“There are two things children should get from their parents: roots and wings.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 Mother and Child, ca. 1911

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” ~ Elizabeth Stone

In continuing my thoughts from yesterday about love, I have to consider the love that exists between parent and child. That all-encompassing tie that eventually becomes so lop-sided that the parent begins to believe that the child would exist just as happily alone. But not really. 

This is life. 

I remember when I was pregnant with Alexis, and I would count the days until it was time for her to be born. I would think about how different life would be with a child. I would wonder if I was ready for a child. Only now do I realize that one can never really be ready for a child, but that should not be a factor. I mean, there is readiness, anticipated readiness, total unreadiness. All of the stages. Yes, some people are more ready than others, but the readiness is defined differently for everyone. 

For example, I remember when I was pregnant with Alexis, I was essentially the first woman in our division to become pregnant. In the year following my pregnancy, four women became pregnant. I suppose I took that step into responsible adulthood first, and the rest followed, or at least, that’s how it seemed. I do remember one woman in my division whose husband absolutely refused to consider the idea of pregnancy until they had $20,000 in the bank. This might seem like great preparation, but the reality is that it’s not. Yes, they had money in the bank, but they were not ready to be parents if they believed that money would prepare them. 

We were not expecting to be pregnant, which means that we did not have $20,000 in the bank, or even $2,000. But once I became pregnant, I embraced the idea fully. I felt more at peace with myself, my body than at any other time in my life, and this happened with each pregnancy, as if I entered a period of near perfection in which all of my inner turmoil seeped from my body, all of my insecurities were overtaken by a sense of well-being that left me completely content. 

“When you have brought up kids, there are memories you store directly in your tear ducts.” ~ Robert Brault

Precious Feet by JDP Photography

I know that some women say that they fell in love with their baby the minute the child was born, and I always used to think that this was a bunch of nonsense—loving someone you don’t know? Loving someone who has only been in your life for a matter of minutes? How is that possible? Now I know. It is possible to love your baby the minute you set eyes upon him or her. You know them as well as you know yourself. This is one big different between mothers and fathers. For many fathers, the newborn is more of an abstract person—someone who needs care and comfort, but not necessarily someone with a personality. 

It is only later, years later, when your child begins to exhibit a sense of self that is completely separate from your identity that you suddenly begin to wonder if you know this person at all. Who are they, and where did they come from? This is certainly not the agreeable person who has clung to the bottom of your legs, pined for your presence, demanded more love than you ever thought possible. 

And I believe that this is when the parenting gets really hard. 

“The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.” ~ Sloan Wilson

I cannot possibly talk about what it feels like to be a father, and I know that fatherhood is distinctly different from motherhood, for numerous reasons. But I can tell you that for me, being a mother means opening the heart to unbelievable pain: the first time your child cries, really cries from sadness, the first time your child feels the sting of not being chosen for a team, the first time your child endures the pangs of puppy love, the first time your child realizes that life really isn’t fair and that not all dreams come true, the first time your child’s heart is broken . . . 

To be the onlooker of such things and not to have the power to wipe away the pain—that is what it means to feel helpless. Yet at the same time, motherhood brings as much joy as it does pain: the pride in the first school project, watching as the bicycle stays up and doesn’t fall, birthday parties, pushing swings, the first time your child reads you the story. Bliss. Unfortunately, we do not always take the time to relish the moments of pure joy until they are past. As with most things in life, parenting means spending a great deal of time looking backwards while trying to anticipate what may be coming next. 

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” ~ Anne Frank

My Friend Rebecca with Her Son Kade

If I am coming across as more abstract than personal, it’s because my children are such complex mysteries to me, and they continue to be mysteries to me with each passing year. Yes, I know what Alexis’s favorite color is, and I know what kind of music Eamonn likes. I know how Brett likes to spend his time. I know what foods they like, what clothes they prefer, who their friends are, what their nicknames are, how much they like to sleep, and all of those things. 

