Dear Madame Optimist,
In darker days like these, when the screams, the tantrums and the safety helmets are close by, I wonder whether you will change your mind about our boy’s potential. I pray you won’t. You have this abounding faith in him that I envy, even in my doubts. You hear him mimic Nemo, and you think it means he feels lost. He hits his head and stomps, and you assume he doesn’t like our topic of conversation. He flaps his socks in the general direction of a tree, and you explain it’s because that tree reminds him of one he used to see before we moved here. Before all of this. When we still thought we were a normal family.
You know how kids stand against the wall for a height measurement, and then want to do it again the very next day? It never fails. They always think they are taller than yesterday. Every time. It could be the shoes, or the angle of the pencil, but they will claim a new centimeter.
This, I would wager, is how that particularly difficult person sees him right now (and you know of whom I speak). And if I am honest with myself, this is how I see you when I let my guard down. The realists (don’t dare call us “pessimists”) surrounding our boy bite our tongues and hang our heads. We see the wall and sigh, for all the pencil marks show up in the same vicinity.
It’s not that we doubt you. We just know how unreliable measurements can be.
Especially when those measurements concern him. A hundred times over, we have watched him progress and then regress, charge and then fall back, climb and then slide down. And so we hesitate to “go all in” on his progress.
But this is supposed to be about you, not us. About how you seem like you’re in denial sometimes. About how you need a teaspoon of tweaked expectations. About how we, the “properly adjusted” ones, are concerned that you are setting yourself–and all of us–up for further disappointment. Because let me tell you something, my love: belief is not as easy for all of us as it appears to be for you. Some days, it feels impossible. The truth is, many skeptics actually want faith. They would believe if only they could conjure up the courage. And on bad days, even after all the lessons I’ve learned being his father and your mate, I still feel a coward.
Forgive me. Forgive me.
You married the man who babbled, “I do believe. Help my unbelief.”
And that is why I need you. That is why we all need you. You are not the child with her heels against the wall; you are the loud cheerleading grownup. You swoop in and holler, “you HAVE grown!” We need you because you are well aware of the padded socks and the angle of the pencil, and yet you still see progress. We need you because, at the end of the day, you are exactly right: the child is taller today, if only by a hair.
My dear Lady, I am sorry I have trouble seeing in tiny increments. I read stories aloud but I miss “the little words,” as you are fond of saying. The forest is clear, but trees are all a blur. And I want to see them. I need you to keep pushing until I do see them. Until I live and love like Paul prescribed: hoping and believing all things. Because that kind of love, he assures me, never fails.
Give me time. Give all of us time.
I am only a couple of steps behind you now. I know the tantrums will subside. The safety helmet will return to attic storage. Our boy will grow. He is growing.
And before long, everyone will celebrate that fact.
Because even the “realists” around you, in our deepest places, understand that your way of seeing is not only nobler than ours, but lovelier and wiser as well.