During a private moment between Jake and Julie in the novel Final Sin, Jake tells Julie how he didn’t live up to his mother’s expectations. Julie suggests that his mom just likes to complain but that she loves her children anyway.
Isn’t that was a parent is supposed to do? Love their children and to kvell (Yiddish, “to be delighted”, “bursting with pride”) over every milestone and accomplishment. A child doesn’t have to win every competition or accomplish the seemingly impossible to earn his parents’ praise and love.
Parents can take joy in every birthday, graduation (even from grade school), every time their daughter is on stage even if it is not a lead role, a new job, a new home, a marriage,… every little thing that is not so little to the parent watching an offspring blossom. Parents simply enjoy watching a child grow.
It should never be about a competition, a comparison, or winning – every time a child shows a personal best, it is a huge accomplishment; every milestone in a child’s life is to be celebrated; every recognition is to be applauded. When all is said and done, the joy and happiness is a parents’ privilege.
“Tell me more about you. I want to know you.” She spread her hand against his chest. “Tell me what you were like as a child. What’s your family like?”
He shrugged slightly. “I was just an ordinary boy, nothing special.”
“I don’t believe that. There is certainly nothing ordinary about you now.”
“Nobody expected anything great out of me. At least I didn’t let them down.”
“I think you are underestimating yourself. I think you are kind of great.”
He gave her shoulders a gentle squeeze. “My parents weren’t thrilled when I got together with Helen. They thought I was, well, thinking with the wrong brain.” Jake sighed. “I think they were surprised when I decided to work towards my degree anyway.”
Julie yawned. “Oh, I’m sorry. That was rude.”
“You need your sleep.”
“No, I want to hear about you.” She was fighting to stay awake. “How did they feel when you got divorced? Did your folks like her?”
“I don’t really know how my dad felt, he never really said. Maybe he was just too busy letting my mom do the talking… I embarrassed her, I was the first to get divorced in the family. I don’t think my mother liked her, she just felt that once I was married, I should have stayed that way.”
“Is your sister married?”
“Well… that was another reason for my mom to complain. My sister has a partner, a same sex partner.” His mother’s lament was having a son who couldn’t keep a wife and a daughter who didn’t choose a man. “My sister and her partner came out, they’re lesbians.” Jake wondered if he was just trying to see how Julie would react to that. She didn’t flinch.
She looked up at him in the darkened shadows. “And your parents didn’t approve? How about you?”
“I guess I was a little uncomfortable at first, I had never known anyone, really known that is, who was… homosexual.” He shifted a bit. “But then I went out to visit them, they live in California, and they are really happy together. Maggie makes my sister really happy and that’s important to me.”
“That’s good.” She sounded like she was beginning to drift off. “Everyone should have a good person to love.”
Jake held her close to him. He thought about the disappointment he was to his mother and father. And he thought about his ex-wife and how different she was from Julie. Jake wondered briefly how different his life might have been if he had met Julie first. Right, he thought, then he’d probably be in jail for child molestation!
Then he thought about how special Julie made him feel. Jake realized that he had never really spent a lot of time thinking about how he felt, he just did the things he had to do each day. Since meeting Julie, though, he did think about how good it felt to be with her, to hear her voice and how everything seemed to fit in place when she was around.
“Your mom probably just likes to complain. I bet she really loves both of her kids.” When she spoke again, she sounded like she was almost asleep. “And Helen is just a fool who seems very unhappy with herself.”
It was uncanny how Julie seemed to get inside his head just then.