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The Limited Power of A Parent’s Prayers

Please, god, if you’re awake and happen to have one of the TVs tuned to this archery supply place in the middle of Amish country (you’re cool with them, right?) right now, please please please help send one of her arrows through one god damn (shit, sorry about that) balloon.

Look, I’m not greedy, I think you know that. I dropped off a bunch of sweet swag at Goodwill last week (or last month, I dunno, time is a funny thing, amirite?) and I’m a new monthly recurring donating member of the ACLU. I know you must respect what they do for women and families despite what your legions of evil followers claim. Also, should we talk about them?

No, you’re right, another time. Let’s focus on those arrows, that bow, her shaky left arm, and the pastel colored balloons pinned teasingly to the target board.

Basically, my hard sell is this: I give more than I take but I need something from you tonight. Whattaya say?

Tap-tap, is this thing on?

I’d like it very much if you could send down a bolt of quiet energy, an electrical current, a puff of air, or whatever material(s) you are working with these days to guarantee a balloon, just one freaking balloon (sorry again, wait, is ‘freaking’ okay?) is pierced by an arrow.

The yellow, pink, or green — makes no difference. One balloon.

I’m confident she’ll get it going in the general direction of those three balloons but then we’ll need you to work a little magic (fine, we’ll agree not to call it ‘magic’).

Just one arrow, drawn from her quiver, released from her bow, strike it, pop it. There have been more complicated asks, I’m certain.

I know, I do talk about the positivity of failure a lot but right now for reasons I’ll explain later (but really, from what I’m told, you should already have gleaned), allow this bright, hopeful girl to feel that feeling of immediate minor success.

She needs it. I need it for her.

There are many of these moments scattered along the timeline of the parent/child relationship. They happen in archery facilities in Amish country on snowy weekday nights, on soggy suburban soccer pitches, at centerstage of youth theater company productions of Seussical Jr. and the Music Man, during video game and robotics and Magic the Gathering tournaments, and everywhere else there exists both eager children and concerted efforts to try, to learn, to compete, to win, to pop a balloon with an arrow pulled from a quiver and released from a wavering bow.

We stand back from our children, sometimes just a few paces. We give them the distance required to begin a solo flight. We face the same direction, looking out upon the same goal, so they cannot see our laborious expressions, our pained smiles, or the flickering flame of hope in our ever-loving eyes.

Like a golfer bending forward and back to will the ball around the curvature of the green and into the hole, we wrangle our aging bodies, twisting and contorting on the sidelines, in the background, in the foolish belief that we can be of any help to them from here on out.

We try to hid from our children what we are doing; praying to a god we’re pretty damn sure isn’t up there at all and summoning up whatever juju we can buy on credit. We do all of this, quietly and alone, for them.

After a certain point though, we’re but bystanders. We’re a friendly voice of encouragement as our kids come and go.

I don’t think we ever stop believing though, believing that the sheer power of our love and energy and hope can and will have the capacity to guide them toward a promising series of minor successes as they participate in a one hour Into to Archery class or whatever else they will choose to attempt going forward.

At least I hope not.


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