There are a few moments captured, like snapshots, in my memory of the day we brought Bar home from the hospital: seeing him turn his little face into the sunshine for the first time as we clumsily hoisted him into the car, me hopping out of the car to scoop up Ralph, the cat, and closing the door leaving the baby inside the car, the "It's a Boy!" balloon tied to the rail on my front steps dancing and flashing in the breeze. And, the memory of passing Bar to my father to hold for the first time. My father plunked down in the rocking chair that he and my mother had just driven 1,025 miles to bring to me. He waited, stiff and unmoving, his arms a nest of blanket and cautious expectation. His breath caught in his throat a moment and then he started to rock. Back and forth and back and forth. I wondered briefly if, as he looked at my tiny son, he was remembering what it was like to hold me as a baby. It turns out he was indeed as he whispered just then the first words he ever said to his namesake,
"I rocked your mommy in this chair. One million rocks."
My dad, a man never prone to emotional effusiveness, seemed to get stuck at that point. What does one say to a newborn? To your first grandchild? To the tiny creature sprung forth from your own and only daughter now cradled in your arms?
"Sight Alignment. Trigger Control."
That was it and there it was. The very first piece of advice my dad thought to offer up to little Bar, who, at that moment, pooped noisily, snapping my father out of his oddly commingled musings on love, life, and weaponry. There endeth the lesson.
Or so I thought. It occurred to me recently that "Sight Alignment. Trigger Control" may have been the best parenting advice I've ever been given. When I strip away all the rest: Breast or bottle? Cloth or disposable? Work or stay home? Music classes or gym classes? And so on and so forth, I'm left with a near daily need to adjust my sights. My actual experience of being a mom is nothing like what I saw in my minds eye when I decided I wanted to have a baby, or when he was one, or even last week. Sight alignment. As for trigger control, I know that I'm not the first mother to have seriously considered leaving her kid on a hillside to be raised by wolves (and build Rome!) or to have been pushed so close to her breaking point that the only available option is to run screaming into the night with a toy hammer and pound on the compost bin while sobbing unrelentingly. But, gold stars on my karmic sticker chart, I haven't ever (yet) turned him out of the nest and pushed though I may be, the only touch my child will know from me is loving touch. I can make no such guarantee regarding the compost.
I am not, by nature, a particularly patient person, nor do I handle change especially well. I like routine. I like knowing what's coming next. I dislike chaos and things that are illogical. I am frustrated when I can barely control the present and terrified that I cannot control the future. All in all, I'm a terrible candidate for parenthood. And yet there is Bar, who I love beyond measure or reason. Bar, who lights me up. Bar, whose simple smile can drag me through a hardest day. Bar, to whom I have given over my life, my job, my body, my dreams and plans and whose own life I can shape only so much before I must release him to the fast moving currents of time and his own path.
Sight alignment. Trigger control.