Traffic jams

I have often said that being a parent is like letting your heart jump outside of your body and run through traffic. You can teach your heart to look both ways before crossing the street, stay away from strange cars and take the safest route home, but in the end you have to let your heart take the risk.

Yet hearts are resilient, young ones especially. Their survival depends on it. The challenge is to raise a healthy child with a delicate balance of compassion and empathy for others with a strong sense of respect and integrity for their own self.  In other words, you must teach your heart how to dodge traffic but still have the courage to merge.

But what if your heart cannot read signals and signs as well as others hearts can? What if the obstacles in their path seem genetically predisposed to make their route all that much more treacherous? Its rhythm prefers to run around the cars. Think 401 in rush hour.

Sometimes, I confess, if I had have known how hard raising children would be, I might not have had the courage to do it.

We like to romanticize youth as this carefree time in our lives when our biggest worry was to get home before the streetlights came on. It’s a lie we tell ourselves.  I have yet to meet an adult who does not bear some childhood scars of his or her own.

As parents we have to remember that our past is not our children’s future. We have to let our hearts run, fall down, get bruised, and learn to stand tall again. They have to learn the hard way. We do, too. No matter how old we are there is always more to learn in this life.

Recently, I watched one of my hearts try to merge into the difficult traffic of a girl pack. My daughter was determined to fit in to a girls’ recreational club. I should mention that she is the heart that beats to her own drum, the child who does not fit in the typical box. Yet she has the purest spirit and a determined soul, and my job is not to squash it, but encourage it. So despite my own reservations, I took her to an environment that I knew was not for her.

I swear this little girl pack sensed my child’s awkwardness immediately and they made sure, both verbally and in that silent grace that young girls master quickly to make sure that my daughter knew she was not welcomed. In this traffic, my heart could not merge.

I had to watch from behind a double-mirrored window. It was like watching a car wreck; I couldn’t turn away. My heart was in there.

It was a devastating, necessary life lesson for my young heart and my adult one too. There were hot, angry tears; hers in the car ride home, mine behind a locked bathroom door later.

I believe there is always a reason, a lesson in these moments. My daughter taught me what only she could: to be ourselves we have to take risks.

The bravest hearts allow their own heartbeat to set the rhythm of their life, on their own terms. They don’t merge into traffic; they rise above it.  They pave their own path.

Would I have the courage to be a parent again? Doubtful. Would I do it anyway?

Absolutely. My heart is totally in it.


Kelly Waterhouse