But that was a sad moment for Allie and me, sitting in the kitchen, hearing Josh correct himself. "Can we get some Nim&Ms? Um, I mean, can we get some M&Ms?" We both looked at each other with that same feeling. That was his last "baby word" and no one had to correct him. In fact, we had avoided correcting him, and had even told Evan (9) not to correct him when he said Nim&Ms. He figured it out for himself.
I guess it's time, he's five after all. And, I guess it's for the best, as I don't want a teenager who says Nim&Ms. And it isn't that I don't want my boys growing up because I also look forward to that part of their lives. Part of the sadness is that I know they don't know all the evils that are out there yet, they are so innocent. I love that about children. They don't know about the atrocities of Hitler, about how Andrea Yates drowned her five children, how men are killed, women are raped, and children are abused. We try to warn them of the coming knowledge they will need to survive in such a place, but it is difficult to prepare your children for hard, sorrowful times. I want to protect them from bad things forever, but I know I can't. I know there is no understanding of good if you don't have evil to compare it to. I know learning where the bad things live, where they like to hide, will help them to be prepared when they meet them, or in many cases, to avoid them altogether.
I also think about the times when they will rush out to meet danger, basking in the exhilaration of a thrilling moment. I have a lot of those memories, some of my most vivid and treasured. As a youth, I was unconvinced of my mortality, as we all are, I think. I wish I could say I weighed every action, thought them out carefully, and exercised caution to minimize the risks involved. I didn't. One of my friends and I used to joke that we "killed a couple of guardian angels on that one." I've always been a speed freak, so you can imagine how I drove as a teenager if given half the chance, or when I had a motorcycle in my 20s. I was never one to pass up an opportunity to burn some adrenaline. I will carry this knowledge about myself when I send my sons out, unprotected, hoping they will choose to use some form of good judgment. I can only hope they get it from their mother.
And hope is a very important word. Hope is probably THE most important word when it comes to our own lives and those of the people we love. It is something that can't be taken from you, unless you give it up. It is something you can carry everywhere and hold up any time. It is with us in our worst moments, like a beacon. It pleads with us to keep moving and not to give up, even when we can see no reason to believe. Hope lets us drive our car to work on the same interstate where there were 4 fatalities just yesterday; fearlessly. It lets us walk past a homeless person, ranting and raving to themselves, believing we will be safe. It allows us to roll our window down when a smiling stranger asks directions, even though he might be another Ted Bundy, because the odds are millions to one that he just needs help and we can provide it.
I've come to realize that hope is also what will allow me to let my children go, and grow. I will always hope they make the right decisions, though I know they won't, and that they can recover from the wrong ones. I will hope they drive safely, and don't do drugs, and don't get drunk, and don't, don't, don't. See, it's so easy to see the negative stuff, isn't it? Well, I have a lot of hope for the positive things as well. I hope they walk safely away from the risks they choose to take. I hope they learn from their mistakes and grow in wisdom. I hope they take advice well. I hope they choose the right women to spend time with, maybe to marry and have children with. I hope they choose women! I hope they continue to love me and my wife as much as they do now. I hope they will always know our home is and was a safe place. I could go on hoping like this till they were grown, getting ever more redundant in my hopes, but you and I both get it by now I'm sure. I hope someday my sons will know the feeling of pride that I have whenever I think of them, so powerful it tries to close my throat and sometimes brings tears to my eyes. Most of all, I hope they always know that I love them.
Above all else, I hope.