Among Strangers.

Published in: Life.

My son changes daily. Every day he has new words, new emotions, and new actions. I am struck by how little I actually know this person. I have been with him for almost every moment of his entire life, he shares half of his DNA with me,1 and, yet, I don’t know him. He is a stranger who, for the past two years, I have shared more of my time with than anyone else.

Maybe that’s part of the pleasure of parenting. There’s this human being that I have the duty to teach my values,2 the responsibility to help reach his potential, and the privilege of getting to know.

I expect this will never change. It may be most obvious now, but he will always be learning, changing, adapting his understanding of the world as he experiences reality. What may change is my sensitivity to it. The people in whom we see the least change are those with whom we spend the most time.

This is true for everyone: we are all changing, learning, and growing. All that varies is how well we observe the growth of others. We are perfectly willing to change our understanding of people when we first get to know them, but what happens five or ten years later, when we think we know them? What happens when there’s been enough time for them to hurt you? Or for you to hurt them? How easy is it to discard them today for who they were years ago?

We should never deceive ourselves into thinking we know someone. We should always strive to learn who someone is today, because today they are different than yesterday, and tomorrow they will be different again. Long-term love is difficult for this reason, and this is why it involves effort and action. We are choosing to love not only who this person is now, but who they will be tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, ad infinitum.

May I always be learning and loving my wife and son for who they are today.

  1. Is this true? I’m no geneticist.
  2. I fear this reeks of personal imperialism, but, honestly, if values aren’t important enough to try and teach to your children, are they really values?

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