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Don't Follow Me, I May Not Lead...


I watch you, my sweet daughter, searching outside of yourself for some relief from your angry thoughts. You so wanted..., and I so wouldn't budge. After you calmed down, you climbed in bed, and told me to go. I know tomorrow you will come wake me up with your smile, but knowing that you went to bed so upset is hard for me. You retreat into dreamland. And I am awake, hoping that I made a good call, and feeling racked with a mix of self-righteousness and crippling guilt, and mostly wishing I could just get a grip on parenting.

Ahh the guilt sears. My mind goes fluttering back to the moment when I perhaps felt the most guilt I have ever felt as a parent. You were almost two and we had just moved to Paris. As this was our third move across a vast expanse of the planet, we thought that we should waste no time at getting you some playmates. We signed you up at a very cute little garderie thinking we had it perfectly figured. We'd have a few hours down time and you'd have a ball with your new little French buddies. Who knew we'd be so wrong?! I'll never forget the first day we left you. We were gently reassured by the women who worked there, that you would be fine, and every part of us hoped that we could trust them. We went away, hoping for the best, hearing the echos of your cries, as we hesitated outside the place, and then finally we walked down the street unable to stand it anymore. We ended up having a pretty stressful few hours without you, wondering if you had calmed down, and if we were doing the right thing. When we returned to pick you up a few hours later, you were sound asleep. They told us that shortly after you realized that we weren't coming back, you had gotten your little bear, and blanket and had lain down and fallen asleep. Nobody held you or rocked you. You did it on your own. You checked out of this world, because you couldn't handle it. Oh, dear God, when I think of it, I feel as if it just might rip my heart out. The fact that I wasn't there for you to help you feel safe and secure that day...

It was too much for me to watch you suffer there, so, your trauma lasted less than a week. However, that day is burned in my mind forever, and there have been many more of those since.

Sometimes I think that if I had had the maturity to actually realize what it was to bring a child into the world, to watch them suffer-- even to be the cause of their suffering at times, how I really would have no idea what I was doing, that I would have never had children, too experimental, too risky, too much potential for damage to the child.

Every part of me wants to tell you how sorry I am that you ended up with me as your mother, sure that I have failed you in so many ways, already before the age of seven. It is a heavy load to carry, something that is not easily balanced by even your most joyful moments; my favorite moments when you find something funny and can't stop giggling, or you are having a really good time with your sister playing, or you find something fascinating, or you have an aha moment... Sometimes I wish I could start all over with you, knowing what I know now, but then I am sure I still wouldn't have the patience or awareness in the heat of the moment. I still wouldn't have control over you.

The only thing that I can promise you is that I am doing the best I can. Perhaps I wasn't cut out to be a picture perfect mother, but I have to believe that you will be happy to have been born, and happy to have had the opportunity to have your own life experience. I have to believe that you chose me as your mother because I had something to teach you, and you had something to teach me. When I am present with you, and there is the temporary reprieve from the pain of wishing that I could do better by you, I see that you are my perfect teacher. I see that I am your perfect teacher. You tell me in turn to question my thoughts. You tell me to smile a little, then wider, and wider. And there are those rare moments where you want to break free from your thoughts and you actually listen to me, and you feel freed as I ask you how you would feel if you didn't believe your thoughts.

At those moments I see that your life reflects my life's work, which is to try and see what is happening before me in each moment, instead of having what is before me obscured by a running reel in my mind of what would be better. Having you in my life has made me look at the world with much more scrutiny, and it has made me have to trust more in a purpose to all of this. You have helped me to see how deep a love can be, even when we feel worlds away from one another.