But are they happy? Are they lost? Do they wish that their lives were different? Are they disappointed in me? These are areas that children do not pursue for everyday conversation. Eamonn hates to be questioned about personal issues; he sees it as an infringement of his privacy, and in the last three years or so, I perceive a distance between us. Brett isn’t a talker, but he will seek me out to talk when he is upset. Alexis, being the oldest, opens up more to me than she did when she was the boys’ age. We talk about things that matter, important things. But in spite of that, I know that my daughter has an identity that is totally and completely separate from me. 

This is perhaps the hardest part of parenting, one that books can only theorize about, and for which you can never truly be prepared. The little boy who ran to you when you came through the door at the end of the day grows into the young man who can go days without speaking to you. Nothing anyone says can ever make you ready for that point in time when it comes. 

While this gradual separation of child from parent is normal and as much a part of parenting as changing diapers, it is probably one of  the most difficult transitions to accept gracefully.  

“When we choose to be parents, we accept another human being as part of ourselves, and a large part of our emotional selves will stay with that person as long as we live. From that time on, there will be another person on this earth whose orbit around us will affect us as surely as the moon affects the tides, and affect us in some ways more deeply than anyone else can. Our children are extensions of ourselves.” ~ Fred Rogers

The Boys and Me Having Fun in the Snow

Some people wonder if having more than one child divides your love. All I can say is that if you can love one child, you can love more than one child. I love each of my three children as the individuals that they are, and that love is different, but not more or less. I love my children more than I can express.

I hope that I have instilled in each of them a sense of morality, an idea of what it means to treat other people fairly and decently, a love of learning and exploration, and a respect for this world in which we live. I hope that I have given them the tools to become everything that they are capable of becoming. And I hope that I have not embarrassed them too much in front of their friends. But most of all, I hope that when they have children of their own, they will look back on the things that I have done and the words that I have said, and they will understand that everything I have ever done has come from that deep, endless well of love that I have for each of them.

This letting go part is hard, but as with all things, I will grow into it. I must have enough confidence in each of them to respect that they will come into their own. I’m still learning to handle the “seasons of my life, and as the song says, “children get older, and I’m getting older too.” 

 I want to close with this passage from Kahlil Gibran because I think that it sums up what I have been stumbling about, trying to say: 

“Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
 

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth . . . “
 

More later. Peace. 

The Dixie Chicks, “Landslide” 

 

 

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“Lost — Yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever.” ~ Horace Mann

 

 Dawn on Island View Beach, BC, by Brandon Godfrey

“If you had never been to the world and never known what dawn was, you couldn’t possibly imagine how the darkness breaks, how the mystery and color of a new day arrive.” ~ John O’Donohue*

Dawn as seen from an airplane over Greece

While the above sentiment is beautiful, greeting the dawn for six mornings in a row has just gotten old. I mean, I was thinking about it. If I worked the night shift, then my body clock might make sense, but as I am not working at all, this biological time-out has become overwhelmingly stale. 

This most recent episode began on Sunday after my birthday (great sushi for birthday dinner, by the way). I woke up on Sunday with a headache, so I spent most of the day lying on my back in the dark. Slept on and off. By Monday, headache had receded to pressure, but I felt exhausted. Or, let’s just say that I thought that I felt exhausted. Now I truly know what exhausted is: I feel as if I am one of those movie zombies, wandering about aimlessly looking for my next victim, but even that description doesn’t quite do this state justice. 

Last night, I took my bedtime meds early (around 10). Nothing, nada. Around 12:30 Corey came into check on me; I took Benadryl. Nothing nada. At 3:20 when Corey (Mr. Nightowl himself) came to bed, I took half a trazadone, since a whole pill normally puts me out and gives me a medicine hangover. Nothing, nada. Creeping towards 5 a.m. and still no sleep. Not even spurts of mini-sleep. Ab-so-lute-ly nothing. By this time I figured that it had been 9 hours or so since I had taken any muscle relaxers, so I chanced it, even though thoughts of putting myself into a pharmaceutical coma were lurking somewhere. 

