by Jack A. Urquhart, ©2012 (477 words)
Lately I’ve been dreaming about my children. I say ‘lately’ but it’s actually more of a long-standing thing, almost habitual. Several nights a week they scamper across the landscape of my subconscious, practically careless, still small children, still obsessed with learning how to tie their shoelaces, practicing the latest breakdance moves, making igloos out of a spring snow in the back yard, squabbling over whose turn it is to feed the dog. For those few small dreaming hours, they are no longer the grownups their years dictate. And I can look out for them.
Then I awaken.
Then the real world closes in—that place for which I am increasingly fearful I’ve ill prepared my babes.
I encounter the evidence of this secondhand these days from the other side of the continent—a host of problems posted via e-mail, text message, Facebook, that I can’t ease away (as if I ever could). It seems my children struggle in ways I never did, forced to make a go of it in a world governed by the things I failed to teach them—lessons that I encountered early on in the classroom, on the playground, on the job site, in Sunday school. Want to talk about a failure of the education system? Look no farther than the homefront! I see the consequences of my negligence now—how my children flail in the absence of survival skills I might have drummed into their pliant, young heads.
Like the times tables of a rote intelligence; the ever useful craft of simulating respect where it isn’t deserved, or the expedience of abiding rules that ought rightly to be broken. And, of course, the fine art of invoking God’s will toward any ends.
Silly me to have been so remiss.
Instead, my poorly educated children struggle to make ends meet by making art instead of stock portfolios, by attempting music instead of marketplace cacophony, by parsing the lingo of the street instead of spouting superstitious scripture. Instead of brandishing parchment credentials, they parade their worldly ignorance, their emperors clothing, before the ogling eyes of the world as if were the latest fashion. Or at least, that is how it often looks to these distanced eyes—as if I’ve sent them naked and ill-armored, no more than serfs, into a world that lords it over vulnerability, over naiveté.
Yet somehow they survive, if not exactly thrive. Somehow they cope, even managing to display occasional acts of valor. And how miraculous is that in today’s world?
And yet in the still of the night, I go on dreaming. I go on dreaming my children safe. I go on despite awakening day after day to the same old sun-up questions. Like:
Who would’ve guessed it could be this difficult, this excruciating, this inescapable—paying quotidian witness to the evidence of parental oversight? Who would’ve guessed it could be this painful—watching from the sidelines as children become themselves?