Three girls, three schools.
Three cities, technically. And all three play soccer in three different towns, too, sprawled from the Appalachian Mountains to the Carolinas Piedmont. I’m in halfway through it all, one daughter engaged, another a budding star in high school and club soccer.
The third – who knows what limits she’ll push, in a greenhouse or on stage or with a ball at her feet.
It gives the illusion of my importance in being halfway there. I’m not lifting my youngest to my shoulders for a ride, but not yet ready to give away my oldest to her future groom. Take your time, I urged them the day they showed us the ring. Take your time.
I don’t want to slow the whole process, to hang onto those moments the girls are under my wing, under my thumb, still looking to me as the strongest man in the world.
They’ve figured out I am not. Yet if they see me still fighting, fighting like that bluebird I saw chasing crows from his nest, they’ll believe the race isn’t always to the strongest. Or fastest. Maybe they’re not thinking of it at all, between matches and training and life.
Seizing the chance to live
If they’re not, that’s fine with me.
It’s a good life, this. My friend sat next to me at a breakfast table, spoon swirling in a cup of grits, words drenched with agony over events taking place in Syria right now. Why would you start a family there? not looking for an answer but I gave one anyway.
For the chance, I was saying, to live.
Amid the fight or flight mechanisms that govern us, there’s a pull to pass on lineage. You forget that kids in poor households have longer odds for college. You do your best to provide a role model. Sometimes it’s what you do after you fail at that that teaches most.
And you find yourself halfway through it all, and what a glorious place to be.
You beat some odds, ignore others. Global concerns and civic strife and your very own health and perceived limitations just lift off into the ether and out into space. You’re on a sideline or a highway or rushing to see your daughter act, a gaudy bouquet in your hand.
Being halfway there feels good, despite how far it feels from your college girl.
Always room to improve
Life will likely take her even further. You wonder, with her closer to the end of the assembly line of fatherly influence whether you are well equipped at all to help construct her.
You are, though, but should always strive for better.
See where she is? It’s not status or anything quantifiable. It’s in the words she quotes, the belonging she’s found and the proximity you feel to her when she sees a video of the cheesiest pizza in the history of man and she shares it with you.
And it’s sitting here now, writing and waiting for morning when another child will play in a college showcase. It’s not about the potential prize but about this leg of the journey, of watching her trajectory still sky-bound and unknown.
And it’s in that youngest child, now tall as the others. It’s watching her try to learn to make a family tree for a gift for relatives she just met this weekend. It’s picking up Wake Forest gear every time you’re in Winston-Salem because that’s her dream school.
It’s seeing their mother’s beauty and resolve in them each, and wondering when and how their promising paths contain anything I could offer beyond a steady ride everywhere and soft blankets to wrap in and food on their plates.
Then I see them goof off, wrestling and Facetiming their big sister, alive with the gift of annoyance and a buoyancy from me I can see clearly in them. It’s there, with them, that spirit to make a ruckus and forget the odds, even when they’re in their favor.
And I find myself halfway through it, and ready for more.
Great post Eli. Great perspectives worthy of taking in. With a daughter in High School (and also a budding soccer talent) this was a timely post for me to read. Thanks for the insight. Will check back again soon.
Thank you! Great to see you here, and look forward to catching up with your words, too. So you’re in a similar spot?
Beautiful post Eli. You’ve hit on the meaning and purpose of life, for which most of us ponder. What really matters is family. xo
Thanks, Miri. I’m still trying to figure it all out, but the journey has been something, too.
Yeah, I know Eli. Couldn’t agree more with you my friend. We learn every day, don’t we?
Wait-you’re going to be a father-in-law someday soon? THAT will be a whole new set of challenges.
Sure am, Kath. As if I wasn’t going to run out of stuff to write! He’s a good man, and she’s quite in love.
Another beautiful post. Words of advice: even as an empty nester I still feel halfway there. Why? As a parent there is always the wondering how their life is turning out.
Thanks, Cricket. I think we’ll always feel halfway there, or at least, I hope that’s the case. I don’t think it ever ends, and that’s fine with me. Lends me a sense of purpose.
