I’ve heard someone liken the raising of a child to having an external heart; one that beats outside of your chest. I know this feeling. It is a completely unique experience (to me at least) to watch, there in front of you, something so vulnerable and so precious, so beautiful and so visceral. I’ve told my wife more than once now that I’ve never known fear until now.
I have been afraid of course, but I’ve always been one to confront my fears, and how do you confront the limitless multitude of alarms that come with holding another life literally in your hands, growing and guiding that life, and then, slowly at first but then in an exponentially accelerating process, pushing them out into the world? Each inch further away from your chest brings with it new, deeper, and more paralyzing fears and questions. How will he survive the playground and the social universe of preschool? How will he survive global climate change and a world depleted of fossil fuels? Each fear can feel just as real and immediate at any given time, and can be completely rational and irrational at the same time. To a person like myself, whose approach to problems is: identify> find solution> implement solution> never think about problem again, the vast magnitude and multiplicity of possible dangers just waiting to strike is beyond my level of comprehension, let alone anticipation and preparation.
This happens to some degree with every child I’m sure, but one of my two beautiful children has a severe delay; possibly a disability. When he is anywhere outside of my arms reach he is in some almost mythical, almost real sense my own heart flopping around, bleeding everywhere, in constant danger of being stepped on. Is that too far to take the metaphor? It doesn’t feel that way, it feels just that raw and more.
He is my heart.
There is so much more to say about it and I know, in time, that I will. At some point I will have more control; if not over the situation than at least over my emotional response to it. For now though the heart analogy is a good one. This time is not the time for me to think things through but to feel, to experience, and to love. The days are harder, the fears are stronger, but the joy is deeper than anything I have ever known.
My heart is full.