“There are mountainous, arduous days, up which one takes an infinite time to climb, and downward-sloping days which one can descend at full tilt, singing as one goes.” ~ Marcel Proust

“Les Tulipes,” by Pierre Auradon (c. 1950s)

“There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.” ~ Anaïs Nin, Journals of Anaïs Nin Volume 3

Monday, late afternoon. Hot and hazy.

"Arbre au Début du Printemps," by Pierra Auradon (ca. 1930)

I haven’t posted in a few days because, well, first I didn’t feel like it, and then I went on this cleaning binge in our bedroom. I’m halfway done, but my back has given out on me, too much bending and stretching. So instead of finishing the bedroom today, I’m sitting my butt in this comfortable chair and writing, that is, if Tillie will leave me alone long enough to get something done. Poor thing, never gets any attention.

Right.

Also, Eamonn has come home for a bit, so the room that is usually my workroom is now filled with black trash bags full of eldest son’s belongings. He says that it’s just temporary, but I’m not going to try to define temporary. It’s just nice to have him here for however long it will be.

What this means to the computer situation is anyone’s guess. After all, this computer that I’ve been using for a while is actually Eamonn’s desktop. Corey’s desktop in the dining room died several months ago, so both of us have been sharing this computer. My computer in our bedroom still needs to have the hard drive installed, which we were actually planning to take care of this summer. We may have to move up the plans to do that since once Eamonn is ensconced in this room, access to this computer will be nil.

After all, he is entitled to his privacy. He’s an adult, not my little boy, and I need to respect that. Corey and I did warn him, though, that this computer is on its last leg. It really needs to be wiped and then to have the essential programs reinstalled. Guess that’s on the list of things to do.

“Let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry…have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere—be decietful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.” ~ Betty Smith

"Narcisses," by Pierre Auradon (1939)

Speaking of things to do . . .

Apparently, my blog stalker is still active. He/she is calling/e-mailing people and strongly suggesting that they take a look at my blog to see how insane I am, how dangerous I am.

At first, I was furious. Now, I just find it entertaining. I mean really? Dangerous? Bitch, please.

I may be a lot of things—sarcastic and snarky, bitchy and biting, moody and meandering—but dangerous?

This individual is also calling into question my parenting skills. Now this one has me baffled, really. I’ve raised three children to legal age. None of them has ever been arrested. Two are in college full time. I’ve given them basic life skills (they know how to clean, do laundry, cook a bit, manage a bank account, among other things). But more importantly, I have taught each of them the importance of being compassionate for the less fortunate, thoughtful towards those they love, and mindful of the laws of common decency.

I have instilled in them the ideas of truth, honor, and respect, and I know that I can say most assuredly, that if nothing else, each of my children has a kind and good heart.

That I have allowed them to go their own ways as individuals has not been easy; it’s never easy for a parent to first loosen and eventually cut the apron strings and to allow a child to break free. But this I have done.

Children need space and trust to become the people they are going to be. At a certain point, it is no longer about parenting full time; rather, it is about respecting that as a parent, you have done what you should and what you could, and then realizing that it’s no longer up to you as to what your child will be when he or she grows up.

“If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies . . . It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.” ~ Albert Einstein

"Pivoine (peonies)," by Pierre Auradon (c. 1930s)

Has it been easy to stand by and watch Alexis floundering in her life? Most assuredly not. Do I want to step in and make everything okay for her? Of course I do. But is that in her best interest? No. If I do not allow my daughter to gain her own ground, if I continually make things easier or better for her, how will she ever learn to be strong? And how will she ever learn to respect her choices, to stand firm in her convictions? Does this mean that I do not love her with every fiber of my being, that I would not throw myself in front of danger to protect her? Need I even answer such questions.

I don’t agree with all of the choices that Eamonn has made, but I love him beyond breathing. And he is proving to be a capable young man, holding down a full-time job, planning a career. And Brett, too, is making great strides. He has been thrown into a situation for which he was not completely prepared, but he is showing grace under pressure, and I watch him day by day becoming stronger and more assertive.

These are all good things.

