Parents, there will be days when you may misremember which day it is. You will put your socks on backwards and wear clothing inside-out, from rise to fall. You will click your car key at your front door, half-expecting it to open before you. You will forget your children’s names, your spouse’s name and maybe your own.
It’s okay. You don’t have head trauma. Or maybe you do… in the form of tiny children beating their demands for attention into your skull.
It’s no wonder, honestly, we are so hard on ourselves. We can’t even remember what we did each day, and in the vacuum created by that amnesia there is self-doubt. Self-doubt is the antimatter of our intellects. It binds us, not unlike The Force. “It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”
I was having one of those doubt-fueled days when my son, Finn, asked me, “How do you know it’s a sunset?”
He laid there, still as the night that surrounded us, on his bed waiting for lights out. But the switch in his mind was flipped ON. He has a habit of dropping the life-question hammer right before he goes to sleep and we’d recently fallen into a bad routine with nightly powwows. Try singing a lullaby to a 4-year-old with questions about death and meaning.
“What makes it a sunset, buddy? Is that what you mean?”
“No, how do you tell a sunset? A sunrise?”
It could’ve been the sleep deprivation or the simplicity of his question, but this wasn’t on my “List of Frequently Asked Questions” given to us by our obstetrician. Asking about the ‘how and why’ of a celestial body is one thing, but I could tell he was getting at something more.
“You mean, like, how you do know if you’re falling or flying?”
Of course I’m going to answer his existential question with a matching one.
“Yeah, how come that?” How come that, indeed, Finn.
I looked at him in the dim light of a room poised for dreams and he looked back at me, into me. I held my breath a moment, “Direction, bud. You know directions, right?”
“Yeah, like when we go to the mall for a pretzel.”
“Just like that. We decide our destination, which direction we take, and we look at that sunrise with a destination.”
The truth is some of us look at a sunrise and see a sunset. Others, just see impending darkness. We have to make a choice about light and dark.
We can wait to see whether the ground’s approach flees or beckons us. But the sun will always move.
What was I saying? What day is today? I forget.