Archive for April, 2018

Let’s take the Tricycle Son. You Drive.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 3, 2018 by michaelcogdill

My mother said of me, “The good Lord knew just what I needed when He sent me you.”

What a lovely motherly thought.

And what a naive, childhood-shattering, stupendously improper thing for a parent to believe, or to say.

It is immensely well meaning, but utterly wrong. My own mother knows this now. We have made beautiful peace. I adore her, so please don’t deem me a cad of a son. I am, instead, a real one, writing this as a legacy – for himself, and for his family, and for yours.

Seeing a child as a filler of human need amounts to believing Harry Potter’s a real boy. It’s like buying into the myth of children as angels on brooms, fluttering from the abyss, born to save us.

They are not.

The very idea is a viper — specious as a cotton mouth in a silk suit. That means it looks lovely on the outside, with fanged venom just underneath.

If my mother had spoken those words out loud to a counselor, the counselor would have winced as if snake bitten. I’ve lived that. I quoted her on that sweetly venomous little lie to more than one counselor. They all flinched. You would have thought I’d shoved the viper up their pant leg.

They flinched because they’ve seen the results. The child gets bitten. The venom carries into adulthood.

Hear me on this. Hear me not as a writer or television correspondent or Emmy winner. Hear me as the child who was deemed a savior by a well-meaning but broken-hearted mother. Her asking me as a child to talk my father out of drinking amounted to having me ride my tricycle in interstate traffic, with her on my back.

My mother thought I could cure her broken marriage. I couldn’t. She thought I could erase her childhood scars from an addicted father. I could not. She lived convinced I was just what her lonely, co-dependent marriage needed.

My tricycle was not built to carry us both at highway speed. Nor my dad.

My father could not be fixed by the love of a child. He had been broken by poverty and shamed as a boy. He didn’t need human fixing. He ultimately needed surrendering to God when the drinking got bad. Before that, he needed to be loved, to the essence of his own inner child, who lived secretly frightened and hungry within the man. He and my mother needed to love one another at their essence, with that true intimacy that says – I know you, honey, I know it all, and you are safe and well and loved with me, as long as I am with you. We are more than enough for one another. So much more than enough.

They didn’t do this. They relied on me instead. I was trying to play with Matchbox cars, but they needed a marriage mechanic.

The grown son of that beautiful woman – and ultimately beautiful man – knows better now. She wants me to say this. So I will.

Married people MUST wed themselves only to one another, not their children. If they bear children, they are to raise them in an updraft of sustaining responsibility, overwhelming love and stout discipline. Love tender as thistledown and tough as sidewalk weeds at times. But the parents must be exactly as I said – more than ENOUGH for one another, without the children. This is how children learn how a proper marriage looks and feels and sounds. When they see mom and dad dance in the kitchen because it’s Tuesday night, kids learn to respect that innermost love, that private adoration. They learn how to be part of the family and independent beings at once. Mom and dad are individuals on a couple’s journey. And the child says within, “I am not the pilot of their journey. I’m learning how to fly. I will fly on my own one day, and so, so well. I am learning well from grownups doing it well.”

That is love, carried out and taught. That is faithfulness, to one another. That is no Sasquatchian myth about kids as superheroes, born to pull you from the swamp.

But let’s skewer the myth another way, right here. If your minister says your child is a gift from God, don’t believe it. Pass by that idea faster than you’d blow the feathers off a chicken truck. A child is a high calling, not the answer to mortal yearning. A child is a source and receiver of love, a beauty to whom to rise. A child is not a gift given to serve some need you have. The authentic LOVE of the child is the gift, not the chance to get the kid to do heavy emotional lifting. A child does not exist to fulfill an ideal. Children are not to complete an illusion in a parent’s mind.

To see them so is to damage the child. Trust me, the damage will last. I’ve had to shed it.

Before you vilify me as a man without understanding, let me remind the reader I am such a child who has learned better. I am a man who guides and parents children in his life.

Remember, too, I am doing so as the boy who became my mother’s solace against an alcoholic and abusive father. She didn’t intend me harm, but she did it. She didn’t seek to hurt me, but she did.

So all this distills to a warning: To repeat the mistakes of my boyhood is to see some of the following results in adulthood.

Co-dependency. It’s like bed bugs, come to stay a lifetime. That child on which you overly depend will seek people to save, lifelong. Your little boy or girl will grow into an adult believing the following myths: “You’re not enough, you must earn love, no one ought to love you just for you, you must be perfect or you fail, you must do everything everyone demands – no matter how wrong it seems. Even if they can do it for themselves, you must do it, or you’re a wreck.

Pedal that tricycle harder, mom and dad need to get somewhere, and look out for that truck, kid!”

Such children grow into adults who spend enormous energy simply feeling worthy of being loved – of every kind. The eternal child within them will keep holding you up, carrying you, serving as your “gift” instead of your child. The gift will keep propping up the ideals you have. Instead of being sovereign men and women, they go around trying to be gods to just about everybody. They’re not gods, no matter how much they seemed so when they became your solace. They are not made to fix you or your life partner or your marriage.

Children are not made by God to fill adult-size holes in grown men and women.

Today I heard a fine and short description of where all this leads. It is the finest definition of co-dependency I’ll ever know: The slow depletion of the self.

No even decent parent wishes this for a child. No worthy parent wants their children depleted in any way. We want our children built up, not run down. We should want our adult relationships founded on primal and secure intimacy, not the fragile hearts and minds of our kids.

I write this as the only son of a mom and dad who would celebrate every word. They erred, I suffered, but we are among the fortunate. The wheels didn’t come off the tricycle in our lives. I sought help, vulnerably, and received it. I still do.

That makes me an evangelist of authentic love. It heals me to do so. Prevention is part of my cure.

It makes me the son my mother truly needs: A man who knows real intimacy from co-dependency. Who knows how to forgive and love and carry on.

Waving tricycles off the interstates, wherever he can.