Condemn me, if you dare.
It wasn’t for lack of love, or vision, or care.
It was from overwhelming fear.
Fear of failing, fear of being less than I needed to be,
of not having what a precious new life
needed most from the inner depths of me.
Depths I feared to explore.
Grim, frightening caves filled with nightmare spiders,
Un-scaleable rocks and plummeting drops.
I wanted only the best for you . . .
the brightest shining star,
my miracle, my sunshine.
Once I took the trembling plunge
Into reluctant motherhood,
I pulled out all the stops,
driving full steam ahead,
wearing my “red letter P” brand, becoming one
of those parents others dread:
You know those others, the ones who take so seriously
a supposed civic duty to instruct, to criticize, and twist compliance
to their internal vision of how it should be between a mom and her child?
Advocacy is just another name
for the physics of pushing back
and standing firm
Day 10: Woolie Socks
Day 8: First Thing This Morning
You called first thing this morning,
No greeting beyond, “God, mom, you sound like shit!”
Your head wrapped up where 20-somethings’s sit.
I pondered the apple, and its distance from the tree —
Set aside the measuring tape, considering
The long years and paths that lay ahead.
Perhaps, just perhaps, we could walk together again?
I suppose I should answer for this odd division
Of concern for your friends, for yourself, but no other.
On the one hand, I admire your careless compassion.
On the other, I find your heedlessness quite tiring.
A curious mixture you bring to life’s field,
Of independence and boldness, of an uncertain child.
You called first thing this morning.
It’s a long-standing habit, this idea of yours
That parents’ hand over scant money, scant time.
I could point my finger at other devotee’s
Of giving in to the whim, to the moment, to the plea . . .
How many fingers would then point back at me?
So, no wonderment is allowed — that when you called there was
No greeting beyond, “God, mom, you sound like shit.”
“No money, no time” deepened the pause
You struggled and mastered the terrible frustration:
“I need to get home,” you said, “my friend is having a
hard time, I can help him, I should, he needs me . . .”
I bit my tongue on the burble of harsh judgment.
Tasting metallic coppery fluid, breathing deeply, knowing that
Your head’s wrapped up where 20-something’s sit.
Just a phase, a space, a piece of time
That reflects honestly your own curious mix
Of life’s lessons learned and choices long made.
Small lumps of clay held in cupped hands long ago
Patted, petted, cuddled and loved
Paddled, scolded, molded – now gone. Silently,
I pondered the apple, and its distance from the tree.
So much hope, so much grace, the promise you bring
To a world in need, to a world that laughs, a world that cries
To a world more often known for its wars, its battlements
Stark and forlorn.
You reject that vision, and like the babe of old
Keep reaching up and out, to have and to hold.
I set aside the measuring tape, considering
That in two long decades
You survived and thrived where many would not.
Vulnerability and strength go hand in hand
Not usually an even mix
But there nonetheless
As you forge your own trails into
Long years and paths that lay ahead.
And they are long, and sometimes weary
The years and paths ahead
When a mother’s mind is stuck in perpetual rewind.
“Do-over, do-over!” wee gremlins shriek
“No good, no good!” they poke and prod . . .
The unkind voices give substance to a dream —
Perhaps, just perhaps, we could walk together again?
The sun found its perfect spot on the back of my neck, proceeding to wrap its brilliant rays in a choking fashion with no hope of ever being dislodged. My irritation mounted in nanoseconds as I regarded the keys hanging still and silent in the ignition behind locked doors.
A single bead of salted sweat rolled down between my shoulder blades . . . of course, right in the exact spot no hand of my own could reach.
I stomped my foot and looked at my watch. Fifteen minutes. I had exactly fifteen minutes to make a ten-minute drive across town to pick up the burbling, happy, rambunctious toddler I had left with the sitter.
There was a locksmith two blocks away . . . who would cost $50 just to make the trip over to determine if he could even open the door for me. $50 which I did not have, being down to my last $20 until payday – and that $20 needed to purchase diapers and milk.
The police would not help, since I had not locked my child in the car with the keys.
