to isolate ourselves in our individual homes and keep everything for ourselves. Why does everyone on the street need a leaf blower? If my neighbor has one, do I really need one? I’m happy to lend him my lawnmower or ladder, whatever he may need. Can we just share what we have? We teach our kids to do exactly that. We tell them to be kind, to be friendly, not to keep everything for themselves. Meanwhile, we seem to be living our lives contrary to that. So as our kids get older, they get a different message, one that tells them that the goal is to accumulate as much as possible. And hang onto it.
Recently, Harbour was playing a game on my phone where a human figure is standing in front of a wall. The wall has a cutout, and the player has to change their shape in order to fit through it and get to the other side. Once on the other side, there’s another cutout with a completely different outline. So it’s a constant battle of changing your shape – bending, contorting, ducking, jumping, in order to fit. But it’s never over. You just keep having to be different than you were. It’s a constant cycle of hurry-up-and-change or you get slammed by a wall. It’s exhausting.
This is what it’s like when we choose to be anything other than our authentic selves. If we’re anything other than that, we exhaust ourselves trying to be what other people want us to be. We can’t keep up. We bend to get through, thinking that we can relax now, only to find that the expectations have changed and we need to be different. At some point, this becomes unsustainable. We can’t carry on, so we get slammed by the wall.
How different could the first years with Harbour have been if I had believed that I was worthy of something good? Or if I had been willing to risk gut wrenching pain in the future in order to enjoy the beauty of the present? I’ve grieved for countless moments that have been lost. I’ve beat myself up about it – for not seeing what was right in front of me, for being so afraid of losing him that I kept my heart at a distance. Every time I look at his baby pictures, I remind myself that, at the time, I thought he was so big and was already sad for what I had missed, what I felt I had lost. Looking back now, all I see is a snuggly, squishy little baby. There’s been a shift in perspective. One of the most important shifts is that I’ve decided to do my best to just be here with him now. I love Harbour more and more every minute. If ever I start to lose myself in the fact that he’s getting older, I now know that, eventually, I’ll look back on this very day and think that he was so young.
I’ve spent years wanting to know how to skateboard, and I’ve decided to learn how. I’m at a point now where I think ‘why not?’ I’m sure it’ll be harder to learn now than it would’ve been when I was eight, but what’s the alternative? To spend the rest of my life wishing I knew how to skateboard?
After reading other people’s stories and starting to write my own, I made a commitment to you the other night. Throughout your life, I’ll come to you and ask, “Do you think that you have to do something in particular to earn my love? Do you find yourself doing things that you don’t want to do simply because you want my attention or want to feel validated by me?” We can’t help but look to others for validation, but my greatest hope for you is that you’re able to grow up feeling worthy of love just as you are, wherever you are.
I want to encourage you to try new things and stick it out when something becomes difficult. I also want to help you trust your gut and follow your instincts when something doesn’t feel right.
I want you to know that things often aren’t as black and white as many people think they are. A lot of things can’t be dismantled and placed into columns of good or bad, right or wrong, success or failure. It’s enticing to think they can because that requires less thought and consideration. You don’t have to figure out what you believe and what you value when other people have laid it out for you. A path seems easier to follow when the directions are clearly marked. Keep in mind, if you follow someone else’s path, they’ve decided where you’ll end up. But true growth comes in discovering a path for yourself. That’s where it gets exciting. That’s where you gain strength and confidence.
I hope your dreams outnumber the stars. If you share those dreams with me, I hope to encourage you without pushing you. If those dreams come true, I want to celebrate with you while reminding you that your success has no bearing on my love for you – for that, my son, is unending.