Thursday, December 28, 2006

Reaching for the ceiling

Recently, I helped watch my two nephews and niece. The niece is the youngest at 4 years old, and she is a very bright child. I shall call her Alicia here. During the time when I was playing with the kids, Alicia wanted me to pick her up so that she could touch the ceiling. I picked her up, and I raised her up until her little hand made contact with the ceiling. She said excitedly, "I did it! I touched the ceiling!" Kids are funny that way, being excited over something like that.

Having nephews and nieces are as close to having my own kids as I have gotten so far, but even with them, I've learned quite a bit about life and one of the purposes of it. One lesson is, you don't know how fast time flies until you are around kids. Kids grow FAST. For instance, when my cousin's son was 4 years old, he used to like me to "fly" him around like Superman. Basically, that meant holding him up as he straightened himself horizontally with fists forward, and I would "fly" him around the room.

Well, now he's 14 and almost my size. No more "Superman" for him! In fact, he could do that for my niece now! As an adult, 10 years may not seem like a lot, but when you go through 10 years with a child around, then you get a MUCH better idea about how much time has passed! No doubt my niece will be 14 in no time as well. But getting back to my point...

As I held Alicia up so that she could touch the ceiling, a thought hit me. With this act of raising her up, I was acting out symbolically what we of the current generation (that is, the adults) do for the next generation: We raise them up. Even as tall as I am, I can't touch the ceiling; that's beyond my ability (without a stepladder, that is) even if I stand up on my toes. However, I can help HER reach the ceiling.

And that's what we do for those of the next generation: We help them to reach beyond what we can do. We teach them our lessons, and guide them through their mistakes. And if we do our job right, then they'll go beyond us and our accomplishments. We can help them touch something that is untouchable for us. And one day, they'll do the same for the children in their lives. This is one of the purposes of life.

One day I won't be around anymore - however, it is my hope that Alicia will still remember me fondly after I'm gone. I hope that I will have provided her important lessons on life and living it, and that I will have helped her in other ways to go beyond what I had been able to accomplish in my own life. Besides helping her touch a ceiling, I mean.

That's quite a responsibility even as an uncle. But as I look into Alicia's eyes, and in the eyes of my nephews, they still look up to me. I'm still someone for them to emulate, someone whose example they will try to follow. My job is to be worthy of that emulation, and to provide good examples for them to follow.

I know that I'm not perfect, and that I make mistakes; being perfect and mistake-free isn't what I'm trying to be for them anyway. What I must do - the example that I must try to set for them - is to learn from my mistakes, and to do so in a way that will demonstrate to them the importance of learning from our mistakes. Hopefully I will have accomplished this well enough so that they will never lose their love and respect for their uncle.

The bond between parent and child runs very strong and very deep, and the more I feel those emotions, the more I realize how serious the responsibility of raising a child is. It's amazing what having children in your life will do for you - even as an uncle. No doubt if and when I have my own children, these feelings will run even deeper.

One day, Alicia will raise a child up to touch the ceiling. It could be her own niece or nephew, or her child. I hope that when she does that, she will recall when I did that for her - and I also hope that the same moment of revelation that hit me when I raised her up will also hit her. Then she will also feel that same sense of life coming full circle.

And it will warm her heart. This, I know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I find it funny that people always talk about how fast kids grow. Perhaps too little happens in my own life to keep me occupied while they grow, but my 10 nephews and nieces sure do seem to take forever to grow.

It may also be a question of how we like to interact with others. While I enjoy playing with my youngest nephews and nieces, the older ones are far more interesting to me because I can be intellectual with them - my prefered mode of relating. As a result, I'm impatient for them to grow up, mature, and realize the potential that they have.

Hurry up, kids! Grow!