My heart's desire as a mother is to let go of my hold on you, and to challenge my expectations of you, and where they come from (mostly from fear). To trust that you are living the life you came here to live, without me stifling you with what I think you should do. I want to let you emerge out of your cocoon and fly, without me touching your delicate wings too much, grounding you. But I find myself tripping up, lecturing you with lengthy monologues, counting to three many times and threatening until you've finally submitted, projecting my fears onto you, and telling you to do anything but trust in the inherent wisdom of the universe, that all is unfolding as it should. Yet, even as I do these things, I realize how automatic it is that I manufacture a fairy tale image of how our time together should look. (Perhaps it could resemble something like that if you had no honest responses to your own experiences, honest responses that push me over the edge! If you didn't try to control me back. If you weren't attached to wanting to get your way). I realize that when I am caught up in comparing, I am absent from you.

So, parenting feels like my final frontier, the one thing that keeps me forever tail spinning.

And in this I find my greatest lesson, for it is in thinking that it should all look a certain way that I squeeze the life out of it. It is in seeing the world in this way that I feel the most limited, missing the beauty that is right in front of me. And then I teach you to do the same.

If I had a prayer for you, it would be that you don't worry about messing up your room when you play, that you enjoy your giant piece of chocolate cake, that you stay up late laughing with your friends not worried about sleep, that you spend time playing in the mud and grinding up your sidewalk chalk with no worries about staining your best clothes, that you make recycle art and hang it from your ceiling and pile it in heaps in your room, using up all of the tape, and all of the glue, that you take baths and splash to your heart's content, even if it might ruin the floor, and that you ask as many questions as you want, that you sell random items out front for outrageous prices, that you ask for everything that you want, and that most of all, you continue to be you, even if everyone resists you and tells you no; that you love us anyway, and understand that everyone is doing the best they can, and that all is well. And that when you find yourself in a dark night of the soul, you are grateful, because you look forward to the clarity that will be born from the experience.

And I hope that one day you and I will look back and laugh at how much energy we spent trying to find our way in this world, trying to be good people, trying to be fair to others and ourselves, trying to control others and ourselves, running from fear, when all the time, all was well, and we were just perfect as we were.

And we will laugh, because somewhere along the way we will know that we realized the truth, and at that very moment we went out and picked plums and blackberries, from the jungle of thicket in our backyard, and I didn't see all the pruning that needed to be done, nor fear the blackberry brush taking us over, and you didn't hesitate to fill up a bowl with blackberries, smash them up, add mint, chives, rose petals, myrtle wood pods, and anything else you could find, and then let it rot in a bucket for weeks on the patio! And we celebrated our liberation!

Comments

  1. Oh my. Tears are spilling all over the place. This was deeply touching. It helped put things in perspective as I begin my morning with my little ones.

    As I read your words, felt your heart and pain, there was so much love and understanding for you and your sweet children. Your children are so lucky to have you as their mommy--you are a conscious, beautiful, wise, loving person, trying harder than anyone i know to be the best you you can be. Who can ask for more than that?

    Thank you for sharing your sweet heart.

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  2. Wasnt' trying to be anonymous on that last comment. It's me, Julia :)

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  4. You had already offered your children "wings" and the knowledge of flying. Don't be afraid that you touch or hurt these wings. Children know better than us how to deal with the earth and the sky...

    In your writing, you can express your emotions with images and it's your power, Brooke. Thank you for reading you.

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  5. Your latest writing had tears flowing down my cheeks. So very powerful! I thought of your pain now, of the pain that you endured as a child yourself. How all mothers want the best for their children, yet life happens, we try our best, & still we feel disappointed by our behavaior, by their behavior, our thoughts,our control, or lack of control. Your writng, so eloquently puts it out there for all mothers to know and recognize, they are not alone. I don't think I have ever known another woman, who is a mother, that cares as much as you do and tries so very hard. Release on the last moment and go forth, making the moment in the present a joyful one. You are the mother your children need and signed up for and they are helping you grow in so many ways too; a very difficult blessing a lot of the time! My own miracle happened with my daughter, whom I love more than life it's self., a connection soul to soul... beautiful beyond words.

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