If the world is a circus, then I think a parent is essentially a funambulist, a tightrope walker.
The job is never easy, and the first rule is to acknowledge, respect and accept the challenge of the rope. The rope is called “responsibility”.
The parent funambulist is unique among the other circus performers because he does not really “perform” for the crowd. The crowd can very loudly proclaim its delight or displeasure at how he is doing, but he must not, must never, let it distract him from the second rule of tightrope walking: maintain your balance. Find your centre of gravity. A long pole held firmly with both hands helps him maintain his balance. The pole could be anything – a good sense of right and wrong, a set of morals, code of ethics, values, faith, even an unfailing sense of humour – anything to keep him from tipping over when the crowd gets too loud or the winds get too playful or the rope becomes shaky. And when the rope does become shaky, he can pause. He can rest, look around him, look at the other tightrope walkers, to give and receive encouragement. Then he has to continue moving forward, because he has to. Because he realizes it is not only him on the rope. He carries on his shoulders his children, and his children’s children, generations of future funambulists! He has to move on because the weight gets heavier with time, with age.
Sometimes, the funambulist falls.
But, as long as he keeps true to the first rule in his heart, something magical happens, a safety net always appears. The safety net is a reminder of the third rule: Do it again.
Sometimes, the funambulist does not want to be a funambulist anymore. So he walks away. My theory is, there will come a day when he will realize that he has given up the best job in the world.
Because it IS the best job in the world. Up there (up here! I am a funambulist, too!), on the often-shaky rope, during moments when everything is in perfect balance, in the stillness you can hear and see everything. The reason for your being, the souls perched on top of your shoulders are giggling at how closer they are to the heavens. And sometimes, you can hear the other funambulists shouting at you, saying “You are doing an awesome job, dude!” And you know they would have clapped if their hands were free but it doesn’t matter because the crowd below is doing all the clapping for them.
I don’t know about the other tightrope walkers, but for me, the best part of it all will be when I get a tap on my shoulder, and my little one says, “Dad, that was fun! Now, I want to walk the rope myself….
…I want to follow you.”