My son has a scar in the middle of his forehead. It’s subtle but reddens in the summer sun. It was the first time I felt one of my flaws as a mother was on public display. Before children, I carried my gems and their shadows in secrecy, but children shine a light on all of us.
“Someone had a bad fall,” they’d say.
“What happened,” they’d ask.
“Poor thing,” they’d coo.
It was the first day I decided he was old enough for the safety gate to be removed. It wasn’t a fall, but a burn, a lean into the glass of our glass fireplace. Just one second to stare into the flames caused over seven months of raw seeping, then a blistering scab, then partial healing, to a faint discoloration on his otherwise perfect skin. How many more scars he’s collected are incalculable – and more are to come, as the way of life initiates each of us into humility, into our small and frail human nature.
Sometimes I wonder what he’ll become. His life, though not entirely my doing, is a guide that shapes the way. My brother, sister and I are my mother and father’s scars. We were raw then. We seeped with innocence. And now we rub salve on our scars. We smear ointment on our scabs. Though our scabs have hardened, each show signs of the falls those years. It’s what our parents give to us.
Will my son forgive my introversion that keeps us inside some days, or the ways I am critical of others? Will he forgive my ignorance that day I believed he was ready for the bars of safety to come down? Will he spring from all that I am and taught, or come close to my ways of living? As a parent, I cannot take blame or credit, though some lines cross over as nature and nurture tend to blur. Instead, I can hold him when tears fall. I can sing away the sting. I can praise his attempts at living, and remind him that the courage of waking into this world is bravery.