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Rock Solid Love

© 1999, by Lisa M. Roberts

A new year, new classes, new teachers, new book bags, new sneakers, new agenda, new workload, new work schedule, new work goals. As an EP, my work life shifts to the rhythm of school life, and each school year brings new transitions and milestones with it. Right now, on the cusp of the new millenium -- and a full year after the launch of EP as an Internet community -- I feel perched on top a small mountain looking forward, looking backward, looking up, looking down. I know it will just last a moment before I descend back into the nitty-gritty day-in, day-out of it all, but for this moment I do see a panaromic view of life...even after life...swirling around me...
In this corner of the country Hurricane Floyd swept us all into the new school year with theatrical momentum, peaking with an ominous air of high drama last Thursday night, a school delay Friday morning, and a fresh, glorious wind welcoming the weekend in. Fortunately, as a family we are now basking in the wake of that glorious wind as every child is successfully transitioning into the rhythm of the new year, but it was definitely a stormy first couple of weeks of school. And now that the air has cleared a bit, a whole new perspective has settled in for all of us.
First, my 12-year old daughter caught herself a cold with her first big homework assignment and worked herself up into a day-long sneezing fit in school ("Mom, it was so embarrassing!"). She couldn't seem to get herself a good night's sleep all week until I yielded and kept her home one day to "catch up." Then, to pull my youngest son *away* from his first classroom during pre-school orientation brought on a scene I'd rather not discuss...(let's just say the screech-whine is still ringing in my ear).

Finally, we received a call from our fourth grade son's teacher that he had been acting up all week and landed himself in the principal's office (first week of school!), working himself up into a frenzy of fears and defiance. After long talks with the teacher, principal, each other and our son, my husband and I were able to get him to stop "sweating the small stuff" and focus on the bigger issues, and now he's back on track.
Against this backdrop of back to school turmoil I have begun my new position as the "Home Office Expert" and weekly columnist for a new media company for women. With all of us stepping in and out of each other's new fall schedules, it's been quite an adjustment.
Last week in the middle of all this I had a dream about my late father that couldn't have been more symbolic if I pulled it out of my consciousness. It was one of those dreams where you are watching yourself in action and commenting on the sidelines (like Scrooge and his ghosts). In this dream I was watching from a distance (with someone at my side, don't know who) while my father and I were working on a kind of exercise together. We were standing on the ledge of a cliff, where he had tied one end of a rope around his waist and the other around mine. The "exercise" had me jumping off the cliff, swinging myself around the edge of the mountain and then working with my father as he pulled me back up by tugging on the rope. He was coaching and encouraging me, and I felt myself getting stronger each time I jumped, doing it over and over again until I "got it right."
Then suddenly I saw from a distance that my father was getting weaker, and when I looked at him closely I saw that he was physically ill, as he was right before he died last summer. I realized he would only have the strength to pull me back up one last time. Before I jumped, I hugged him tight and said, "Even when you can't pull me up anymore, I will still feel your strength."
Days after the dream I was driving my son William home from a birthday party, just the two of us in the van. William spotted my perturbed face in the rear view mirror and asked if there was something wrong. I happened to be deep in thought over the dream, and so I shared it with him in detail. By the time I finished I was in tears and said, "And that's what I want you to remember too, William. If ever you feel like you're jumping off into the unknown, into a scary place, remember you are not alone. Your father and I are here for you, no matter what. We'll work with you to pull you back to a safe place."
William was quiet for awhile and I wondered how much he had understood what I was trying to say, what my dream symbolized. Finally, my ever-practical, ever-grounded, ever-perceptive child said, "Mommy, that must have REALLY been a DREAM, because if you jumped off a cliff with a rope attached to both you and Grandpa, then Grandpa would have fallen off too." Then he thought some more and added, "Unless Grandpa was a rock."
Well yes, William, he was -- and still is. You do understand. A parent's love is rock solid. It is strong and steady and unmoving, and a child who is connected to a parent with a love so solid could throw himself or be thrown off an emotional cliff and still feel intact. He could take risks and still feel secure, he could leap without pulling everyone else down with him. Even now I look for my father in my everyday life, and sometimes I find him in the spaces between science and faith, awareness and sleep, memory and foresight. Sometimes I find him in my pre-schooler's furrowed brow and in my pre-teen's hand wave as she laughs off a comment, or in the wind and sunlight behind a tree's green summer leaves, or sometimes he's on the tip of my voice or in the curve of my fingers as I type. But always, always I feel my father with me when I need him to be, and not once since he passed on from this earthly world have I ever felt abandoned. It's as if the rope between us is as strong as ever.
Now I look around me and see the rope that is tied from my waist to each of my children's. When Jessica develops a cold under the spell of homework stress, I find myself tugging on that rope. When William swells with feelings of social or intellectual incompetency -- even though success is beside him on every turn -- I tug. When Jimmy gasps for air during an asthmatic episode, or when a friend plays push-pull (you're my friend/you're not my friend) with him, I tug. And when Thomas falls out of his bed in mid-night, or can't find the words to express a fear or frustration, I tug yet again. This is what I can give to them, it is what my father and mother gave to me.
As children we don't quite see the view from the top, but as adults we can see it all. On the top of our small mountains we learn that the jump-pull, love-tug exercise we worked on with our parents all those years did indeed make us strong, and that we in turn can coach our children to build emotional endurance too, bit by bit.
As Entrepreneurs may each of us jump into our challenges with confidence and skill, and as Parents may we pull our children up with commitment, conviction and compassion. And when we are jumping purposefully into the unknown at the same time we are pulling others through theirs, may we remember that after the storm comes extraordinary fresh air...and if we look for it, a clear view from the top as well.

Lisa Roberts is the mother of four, owner of The Entrepreneurial Parent, LLC and the author of How to Raise A Family & A Career Under One Roof: A Parent's Guide to Home Business (Bookhaven Press, 1997). Copies of her book are available for purchase at EP and through Amazon.

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