My nine-year-old son asked me one of those questions the other day. You know, the kind of question which catches us parents completely off guard; one of those “meaning-of-life” questions which comes completely out of the blue…
“Mom, if you could have anyone else’s life, who’s life would you want to have?”
Hmmmm…a big question from the little boy with an old soul.
So many things flashed through my mind…past regrets? lost dreams? big mistakes? Oh goodness…what about those years of suffering through a painful adolescence??? Sure, there have been many moments over the course of my life that I would have rather not have experienced, moments when I wished to be Alice holding a mysterious bottle which said “drink me” so that I could escape to another world… But overall, would I wish for someone else’s life?
It would have been so easy for me to say, “No one else’s life, Jake. I love being your mom…” so that he would feel safe and secure and loved. But I realized he wasn’t asking to feel loved and safe at this moment…he was asking about possibilities. His possibilities…his future…his dreams.
These are the moments I love as a mom; him thinking and dreaming about what lies ahead of him, and me, standing beside him, seeing all of his possibilities. I can only hope and pray that he sees in himself half of what I see in him…and help keep him grounded in today so that he can move forward into all his tomorrow’s with strength and courage.
A poignant scene from the movie Little Miss Sunshine suddenly came to mind…one in which an angst-ridden high-school boy (Dwayne) reveals his pain to his sensitive and struggling uncle (Frank):
Dwayne: I wish I could just sleep until I was eighteen and skip all this crap-high school and everything…just skip it.
Frank: You know Marcel Proust?
Dwayne: He’s the guy you teach.
Frank: Yeah. French writer. Total loser. Never had a real job. Unrequited love affairs. Gay. Spent 20 years writing a book almost no one reads. But he’s also probably the greatest writer since Shakespeare. Anyway, he uh… he gets down to the end of his life, and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, those were the best years of his life, ’cause they made him who he was. All those years he was happy? You know, total waste. Didn’t learn a thing. So, if you sleep until you’re 18… Ah, think of the suffering you’re gonna miss. I mean high school? High school…those are your prime suffering years. You don’t get better suffering than that…
While I am a sucker for wisdom delivered with a hint of sarcasm and humor, and I love seeing one of life’s great lessons delivered with such real candor, it didn’t take remembering a scene from a movie to know my own answer.
“Nobody else’s life, Jake. There’s nobody’s life I would rather have…” I said with a smile.
“Me neither, mom. Not even Luke Skywalker’s!” he exclaimed with conviction.
Well, okay then.
May the force stay with you, sweet boy.
p.s. If you only see one of the movies nominated for an Academy Award this year…I highly recommend Little Miss Sunshine. It will make you laugh and cry and think…and laugh some more. It is a treasure of a movie.