At 6 a.m. I heard Brett’s alarm go off, but he didn’t get up. I was just starting to drift a bit when I squinted at the clock: 6:16 and still no movement from Brett. He had two exams today, so he had to go to school. I knocked on his door, and behold, he was not awake. I nudged Corey around 6:45 and told him that there was no way that I could drive even though I was awake since I was definitely under the influence of something. I finally fell asleep around 7:45 and slept until 11. Took two ativan and slept from 11:30 to 2:30. 

Those last three hours were the only uninterrupted, sound stretch of blissful sleep that I had. Every night since Sunday has been like this. 

“I’m sleeping while awake, standing by the window, leaning against it as against everything.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Snow at Dawn by Tracy Rosen

In between tossing and turning, I play computer games. I think about writing, but realize that if I begin a post, my mind won’t settle—it will only come to consciousness fully. I know, computer games aren’t the best idea either, but I try to find something mindless, like Bejeweled, just moving jewels around, but mindless games don’t seem to fix the problem either. 

I have noticed that the quality of my dreams when I do sleep is pretty wild: Something about a really ugly dress, a work dream thrown in there (work dreams have taken the place of algebra finals for my stress dreams), and then the other night, I had a full-blown action/adventure movie in which Corey and I were holed up in some seedy hotel, trying to find ammunition. Apparently, we were on some job that involved taking out someone, and we had run out of ammunition. 

I remember being quite enamored with my gun, which was a Walther PPK, à la James Bond. It had a weird siting mechanism, and the safety was on the back, not the side. Weird. I have never owned a gun and have never fired a handgun, but in this dream, my gun was my best friend. 

“Only mystery makes us live. Only mystery.” ~  Federico García Lorca

Spire of the Church of Tronville-en-Barrois at Dawn

Although, what is more strange is that when I am not sleeping, in those long stretches of painful wakefulness, I find myself doing very odd things like math equations. Trust me when I say that while I am good at math, I do not like it, so why is my mind in overdrive doing word problems? 

Do you ever compose in your sleep? I do, not as much as I would like, but it happens. I compose verse, which in my dream state sounds perfect, but I almost never wake myself to jot down what I have composed. I think that I do, but it’s just my body tricking me. However, on Monday, when I finally did fall asleep, I composed a piece of music, which is something that I have not done in many years. 

I am a classically-trained pianist, which I may have mentioned. I was good, but not great, and I knew it. I just loved it, which is why I took lessons for so long, but knowing that I didn’t have that special whatever that would set me apart, I did not major in music in college. So when I realized in my dream that I had composed a piece of music, I felt overjoyed. Once I woke up, I managed to hum just a tiny bit of it, but that was all that was left to me in my conscious state. 

However, I interpret the way in which my mind has been working recently during my semi-awareness to mean that I might be embarking on another creative spurt, at least I hope so. I mean, math? Music? Of course, the two are closely related . . . perhaps my mind is making connections that I have yet to reach once I am alert, although describing myself as alert these days might be going too far. 

“I have a sense of something imminent coming closer. But then I lose it again, become ordinary and inadequate. I feel like someone who is trying to guess an object being described by music. The sound grows steadily louder; he thinks he is on the point of grasping it, and then the sound becomes weaker again and he has to look for another answer.” ~ from the diary of Kaethe Kollwitz

Sunrise on the Outer Banks of NC

Who knows what is really going on in my mind? Certainly not I. Of course, if I were to venture a theory, it would be that the stress of our lives is currently wreaking havoc with my body. Yes, there is the pain, but that is omnipresent. It is more the sense of my head being very full and tight, my ears ringing, and an inability to focus. 

Of course, it has now been exactly two years since Corey was laid off. His job with Vane Brothers, which his contact said should start at the beginning of this year, now has a tentative start date of mid-February. We haven’t given up hope because if he does actually manage to get a job with this company, it would be wonderful. They have a great reputation in the shipping industry, good benefits, and people who work for them seem to be satisfied, which is not commonplace in tugboating. 

