“Do what you can when you can until you can’t. Then rest easy knowing the haggard look of the man in the mirror has been well earned.”
It’s funny because these are words I tell myself all the time when I look in the mirror and try to accept the parts of me I wish were air brushed away. Most of the time, I think I accept a reasonably accurate view of myself. Still, I do all of this with years growing up knowing who I am. I know my parents, and I recognize them in so many parts of how I live. I know where I got my protestant work ethic, and I recognize the roots of my ever questioning of assumptions. I see the roots of my drive.
For my children, I suspect this will always be harder. While they may come to accept themselves, I have no illusion it will be as easy for them. For example, every few months we have a conversation with O after he says his birth parents are dead. We do not know this and have no way to find out. Still, it is touching when he releases a balloon into the sky for his “dead” parents or grandparents to let them know he is thinking of them.
Every now and then we have one of those humorous moments when we are hit over the head with our kids’ efforts to define their place/group in society. This week’s moment was a dinner conversation between A (oldest daughter) and J (my wife):
“Mom, am I half-African and half-American?”
A: “Then why do they call me African-American?”
I can only hope A comes to realize she is all American and all African-American over time along with everything else that she uses to define herself. Her definition is hers to make. Maybe with acceptance, she will no longer obsessively pick at her hands. Maybe then, she will find peaceful sleep at the end of her insomnia. Sadly, such a day seems so far away.