Eighteen

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I’m only 20 pages in to my new book (The Age of Miracles), but I’m already struck with the unique storyline, the writing style, and by the similarities I’ve already seen between the narrator, Julia, and myself.

Only being 20 pages in, I know little more than what you could learn if you picked up the book and read the back cover, so I’m not giving anything away when I say that in the story, the rotation of the earth has slowed down and people are freaking out. Julia is caught between her mother, who tends to panic easily already, and her father, who is pretty unflappable and reasonable. From the very first page, the fate of the world is unknown and the reader is plunged into this uncertainty.

           “I bet things will turn out okay,” I said,
gripped by an urge to say some cheerful thing–
it rose up from my throat like a cough.
“I bet it will be fine.”

These words of Julia’s struck me immediately. Two weeks ago, my counselor asked me what were some of the expectations I felt upon me as a child. Whether they were spoken or not, whether I could have verbalized them at that time or had even been aware of them, these expectations existed. There was an environment and I had a role to play. What was it?

I didn’t have to think long at all before I answered, “I had to make everyone be okay. I had to make everyone laugh. I had to smooth things over. I had to pretend like everything was okay, that I was okay, even if I wasn’t.”

My parents never sat me down and gave me that job description. They never told me those were my duties. For a million reasons, and a combination of a million factors, that’s what I picked up.

I’m processing all this, and how it affects me even today. I’m also looking at this through one of the most influential lenses with which I view the world: my role as a mother. What signals are my husband and I sending to our three kids? What are they interpreting as “their role?” Is Noah’s perfectionism a result of his birth order? His personality? Or is that what he feels is expected of him? Demanded of him?

I’m sure the answer isn’t black and white. I’m sure it’s a combination of all of those things. I’m also sure that my pastor is right when he says, “We can’t do anything to keep our kids out of the counselor’s chair.” I’m perplexed by this, but not driven to despair. (2 Corinthians 4:8)

The gospel is still true, and we all need it.

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