When I went through my time of parenting two-year-olds, I thought that was difficult. Exhilarating, exhausting, maddening at times: but yes, difficult. Oh, how young I was.
To parent a teenager is in some ways like walking through a ring of fire. Going forward, I will doubtless be scorched, and my emergence is not guaranteed. Last night, my daughter asked me with genuine anguish, But why do people suffer? When I was sixteen, I asked this question, and I’ve continued to ask this question, in a multiplicity of ways, through decades. I can spew off varieties of answers, but ultimately, to my daughter, with her honest face, I come up short.
Late in the night, with my children sleeping, a solitary light burning, the windows open to the crickets with their sound of tiny shaking bells, I read a passage from a chaplain who had been at the scene of a horrific plane crash. When I finished the book, in those quiet, dark hours, I thought of my child. Just as she fought in her birth to be free of my body, I see this girl thrusting her way from the tatters of her childhood, striding so urgently toward what she believes is the golden realm of womanhood. Here I am again, ready to catch my daughter, wanting only to be here.
“… I don’t know why that young child was killed. This is a true mystery. And so I enter into it with you. I cry with you if you allow me into that space. I’ll walk with you. And this is something that a lot of chaplains I know that were involved in Iraq and Afghanistan–talking with their soldiers–they’ll say, Look, I’m gonna journey with you on this. I’m not here to explain it. I’m gonna journey with you. There’s a sense of humility there that I think connects with people, because I think in their heart of hearts we know, Oh, I don’t have an answer. So let’s walk into that mystery together.”
–– Laurence Gonzales, Flight 232