I was driving and saw my son, Otto, coming towards me on his scooter. He appeared to have a lollipop in his mouth. As I got closer, I saw that the lollipop was ON FIRE.
No, no, no!
Later that night, we were the only two home and I cornered the boy.
When did you start smoking? I pressed. Why? How much are you smoking? Do your friends smoke?
He admitted to starting three months ago. He just wanted to see it what it was like, and now he likes how it makes him feel. No, he defended.... none of his friends smoke. "I'm the only one."
Nice. At least my son is a leader, not a follower.
I told Otto that he would probably be kicked off the Executive Council. I told him I had no problem reporting him. I grabbed for the phone to call the executive council adviser. Otto made no move to stop me, proof that this addiction had already grabbed him.
My stomach was icy cold and churning like an electric ice cream maker. I just cannot believe this.
And then I woke up.
Still, the disturbing discomfort I felt in my dream has lingered throughout the day. Those dream scenes keep flickering by and replaying themselves in my mind like the end of an old movie reel.
My intense emotional reaction re-affirmed how interconnected we are as families.... whatever my children do affects me physically and emotionally. Like the mighty redwoods, we are bound together for our life span.
Sometimes, when I'm exhausted from worry, or frustrated with choices my kids make, or hurt because they hurt, it sounds enticing to be a singular tree among a grassy meadow - with no-one to worry about and no worries about who is worrying about me.
But, for the redwoods at least, a solitary existence is incompatible with survival. Without an intertwined complex root system, even the strongest of trees topple in the wind. The strength of the redwoods....and the strength of families... and the strength of individuals... lies in the strength of connections.
Yes, the decision to have children, and the non-decision to have parents, is a commitment to a lifelong road of ups and downs. It is a commitment to entanglements: including the good, the bad, and the beautiful.
That is simply the essence of life-giving life. I wouldn't want it any other way.
PS: In honor of my father who loves trees and taught me to do the same, and in homage of the symbolism described in this post, I designed a new blog topper to include a glorious tree.
And if you are fascinated by the mighty redwoods, here is an incredible TED talk about their complex eco-systems.