I was twenty years old when it hit me that my parents were their own full human beings, not just extensions of me. My mom had a name, an identity and an existence before me. She was never just “Stephanie’s mom,” as my friends sometimes called her.
Of course, the ironic thing is that during my whole childhood and continuing into today, I was really just an extension of her.
To put it another way, I was a satelite in her orbit.
And as we become adults, we start to occupy our own space. Most of us leave the shadow of our parents at some point.
And then one insane day, when the world really goes topsy-turvey as it so often does in the course of “normal” life, our parents start to orbit us. They become the ones needing help, and we become the center.
A quote from the sci-fi classic Dune sums it up well. As her son comes into the full realization of his abilities and his purpose, he starts to direct her (with love of course) instead of the other way around, she “followed automatically, noting how she now lived in her son’s orbit.”
As her son awakens to his destiny as a Messiah figure, the transformation and shift in orbits is obvious. In our own lives it’s usually much less clear cut.
For me, in a large way, I feel that I started to orbit my children the moment my first son was born. I no longer live for myself because my main purposes are directed to the service of another. This is also different from the partnership of marriage.
And yet still my children obviously depend on me and I determine the whole of their lives from what food they eat, to where they go, who they meet, and how they live. So yes, they orbit me in a way.
Maybe for most of us, we orbit each other in differing ways.
It brings me to wonder how Mary and Joseph felt about raising the God-man, Jesus. When did it really hit them that he was not just a child, but the Redeemer of all humanity? What a humbling moment!
Just reflections, that’s all. The mystery of parenthood is deeper, more transformative than I ever guessed it could or would be.