Silly me! Apparently, trying to get back to a sitter who needed to go to her paying job on time and would leave the child on the front porch of her house did not constitute an emergency.
A bee flew too close to my head and with an inarticulate cry of fear, I swung my purse at it, batting it away. “And stay away,” I muttered.
A bumblebee . . . that was okay. Even a honeybee, sated with pollen . . . okay, too.
Hornets, wasps, yellowjackets . . . no go. There were too many moments firmly encased in crystalline memory of minding my own business only to have a flying menace buzz near, land, and sting.
I didn’t care what anyone said – bees liked to sting me.
Thirteen minutes left. I wondered if I could jimmy the back window open of my late 1970s Mercury Bobcat. The little flap window was of course closed tight, but maybe I could get it open just enough to slip my hand through and reach the door handle.
Worth a try, I decided glumly. At least the car had only cost me $150 cash plus $80 for a mechanic to jiggle one or two wires, reconnecting some important junction, change the oil and make sure the brakes were okay.
A broken window could be replaced – junkyards were crammed full of parts for salvage. A child left sitting in his car seat on a porch because I didn’t show up in a timely manner so the sitter could go to her paying job – well . . . that couldn’t be fixed so easily after being broken . . .
A few vain attempts to slide a Bic pen in between the window gaskets so I could pry the window open did not work. I needed something slimmer.
Hastily scavenging in my purse, I found a slim dime and a quarter. The dime created enough of an opening to get the quarter in next, which then allowed my pinky to get in on the action.
Carefully, I managed to get all four fingertips lodged securely and began to gently pull. If I could do this without breaking the window, that would be best.
Fingers slick with sweat slid abruptly and the thin opening sucked shut, pinching the skin on my pinky finger in the process.
“Damn it!” I hollered at the top of my lungs, and slammed my fist on the top of the car. “I don’t need this right now!”
I took a deep breath, and closed my eyes, trying to marshal my fading resources — never mind my non-existent patience. If this didn’t work, I supposed I could call my mom who lived close to the sitter and beg for help.
Mom worked full-time, and tended to resist being the go-to grandparent for these sorts of things.
She firmly believed – or at least emphatically encouraged – her children to be self-sufficient in every was possible, including dealing with life’s little emergencies.
Bless her soul, I snarled to myself as I wiped my hands dry on my jeans and then repeated the dime, quarter, pinky process. This time, I clenched tightly and gave a vigorous pull. Pop, pop. The little flap window was open.
And my arm simply wasn’t long enough to reach the door handle. I strained and twisted and panted in defeat. I needed just a few more inches.
I felt like weeping with despair and instead kicked the car viciously.
The kick made me feel better, although my foot protested the abuse.
The newer cars were fiberglass, but this beast was old enough to have been made with heavy honest-to-god steel . . . and merely shrugged off my kick with barely a ripple, reminding me of stolid cows chewing their cuds, tails flicking annoying flies away.
I looked at my watch. Five minutes left and a ten minute drive. Now what?
In frustration, I grabbed the window and yanked with all my might. A cracking sound accompanied the shards of glass flying around me in a sparkling haze, landing on the ground and in the back seat.
I heard a gasp and looked up to see a woman with tightly curled graying hair clutching her purse firmly in one hand and holding her other hand over her mouth. Her eyes were flicking anxiously back and forth between me, the car, and the nearby store, and she looked as though she were frozen in fear.
Of course, I though sarcastically to myself — I am such a fearful woman.
“What?” I snarled impatiently, and she recoiled from me. Reaching in to the car, avoiding the glass shards as best I could, I got the door open at last. “It’s my car – I can break it if I want to!”
I hastily brushed the few shards on the driver’s seat out the door and slid behind the wheel. Turning the engine on, I peeled out of the parking lot and made amazing time getting to the sitter, who was standing on her porch, tapping her foot, my son strapped in his car seat and yowling like a scalded cat. He disliked his car seat, always had. But, at least he was safe and there.
The woman shook her head at me as she dashed down to her car.
