Unconditional handshake

Parenting a precocious tween has many moments that are probably best left off my blog. But, to my surprise and delight, small points of light still accompany my days and nights even at the end of a summer of (occasionally too much) family togetherness.

My daughter has pretty much had her fill of me. At some points this week, even my breathing in her general vicinity has been too much for her to bear. My jokes aren’t funny, my dinners are repetitious, and far too many of my conversations begin with, “So, let’s set some goals for this school year…” She rolls her eyes as she bemoans to anyone that’s listening, or even if they are not: “why do I have to have a social worker for a mother!”

It’s a tough lot, I know. She’s not any happier about my college teaching gig, nor the journey-toward-priesthood thing either. But, life deals us these parental cards. I tell her often, while smirking, that I realize I am her burden to bear.

The night before last, I had popped in her room to say good-night and was greeted with, “why do you have to STARE at me like that! UGH!” It was obviously time to call it a night. I went to bed and quickly fell into a sound sleep. At 1:00 a.m. I felt a tug at my sheet.


I groggily turned over wondering what was going on.

“Mom, please. Help me. It’s my tooth and something is wrong and I don’t know if its bad, please look…”

I got up with her and tried to adjust my eyes to the light. After a late night dental exam with flashlight and mirror, it turned out to be a loose primary tooth that had been dislodged a bit by a wayward pita chip on which she’d been snacking. Some water, a cold cloth, and reassurance that it was a normal loss and not an adult tooth catastrophe calmed her nerves.

I reached out to give her a hug. Forgetting her angst for an instant…and possibly even feeling a hint of gratitude…she moved toward me and almost accepted my maternal embrace. But, she caught herself in the act, and reclaimed her fierce independence. Instead, she stood up straight, and extended her hand to me in a formal handshake. I shook her hand, said, “I love you” and went back to bed.

Only back in my room did I erupt with laughter at the hysterical formality of my daughter fighting so hard for her independence, even while almost painfully acknowledging gratitude for support. What a metaphor, truly.

I think of all the times that I have been angry with God…the Universe…fate…just for being there. I want my way, on my terms. Even the acknowledgement of Divine Presence has felt like hot breath down my neck. And then I wake, frightened. I need that closeness, crave the knowledge and direction, the nurturing and support. I call out and always, my cries are heard. My hurt is held in larger hands, and what cannot be fixed is still soothed in a radiant realness that reminds me: this is being human. This is feeling, and living, and yes…even hurting. I am not alone.

God is reaching, extending unconditional love while I struggle with my own need for independence. Sometimes, I too I have managed only a hand-shake, a formal thank-you of gratitude. And I am met, exactly as I am. The embrace is always there waiting, whenever I am ready to unfold within it.

The unconditional handshake of our humanity. The eternal embrace always present, always reaching, patiently persistent. Through it all, the ever-present gratitude of knowing we may be able to stand on our own, but we are never alone. I think on these things as I drift back to sleep reminded that, in parenting and in life, all will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

About harasprice

Professor of Social Work and Priest in The Episcopal Church, parent, teacher, learner, writer, advocate, and grateful traveller along this journey through life
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