I have learned that people who work on tugs jump from company to company, often returning to companies once, twice, even three times. I suppose it’s just one of those industries that is a bit incestuous: everyone knows everyone else; being part of the in network secures a job faster than qualifications, things like that. Anyway, I am really, really hoping that this comes through. We’ve been due for a change of luck for some time now, and I find that time has become somewhat unreliable as a result. 

By that I mean I look up, and it’s the end of January. I was just getting ready for Christmas. But at the same time, it’s been two very long years without a second regular income, and that seems interminable. It’s almost as if I am somnabulating through the days, getting nowhere, so my body cannot truly rest. 

 “If you could only keep quiet, clear of memories and expectations, you would be able to discern the beautiful pattern of events. It’s your restlessness that causes chaos.” ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Florida Dawn by Janson Jones

Oh listen to me, going on about a whole lot of weirdness. I can say, though, that my back feels better today after getting my caudal yesterday, even though I felt as if I was going to throw up on the procedure table. This nausea crap is really getting old, but as I told Corey, I’m sure that this, too, shall pass. 

I just have to hold on to the idea that next week or the week after, my body will begin to right itself, so to speak, and I will be able to concentrate more fully on the things that matter, like writing this blog, for example. This overwhelming sense of restlessness cannot last forever; can it? I mean, a person could really and truly go crazy without the ability to find focus. 

Ah well. For now, I will continue to exist between these states of tossing about in the bed covers, stumbling to the kitchen to get something to drink, sitting at my desk in front of this computer waiting for inspiration. I don’t think that I have killed my sleep like Macbeth did, but I do believe that something inside of me is churning about too much, hence the inability to sleep soundly. Exactly what that something is, I have no idea. But as Emerson said, “What you are comes to you.” 

I have to believe that given time, things will begin to shift course. The receding tide will remove all the detritus that life has scattered on the shore for the past two years, and dawn will again become something that I greet with a sense of hope instead of dread. 

More later. Peace. 

Music from the Dixie Chicks: “Landslide,” which seems wholly appropriate: getting older, children getting older, being brought down by a landslide . . . 

  

 

  

*Many thanks to Crashingly Beautiful for the quotes used in this post.

Grace in Small Things #33

lilac-11

Lovely Lavendar Lilacs

Sweets, Smells, Songs, Summits, and Swimmers

For today:

1. Krispy Kreme donuts hot off the rollers. Nothing beats hot Krispy Kreme donuts. They melt in your mouth so fast, that if you aren’t careful, you can eat three before you know it. I can eat two before I reach the first stoplight, but I always try to stop at two, no matter how much I want a third one. There is so much sugar in these things that you know that they cannot be good for you, but boy do they taste like a little piece of heaven going down. KK donuts are one of Brett’s favorite pleasures in life, and if we are riding down the Boulevard and he sees the big red “Hot Donuts Now” sign, he really pushes for a detour.

2. The song “Landslide,” originally recorded by Stevie Nicks and then rerecorded by The Dixie Chicks. I love both versions. The song touches a place in my heart. 

3. The foothills of Virginia. When you are driving west on Interstate 64, and you approach Lexington, you suddenly realize that there are mountains ahead of you. Not huge mountains; that’s why they are referred to as the foothills of Virginia. But driving through the foothills towards Virginia Tech, as I did many times, is a beautiful ride.

CB036267
Sliding Spotted Stingray

4. Stingrays are beautiful, cartilaginous fish. They move by flapping their fins in the water, which is lovely to watch up close. Rays are docile, attacking only when provoked, and their only enemies are sharks.

5. Lilacs are one of my favorite flowers. We have a lilac bush on the side of the yard, and when it blooms in the spring, the fragrance wafts across the yard. I love that clean, fresh smell.

That’s all for today. More later. Peace.