February 12, 2004

A Tearful Parting
Miho and Miki returned to Japan today. I can only imagine how hard Matthew will take their absence, and how tearful the goodbye was. Miho speaks English well, and Miki not so well, so we don't have lengthy conversations. Instead, we take them to see the sights in Atlanta, uniquely American eating establishments like Joe's Crab Shack (Miho's favorite). But the universal language of "cute" has been the main form of communication, as the girls played with Matthew. And Matthew, being the ham that he is, was loving the sudden increase in female attention. ("Twins, Basil. TWINS!" as Craig put it.)

Suddenly, the other two women in his life are gone, and he's stuck with just mom and dad now. It's difficult not to feel a little jealous of his feelings for them. Melissa and I worried that he might prefer them to us. He just might, but after some thought, that's okay. Right now, mom and dad are almost his whole world, but he's always making new social connections, and he'll continue to expand his social horizons as he grows up. And like all kids, he will prefer the company of friends to his parents. I know that when I was a kid, I would always pick hanging out with friends than my parents. Can most people honestly say differently?

It's all right. It's natural for kids to prefer the all-positive relationships. Parents tell you "no," they scold you, they make you take naps, and they may even spank you if you get seriously out of line. So kids prefer to spend time with the relationships with none of these down-sides, with people like Miho & Miki, "Uncle Caveman" or "Dude" who do nothing put tickle and play with him.

While this may be an initial blow to the parental ego, there is a comfort: While he may prefer the social company of these people, they will never take the place of parents. In the social society that we teach kids, there is always a place for parents and a kind of love that is unique to them alone. We will always love and care for him, and he knows that. When he falls down, he knows to come to us to make it better. It's the give-and-take relationships that never go away that are truly fulfilling.

In short, parents are the vegetables, friends are the candy. As a kid, you prefer the candy and the vegetables are forced upon you. Vegetables help kids grow up strong, though the kids don't know it at the time. Later in life, when kids are older and they have the choice, they can't stand too much candy, and actually choose to have the vegetables.

After Matthew grows up, I look forward to relating to him as an adult. This change has been very fulfilling for Melissa and I with our parents. I can't wait.

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