16 November 2008
It's a week until my Dash turns six. Six Years Old. Unbelievable. November 2002: his entry into the world changed my life forever.
I was spaced out on gas and morphine and whatever they put in epidurals, after a failed induction (like, not even one centimetre dilated) and then an emergency caesarian. In the panic my glasses had been forgotten so all I could see was a big blurry wash of moving shapes. The moment Dash's little blurry shape was held up at the end of the operating table, I burst into floods of tears; I was completely overwhelmed by the emotion that he was in the world.
I don't think there has ever been a more mind-blowingly emotional moment in my life, before or since. I was now a Parent. I was Through the Looking Glass. I had taken the Red Pill. I would never look at anything the same way again.
Within a couple of days of being home from hospital, I started to realise what I had been blissfully unaware of just moments prior to Dash being born. Parenthood was a 24-hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week, 365-days a year Job - with no training, no rule book, no get-out clause. Physically I was in a mess after the Caesar, breastfeeding was nightmarish and I was reacting to my pain medication. But I still had to to get up and take care of my baby. There was no one else who could do it.
And now it's six years and two more babies later. I have adjusted to the weight of responsibility that comes with parenthood, but sometimes, quite regularly, I worry about how well we are doing as parents (as most of us do).
There's a lot of pressure out there in the world for kids to grow up so quickly. There are 101 activities they could get involved in, which will help them "get ahead" or "become an achiever".
Of course I want my kids to succeed academically and ultimately in their careers, but more importantly for me, is whether they become good people.
You know: the kind of people who care about others and are generous; the kind of people who are honest, loyal, trustworthy and fair; people who have a strong character, a "can do" attitude and are able to bounce back from disappointment; people who will leave their world a better place than when they found it.
Tonight I had a wonderful glimpse that something is getting through, in a conversation I had with Dash.
He was procrastinating about going to bed, and somehow the conversation came up about Africa. He was looking at some photos on the fridge of some African children, including our sponsored child.
He asked me why there are so many poor children in Africa. I told him because there have been greedy leaders who haven't helped their people but just looked after themselves instead. He asked, "Have there been any good leaders?"
I said, "Yes there was a wonderful leader in South Africa called Nelson Mandela..."
"And who were the bad leaders?" he wanted to know.
I said, "Well in a country called Uganda there was a very bad leader who hurt lots of people. That's the country where those people from Watoto are helping the poor children who don't have mums and dads, I told him. You know the ones we are working to help with our Christmas Project."
He was intrigued.
But he went anyway.
And then he met a lady who's husband and children had all died of a bad sickness*. She was looking after her grandchildren, and she said to the man from America, "What will happen to these children if I die? They have no one else!"
The man felt Jesus whisper in his heart that he needed to help that lady and those children, and lots of others just like her.
Dash was looking at me with big wide eyes, "And did he? Did he help them?" he asked.
"Yes Dash, he did!" I said. All of a sudden I choked up, remembering seeing for myself those beautiful children from the Watoto choir, standing up and saying, "Once I had no hope, but now I have hope. Once I was alone, but now I have a new family. Once I was forgotten, but Jesus rescued me..."
And singing, "I am not forgotten, God knows my name..."
I reminded Dash about those children, real live children, who he had met and spoken to when they visited our church. I said, "Those children have a dream in their heart, that when they grow up they will be leaders who love Jesus and will change their whole country."
"And what about that man, the leader from America," Dash asked. "Will he die? Will it be a long time? What will happen if he dies - will there be another leader to help the poor children?"
Honest, that's what he said. The way his mind works! I reassured him that there would be other people to help if that happened. Then he said it.
"Well one day I want to be a leader like that man and help them."
Priceless. A golden moment. A treasured conversation. A glimpse of my small son's character: tucked away in there is a heart of compassion who (as well as being a great soccer player for England and The Toon) also thinks about being a leader who helps poor children.
I wanted to write this down here, so I can look back and remember what we spoke about together. So on days when I am feeling like the worst parent (the yelling-est mother, with the naughtiest children) I can remind myself that some days we get to glimpse the gold that is hidden deep inside each one of our precious kids.