You birth your children, hold them close, sing them lullabies and read them stories. You salve their wounds, both physical and emotional. You feed them their vegetables and you make them brush their teeth. You take them to the doctor when they are ill, and you sit by their beds in the middle of the night when they have nightmares that seem too real. You buy them shoes to support their ankles as they learn to walk, and you buy warm winter coats. Do they always eat their vegetables? Do they always button their coats as they go outside for recess?

Of course not. If they did, they wouldn’t be children.

Are my children perfect? Dear god, don’t be silly. They have their faults, and they have their shortcomings. They have friends who I don’t particularly care for, and they do things that I don’t necessarily agree with—it’s called growing up, and it’s an ongoing process.

“Action is the thing. We are what we do and do not do.” ~ Ralph Ellison

"Pavées de la Rue," by Pierra Auradon (c. 1940s)

No one prepares a parent for those first few days after leaving the hospital. You stand there, looking down on this small creature with incredibly soft skin, and you wonder how all of this happened. I mean, how is it that you have been entrusted with the care of this incredibly beautiful, sometimes loud, and occasionally smelly little person? But it comes to you, day by day, and you grow together.

And the first time your child cries real tears, my, how your heart breaks. And the first time your child gets hurt, how you wish that kisses really did make things all better. And the first time your child looks at you and calls you mama or dada, you wonder how it is that your insides can feel like jelly and still stay inside of you.

Of course, the painful reality is that not everyone is cut out to be a parent. The statistics tell us that. For every child who grows up healthy and well-adjusted, how many children out there have gone to bed hungry? How many have cried themselves to sleep after being beaten? How many feel worthless because that’s all they have ever heard? How many never make it into double digits?

The world is actually a very scary, harsh place. It is up to us to make it safer for those we love, those who have been entrusted to our care. I have no patience for anyone who harms a child—physically or emotionally. I believe that such people should be locked up, or at the very least, have their parental rights rescinded.

Unfortunately, no one has to take a test or get a license to become a parent. And it is usually not until things have escalated that outsiders are brought in to try to fix the situation. These people, who are overworked and underpaid, cannot do it all. The courts cannot make everything right. And unfortunately, children slip through the proverbial cracks, but the pain they feel as a result is not proverbial. It is real.

I find it abhorrent that supposedly advanced societies do so little for the least among us, the children who have no voice.

“It is not the brains that matter most, but that which guides them—the character, the heart, generous qualities, progressive ideas.” ~Fyodor Dostoyevsky

"Tulipes Ouverte," by Pierre Auradon (c. 1940s)

I know. I know. I’m on another one of my soap boxes, but you have to understand that I simply cannot abide child abuse in any form. And the idea that I might be harmful or dangerous to a child, a young adult, or to any person is ludicrous, and quite frankly, insulting.

Right now, I’m simply biding my time. I am handling the situation in which I now find myself with all of the patience that I can muster. The young woman who has come under our care is flourishing: She laughs freely, and her conversation is intelligent and witty. She talks eagerly about her art, about school, about friends. I see little of the introverted, unsure young woman I was told about.

That’s not to say that she does not have moments in which she feels helpless against the forces that continue to assail her. But even in these moments I have seen a strength of character emerging. She demands that she not be coddled, that she be allowed to make her own choices.

I am standing back and simply allowing her to be. She does not need me to intervene, but I will if she asks. She does not need me to advise, but I do when she requests it. I do not judge as it is not my place to do so. Judging is for someone else.

In the meantime, I will keep my peace. For now. But only for now. It is simply not in my character to allow someone to continue to make defamatory statements about me, statements not based in fact, statements based on pure fantasy and conjecture. I will see to matters. Just not yet. Patience. Fortitude. My white whale will come to me.

More later. Peace.

Music by Mason Jennings, “The Light”

                   

“so that each day penetrates each night
so that each word runs to the other side of truth
so that each verse comes out of itself
and gives off its own light
so that each face leaning on a hand
sweats into the skin of the palm

So that this pen
changes into pure silence
I wanted to say into love”

~ Anna Kamienska, from “Transformation,” (trans. Grazyna Drabik and David Curzon)

“A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.” ~ Victor Hugo

Happy mother’s day to all of the beautiful women in my life, children of mothers all.

 

 

More later. Peace.

Music by Ronan Keating, “I Hope You Dance”

“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”