Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Sunday musings… While Babysitting

Our little cottage is filled to the gills with a couple of our grandchildren while their parents enjoy a weekend away. I’ve forgotten how intense it is to take care of little ones all day for several days. Making things a bit more challenging, the Littles have some kind of bug that has laid both of them low with fevers and all the fixins. For all of my efforts to demonstrate my evolution as a partner in the parenting game a couple of things are starkly evident. I am much more capable of devoting the entirety of my attention to the blocking and tackling of caring for grandchildren. Despite that, just like it was with our own kids, 90% of the time only Grammy will do; my role is to be ever-ready on the sidelines in “point-and-shoot” mode when she needs me.

While I feel I should be doing more, that the bar for my success as a teammate is ludicrously low, in the end this is essentially what Landon, Lila, and Beth need from me this weekend.

Esquire has a cover article on Bruce Springsteen that I’m slowly working through, one that spends quite a bit of time on Springsteen’s lifelong quest to figure out who he really is. He has a funny little quirk. Each time the writer asks a question that requires a deeper bit of self-awareness Springsteen looks into a mirror in his office before he answers. It’s as if he needs to be reminded that he is answering as Bruce, or supposed do be answering as Bruce, not BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN. Almost like he is parsing the question “who am I when it’s just me looking in the mirror” before each answer.

Making this an even bigger challenge, the whole “who am I” thing keeps changing. The longer we live the more versions of ourselves emerge. Some of them even real! Returning for a moment to our weekend with the Littles, Papi really is a different but altogether real version of who I am at this moment in life. For sure I am no less frustratable, and I probably don’t really have all that much more patience than I did as Dad. Oh no. I feel all of that now, too. The difference is that for whatever reason I have now essentially embraced these and other feelings as an essential part of an activity that I truly want to engage in. Today I acknowledge their presence and experience rather than avoid them.

Who does this make me now? Springsteen had a famously fraught relationship with a father who never really accepted who he, Springsteen, was as a child and a young adult. As a father himself Springsteen learned to be present in the lives of his kids, and to at least try to accept them for who they are at any given moment in their lives. No matter how well or how poorly we may be at either or both of those with our kids, grandchildren give us a Mulligan. A do-over if you will, at least if you are fortunate enough to have a chance to be in their lives.

Many years ago I wrote about a long weekend spent in the mountains of Colorado in the company of friends at the time. Adult weekend we called it. What I recall was a rare feeling that for pretty much the whole weekend I felt like I was exactly who I thought I was when I looked in the mirror. At least the good parts of who I thought I was then. Pretty cool weekend. Interestingly it was a pretty easy weekend, too. No posing. No trying to anticipate what others expected, wanted, or needed. I just woke up and gave everyone whatever felt like the best part of me available at a given moment. Though I had no idea of the changes that were about to occur I had a pretty good idea of who I was that weekend.

Now? Ha! I can’t even figure out what the mirror even is right now. Is it truly the mirror over my sink, the one that reminds me of all the miles I’ve traveled and hours I’ve flown in the memory lines of my face? Could be. Always has been. Still, it may never have been that at all. The mirror in the mountains may have been my friends, and Beth, and how we were, all together. Today it may be the face of the children, or of Beth, as we make our way through this feverish weekend.

Or it’s all of those. That’s probably it. All of them. The mirror in the bathroom is the measure of where we are at the moment. It’s a good thing to know who you are at any given time. There are mirrors all around us that show us where we are going, or perhaps where we should be trying to go. I really would like to be enough for the Littles, but there are times when it will be someone else who they will need to be their enough. My role is to be ready if it’s ever my turn. Their faces tell me if I’ve learned enough patience, or if I’m as “in the moment” as I think I am. None of the mirrors lie to you, at least they don’t if you have your eyes open.

As the years have gone by I’ve become better at knowing who I am at any given moment when I look in the mirror. ¬†Who I still need to become is there too, just in a different kind of mirror.

I’ll see you next week…


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