Life is totally off center today. I didn’t get to any of my places of inspiration. I barely got coffee at all really. Don’t feel bad for me though. Compared to what is going on around me, these details are insignificant. The two main ladies in my life are in crisis which means my needs can wait a bit. Their situations are far from similar, which makes their needs not even remotely close, which then translates into a magnified challenge for me. My wife’s crisis is physical. She has another herniated disc in her lower back. This makes three consecutive summers with unplanned spinal failures which have fairly well debilitated those of us who depend on her. It’s not just what she does that we miss, but it’s also who she is that is incomplete. My daughter, has a crisis all her own. It’s known to most of us as the pursuit of higher education and the quest to find oneself. It is also a painful journey which should not be taken alone. That’s where I come in. I need to be there for both of them.
So I spent the morning with my wife at the chiropractor and now the afternoon with my daughter. In fact this page is originating from what’s commonly referred to as a Student Union. They haven’t changed much since the pre-Microsoft days of my own higher education.
In fact I think I recognize the same students sleeping in the same chairs in the same lounge with the same books open. It’s kind of a Rip VanWinkle thing going here. Anyway, here I sit waiting for her to get through her assessment testing.
I wish that it was that simple. Assessment testing I mean. Like if you could just take a test which would place your life on track in a whole and satisfying way. I wish that guidance counselors really did have answers that could help. In my pastoral arts profession I get to do something wonderful called referral. If I don’t have the answers, then I can refer to someone who does, and I frequently exercise that gift because, really, I have few answers. Parenting doesn’t allow for many referrals.
I didn’t say that many parents don’t refer out. Unfortunately they do. I say unfortunately because in the end, I’ve discovered, that children, no matter what the age, don’t really need answers as much as they need parents. Let me make this a bit clearer to any parentals, as my daughter refers to them, who might be reading this. They want to know you care more than they need you to have the answers. They want you to journey with them, not pay for a professional guide. That’s not to say that there are no occasions for professional guidance. It’s just that in my experience, most of that should be reserved for the parents.
So for me, I’m left with a feeling of complete inadequacy. With my wife, I can comfort her, get her something to drink, help her get dressed, move pillows, rotate ice packs and steady her on walks. It doesn’t solve her back issues. I have realized though that just my presence brings her comfort. For my daughter, my presence is the key as well. I try to know her. I wish that I could understand the intricacies of being a female in her phase of life, I’m not yet convinced that even God knows. I know that she’s scared, although she puts up a good front. I know that she has doubts and I wish that I could reassure her.
I’m sitting here in the twilight zone of a college campus, remembering my own freshman experience in a time long ago and a galaxy far away. I can see myself sitting at one of these tables, without the laptop of course, not having the faintest clue of what having a daughter would be like. It was pretty close to the furthest thing from my mind. And now, I look and here I am, with someone that same age is looking to me to provide some insight or wisdom learned from all of those years in between. I’m embarrassed to tell you that I don’t remember nearly enough of the in between. I can tell you this though. What I have learned is this. Parents develop all kinds of delusions about what the ultimate parent must be. You can be funny. You can be serious. You can be lenient, strict, generous, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. All they need is for you to be there.