Our family joke is that I worked hard to raise our kinder to become self-sufficient adults (washing machine instructions, packing own lunches–I was such a mean mom), and so they don’t need to call home! They got it figured out. Hummph.
Or, you could train them such that they can just take care of us eventually. It’s sometimes tough to sneak it all by the kinchen sometimes, eh?
Kids grow up too fast, Eli. Sometimes I wish they’ll always be 5. Aren’t you glad you’re halfway there already? Me still have a long way to go. 🙃
Like weeds, they say. I say faster. I do miss the 5s, but where they are, that’s pretty cool, too. I hope I’m far short of halfway there, actually!
Love this post E.
My only child 👧will be 30 this summer… THIRTY!!!!!! 😓 She got married last summer 💒 and I was so consumed with the plans and details😵 of the wedding 💒 that it didn’t hit me until we were all walking down the aisle…. They grow up fast! Enjoy what time⏰ you have while they still see you as the most important man👨 in their life! 💖
Maybe it’s by design that life with our kids keeps us so busy, Courtney. I don’t want to think about who is most important among men in their life just yet – I will be appreciative of being in the conversation!
i liked reading this. :]
Hey, Thanks Jenn. It was good for me to write it. I’m going much lighter for Tuesday. Like, dessert light. (Not light dessert. That would suck.)
Thanks for sharing. I like the quote at the end – it’s very true.
Thanks for visiting, Lauren. I’m grateful that quote is true – I was awful in science in school.
This way, at least I have a chance.
Wow. My youngest is turning 19 soon. Stay as close as they will let you.
Wow is right. There’s still so much love between us but she’s forging her own path and knows that I miss her so. It’s what we raise them to do … right?
wonderful, and you wish the halfway could go on forever, sometimes…
exactly that, beth, because then there’s never an end.
Man, it’s tough when your babies grow up. Just yesterday my youngest started school, now she’s married and has five children of her own ~sigh~ But oh what fun my grandchildren are!!!!!! 😀
No sense fighting it though, Lyn. They won’t realize how short the time frame is, our kids, until they’re parents themselves. I can’t even imagine the grandkids stage yet …
You’ve got years before the grandkids stage 😀
I loved your post. We are three siblings and I am the youngest, I could so resonate with your lovely post! Great going….
Thanks – your Himalayas post was awesome. The youngest seems in such a hurry to catch up. I’m in no such hurry for her, but I do enjoy her journey.
What a great post! I love the quote at the end. I think life in general is more art than science 🙂
Very poignant post! I enjoyed reading.
And by the way, ever since I first read the title of your post, I’ve been quietly humming parts of “Living on a Prayer” in my head… “Oh, we’re halfway there… Oh, livin’ on a prayer…” LOL!
Visiting from A to Z
Thanks, Ericka! I was all serious in this one. Bon Jovi didn’t escape my mind while writing the title. I’d have used She Dropped the Bomb on Me, but there weren’t any Hs.
This is such a beautiful post. The question your friend asked about why one would want to start a family in Syria right now really made me pause and think. Raising children really is an art. Your children are blessed to have you as a father.
Thanks, Claire. The question of whether to bring a child into this world comes with a million answers and none at all, but I have to believe that no matter where the universe planted us, I would want this life of raising and worrying about and teaching and learning from my three daughters. No question.
I’m fortunate parenthood isn’t a science, because have you seen my science grades?
I’m the blessed one.
Hi Eli – I’m looking through and catching up – halfway there … your kids are just getting going – and as you say you’re a blessed one … a kid in Syria or as a refugee – so so challenging and with thought so worrying for all of them … the family I hope will lead a blessed life like their father … cheers Hilary
You’re very sweet, Hilary. Same blessings to you too.
This is wonderful, Eli. I love your musings on life and fatherhood especially. I look forward to this day (though I certainly don’t want to rush the experience either). Of having raised children I’m so proud of with every fiber of my being and every ounce of love in my heart. It is a good life, eh?
Also I didn’t know your daughter is engaged!! Mazel 🙂 xoxo
Thanks, Charlotte. I muse a lot, even when I’m not supposed to. The experience will come in its own time.
It’s a wonderful life, even as we sit together and their faces are stuck in their phones. I’ll tickle one now and then.