When you have a child, you put your hopes into him.
That new life lays in your hands and wriggles and screams, being brought into this veil of tears. It’s unfair to that child, heaping the responsibilities of life onto them, but it’s too late to undo. And so, you place a certain amount of your hopes into him.
And how could you not? After all, not one person who has ever lived has drunk life to its lees. Every person who has lived has failed to live up to their absolute potential, but you think differently of that life in your hands when it’s brand new. You see far beyond this day and into the infinite future. You see that the child in your hands will aspire to be all that you want him to be, regardless of anything that you tell anyone else. He will not fail where you failed. He will go beyond your successes. He will be everything that you were and are not.
That life then spirals out of your control almost immediately, denying you of everything that you’ve ever wanted for him. Not one actuality is as good as the potential, after all, no matter how much we might want it to be otherwise. And though we may tell ourselves differently, and though we may lie to others, all of those differences, all of the times that he diverges from the path that you want him to walk down is a disappointment. It’s pain, and it’s the denial of your own self. What about what you wanted? What about what you hoped? What about the life that you failed to live and the ways that your child would fix all of that?
He walks, but not the way you want him to. He talks and says the words that you don’t want him to say. He doesn’t want to wear the clothes you get for him, and if he starts potty training himself, it’s before you want him to and if you have to start it for him then it’s an imposition of your time. But there’s more to it than just that, and you know that there is. There’s the denial of your own great journey, your path stopping abruptly, forever altered and never able to be swung back on track.
He holds you back and you resent him for that. He takes away your hopes, he takes away your dreams and you put all of them into him. You make your life into his life, and you live through him in all the ways that you wish that your life had been different and that’s the disappointment of all of it and the part of your life that you find the hardest part to live: the knowledge that so much of it is completely out of your hands and that’s there’s only so much control that you ever have over it, and that level is so vanishingly small that you face your own utter insignificance every time that you kiss him goodnight.
So you sign him up for soccer, but he wants to play baseball. You buy him art supplies and he wants to read. You buy him the brand new clothes that he picked, despite wanting something different than what he wanted, and he comes home with mud on every square inch of it and you smile and you laugh and you sigh exasperatedly, but inside you wail and you gnash your teeth. What about your life? What about what you want? What about what you hoped to be that you will never be now? How dare he impose himself on you so much and how dare you just go along blithely with it?
His grades are never what you want them to be. If he fails his classes, then he’s a failure. If he gets all As then he’s a teacher’s pet who never questions what he’s told. If he gets anything in the middle then to some extent he is not applying himself to the extent that he ought to be and how dare he? You’ve invested so much time in his education! You got him all of the right supplies and you made sure that he was able to read and do mathematics before he even got into Kindergarten. You stayed up late doing research on the internet and spending money that you don’t have on all of the best material to raise your child to be what you always wanted to be and never were. And he’s spitting in your face every single solitary day and he’s doing so with a blithe little smile on his face as if he’s the greatest thing to happen to you even though he’s the worst.
What about Stanford? What about Harvard? What about Chelsea, she was such a nice girl! Why spend so much time with Harmony? She’s such a bad influence on you. Why won’t he date who you want him to date and if he does why can’t he just cut the apron strings and do what he wants to do? How could he be so stupid to get in trouble the way he did and why doesn’t he ever stand up for himself or live life dangerously? Why does he never question what he’s told and why does he have to be such a constant contrarian? Who does he think he is to come home at the hour that he does and why doesn’t he have a life of his own?
He’s a disappointment when he does and a disappointment when he doesn’t. Nothing satisfies you whether you admit it or not and you want him to just be like you regardless of how much you say otherwise. He’s your chance at immortality and he’s wrecking all of it. He’s besmirching your good name and he’s spitting on it and taking all of it away from you. And the worst thing of all is how you lie to yourself about it. How you tell yourself that it’s okay, that this is what you wanted and this is what you want and that you couldn’t be happier. You lie to yourself just like every other parent ever has, and he’ll lie to himself when this tragedy repeats itself.
When he puts all of his hopes into his child.