I miss being somebody's cara.
Nobody knew us when we landed. We had no friends, nobody who was socially obligated to be kind. But we were welcomed with genuine warmth, and we all become somebody's loved one, somebody's cara. We were each beloved, and our children were cherished in a way that wrings my heart. They were doted on, fussed over, and cared for. Perhaps part of this was that they were foreigners ready to be loved by locals. This is especially true of Gabe who went in arms open, willing to cleave his heart with anyone who expressed a modicum of interest. But I saw many, many children in our time in Italy, and they were all adored. Squeezed and hugged as if they were precious beyond imagining.
Which they are, each and every one of them.
It's different here. Adults don't look to connect with my children. Adults don't look to connect with anyone's children that aren't related. Instead, other people's children are often measuring sticks to hold up to our own. Understandably—after all, our lives can seem out of control in the flat out race that is living, and we look for ways to make sense of where we are. The easiest way is to compare. My child's math level is above Sally's—check! My child makes daisy chains on the soccer pitch while Jane is scoring yet another goal—fail! We love our kids, we want their lives to be perfect, and so we sweat these details which have nothing to do with the whole. We walk around vibrating a tenuous mixture of pride where our children excel and anxiety where they don't measure up.
I happen to know. I shamefully admit to all of this. But watching how purely the Spellani embraced not just my odd assortment of progeny, but all the radiant faces coming out of that school, I've realized. Love is better than judgement.
Love is better than triumph.
Love is better than best.
Now, each time now I find myself reaching for the comparison yardstick to measure my child, I stop and reconsider. I recognize each child as soul in progress. And love instead. Love my children for their combination of sweetness and craziness, and love the other child for the innocence of their souls and the Light in their eyes. Like the chasing tail image, I find this shift of frame grounding.
It allows me to step off the merry-go-round of our competitive culture, and it creates a path towards tenderness. Loving just feels good. Loving instead of comparing creates brightness to chase away cobwebs and clutter. Loving instead of comparing means accessing what is most deeply primal and real within us. Humans are social animals above all. Connecting through love links us to each other and it links us to ourselves. And there is a resonant hum, a vibrato of joy, that comes with that connection.
So while I miss being somebody's cara, maybe my job now is to make somebody else a cara. Every day.
Now, please excuse me while I go look for someone to love without reason.