I’m an uncle! Legitimately. I’ve had the honor of many friends telling their children to refer to me as "unlce" in one form or another, but now, I have a niece!
Welcome to the world Sophia Helen!!
If you’ve read these pages at all, you know I first started writing as a way to process what I felt was a very big risk. And, despite ever broadening horizons and experiences, I’ve tried to maintain that theme. For me, that is foundational to a meaningful life: taking risks, getting out of one’s comfort zone, repeatedly jumping out of the nest and learning how to fly a little higher each time. And I can’t imagine many gambles larger than having a child. That is why, in this moment, my sister and brother-and-law are some of the most adventurous souls I know.
I imagine most people do not consider having a child to be a very big risk. It’s frightening, for sure. But isn’t that essential to risk? And if conventional wisdom is to be believed, no one is every fully “ready” to be a parent. I imagine parts of parenting are instinctive, commonsensical, and obvious. Equally true has to be the desire for there to be some kind of manual you can rely on when you get stuck; kind of like an actor calling “line” during rehearsals.
But having a child is risky business, isn’t it? The child itself will face mountains of challenges, uncertainty, and self-doubt – and that’s just the teenage years. There will be a lot of falling: falling down, falling in love, falling out of love, falling into success and falling into or out of an employer’s good graces, etc. Would be parents are, in my opinion, betting they can be the steadying rudder for their children in turbulent times. A gutsy call if ever I’ve seen one.
And while parents could probably care less about what others think of their parenting – or as my mother would say, “What? You think you’re parent of the year?” – parenting means putting yourself out there for the world to see. And judge. Children are a reflection of their parents, after all, and some parents make an occupation of ensuring that reflection is flawless. Fortunately for my parents and me, that was not the case. Good thing too. I am sure you can count on more than two hands the number of times my parents, in the wake of my brilliant decisions, questioned the decision they made one summer night many moons ago.
All that said, I’d bet every penny on my sister and brother-in-law being great parents and raising the most amazing children. (I used the plural because if you know my sister and brother-in-law, then you know there will be more. That’s as certain as the sun rising in the East.) Theirs is a gamble but to an extent, they’re playing with house money. Both were raised in the kind of old-school environment that produces people grounded in principle, pragmatism and good values. Make no mistake; I plan on stealing from their example every chance I get. I already have my own parents to crib from and if some is good, more is better.
This is all a good reminder – and leveler – as I make this push for graduate school and try to continue this adventure. I’ve been fretting acceptance for a few months now and this is a nice reminder that applying was a gamble but I’m still quite far from fully jumping into the unknown. I’m still in safe territory. To use the metaphor that Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach once used -- it’s like breakfast with bacon and eggs: the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.
That’s the lesson: when it comes to pushing life’s boundaries, may we all say, “Oink oink.”
P.S. Sophia – I promise to help you explore the world, flood you with books, educate you in historic pop culture references, reinforce your Catholic upbringing, and take you to a game at Wrigley Field.