Haunting and emotive to me is this image of my grandson, Brady, and when first I saw it fully, second to having glanced at its lines on a camera screen, the words of the ancient anthem pooled in a warm slightly worrisome recess in my heart. A soft rush of feelings meddled about, arousing a faint uneasiness, persisting at various times during these intervening days, and causing complex and yawning thought. What child is this? Who is this small being, this tiny human, this scaled-down grownup?
What child is this? What child is any child?
With such promise is the squalling newborn handed from the birthing to his parents who gaze deep into the raw uncomprehending face. What faithful parent has not entertained the thought: this child will make a difference, this child is fine, a worthy one. Into this baby will I pour myself, will press him with benefit, with training, with education and opportunity.
Life “happens” then, and seldom does a parent achieve perfection in his child-rearing techniques: One set of parents is strident and rigorous; one inconsistent in his rulings, so that confusion arises in the child, another caters unnaturally to the whim of his children, gross misbehavior resulting and other people making excuse so they spend little time with such a brood. Some parents are diligent and thoughtful and loving, sacrificing their own lives for those of their children. None is perfect. Exceptional is to find a parent of grown children, who, with candor, can say, “I have been a perfect parent.”
And the child? Any child. Every child. What child is this anyway? To what was he born? Where lies his commission? Squirming with life, the child presses toward his destiny, his arms afling as he grapples with impairment and encumbrance. Can he overcome his faulty handling, his parent’s inescapable imperfection, their smothering indulgence, their paths of perfection to which they have sighted him? Will he force past impediment and constraint? Will he surmount difficulties posed by his flawed genetic blueprint? How will he do it? To what depth will he plunge, what ordinary road will he plod, or to what pinnacle will he ascend?