15 Apr Considering the standards by which we measure our parenting
Last weekend I found myself sleeping on a grass field under the stars. Living in west Los Angeles, it’s a rare opportunity to see the stars between nights blanketed in ocean fog or the dimming effect of the city lights. But on this night, flanked by sleeping Boy Scouts scattered across a grassy field, clusters of the brightest stars shone down on us as we settled into our sleeping bags. As I drifted to sleep, I stared into the heavens letting my mind wander. Thoughts of my growing two-year-old entered my consciousness and of his younger brother expected to enter our family in a few months. In a self-examining moment I imagine many young parents experience, I began to ask myself probing questions such as, “How am I doing as a young father?” “What does my son need from me that I’m not presently giving?” “What kind of example am I to this precious little one?” As a first-time parent, such internal inquiry comes to me frequently as I travel the journey of perpetual “firsts.” Before I had a chance to answer the many questions that entered my mind, I drifted asleep. The following morning I awoke with those questions still on my mind. As I sat up to survey my surroundings, I noticed a moist sensation that completely enveloped me. I quickly realized that the nightly dew had visited us, coating our sleeping bags in a light blanket of moisture.
Dew plays an interesting part in the southern California ecosystem. I’ve always been amazed at the vast array of disparate plants that can grow in this naturally dry landscape. In the same garden you can find everything from desert cacti to blooming perennials to colorful tropical varieties. What I find remarkable is that Los Angeles ranks as one of the driest major cities in the country averaging a mere 14 inches per year. How can such an array of plants grow in such an environment? I’ve never claimed to be a botanist, but I believe this can be attributed in part to the continuous, nourishing, and nearly imperceptible dew that descends each evening. Dew may be quiet and unnoticed, but its steady influence empowers a variety of plants to grow and develop.
Oftentimes as a parent I hold myself to the wrong standards. While my inclination may be to measure myself by the sheer inches of rain I provide to my growing boy, perhaps what he really needs is consistent, mindful acts of love like the nightly dew. What fatherhood requires of me isn’t a periodic downpour, but a daily, nourishing effort to help a child grow. Mother Theresa, a woman of immeasurable influence in the lives of countless individuals was attributed to have taught, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” As I continue to grow alongside my toddler, my only hope is to echo this sentence-long sermon by offering my child a quiet daily dew of love, trust, and mindful example. I can’t wait to see how he blooms.
Written by Josh Ostler, contributor, Seeing the Everyday. Learn more at seeingtheeveryday.com