Sometimes Caleb and I will be hanging out in some idyllic mother-son way, lounging on the couch, say, or walking hand in hand through the Kmart parking lot, and I'll say to him, "How did I get so lucky to be your mama?"
And he'll say, "I don't know. You just did."
It's as good an answer as any. One of the things that drove me nuts about many of the self-help experts was this tidy correlation between action and consequence. I know that it's meant to be empowering. I know that it's supposed to curb whining and inspire people to fix what ails them. But when you flip it around--you brought on whatever bad stuff that's going down in your life--it get pretty creepy pretty fast.
I kept bumping up against this issue, also known as There Is No Such Thing As Luck. Which is crazy talk. I didn't do anything in particular to get the wonder that is my healthy, smart, fun boy, any more than other parents did anything to get their children who got cancer or their suicidal teenagers. Yes, there are such things as bad parenting, genetic predispositions, uninformed decisions. But there's also such a thing as hard situations that happen for complex reasons, or no reason at all.
On the face of it, this sounds like the more depressing mindset to have. I can totally see why people are drawn to the experts who say you can grab Destiny by the suspenders and ride that bronco to success.
But, really, I think it's a lot easier to have gratitude--for the eight-year-old hand in yours, for the afternoon on the porch with a beer and a card game, for the nice email from your aunt--if it feels undeserved and untainted with self-congratulations. Also, if you roll like this, when the bad stuff happens, you might be able to take it without, or with less, self-flagellation.
In any case, it was a comforting thought to have once we were actually standing in the Kmart, having less than idyllic mother-son discussion regarding the Easter Bunny's generosity, or lack thereof, in electronics genre of gifts.