“Sorry,” I yelled after her. “Hold tight to your keys. You don’t want to break a window to get into your car.”
She made no response, heading down the gravel driveway at top speeds, leaving behind clouds of dust and grit.
“Hey, bud!” I reached down to scoop up my fretful child. “Mama’s here. Let’s go find a vacuum to clean up the mess I made, hmmm?”
He stopped squirming and poked grubby fingers into his mouth, lisping, “Mess?” at me, blinking solemnly up before grinning. “Mommy mess?”
“Mommy’s a mess,” I agreed, hoisting him and his car seat over to the car and settling him.
“A big one,” I muttered under my breath, hoping I had enough quarters to use the drive-through car wash vacuum cleaner. What a day.
Taylor watched his mom and dad come toward him with trepidation. They had made it explicitly clear that if he hurt himself skateboarding again, he would pay for the medical expenses. His dad he figured he could work around to his point of view, but his mom was a dead-wringer for what she called “follow through” and “logical consequences.”
It really wasn’t his fault. The park was not kept up to standard and the edge of his board had caught on the ragged lip of the incline when he tried to jump.
“Hey,” he called weakly, torn between relief and anxiety.
He searched his mom’s face for any indication of anger and decided that if she was angry, she was hiding it well. She sighed as she sat down beside him and observed, “You’re bleeding. Did the . . . “
“No, mom,” he hastily interjected. “The bone is not poking through.”
Taylor had had enough broken bones to know, and then he gasped as his mom gently cupped his hand under hers and raised it closer to look. Her face remained still, as she searched his, giving no indication of what she was thinking or feeling.
“Stop!” he said. “That hurts.”
“I imagine it does,” she responded. “Can you walk to the car?”
“Well, duh,” Taylor carefully stood up, grimacing as pain shot up his arm. His dad hovered, finally turning to walk beside Taylor as they carefully picked their way across the wet lawn.
“Which hospital?” his dad inquired mildly.
This was going to be bad, Taylor groaned inwardly. Usually, he could count on some sort of reaction from his parents, but so far they were staying more collected than he could ever recall.
“Let’s just go see my regular doctor,” Taylor suggested. “It’ll cost less,” he continued, hoping that his thinking ahead to cost would score at least one or two points with his parents.
“They aren’t open on Saturdays, I don’t think,” his mom replied, sliding he van door open and carefully latching the seat belt around Taylor. He gasped when his hand was slightly jostled, and she climbed in next to him.
“Call and find out,” he said.
His mom shrugged and dialed the number on her cell phone. After a pause, she said, “Nope,” and leaned forward to his dad. “Let’s just go to the closest one.”
“All right,” his dad agreed and started backed out of the parking spot.
As far as Taylor could tell on the drive over, his dad was deliberately hitting every bump he could and taking corners sharply. Taylor opened his mouth to complain and hastily shut it again when he caught the expression on his dad’s face.
“Slow down, dear,” Taylor’s mom said sharply. “You’re not an ambulance and every bump and corner is causing pain.”
Taylor’s dad grunted, and tapped on the brakes.
Taylor felt tears spring to his eyes. His dad was really upset. Taylor couldn’t imagine why else the man would drive so chaotically when his son was hurt.
“I hope the hospital is back on the preferred provider list,” he heard his mom remark to his dad. “The last time Taylor broke something, it cost several thousand after the insurance paid their portion. Don’t worry, Taylor,” she added. Taylor hoped he heard a note of kindness in her voice . . . and then slumped in defeat as she went on, “Your dad and I will allow you to make payments to us until the bill is paid off.”
His dad harrumphed up front. “Seems logical to me.”
“A perfectly natural consequence,” Taylor’s mom added, “especially when Taylor was clearly told unwise decisions about his activities resulting in hospital visits would mean he paid.”
Taylor could feel a sinking sensation inside. His parents meant it, and with his dad agreeing with his mom, he could foresee months and years of slowly repaying a hospital and doctor bill that looked insurmountable before the costs had already rolled in. He wasn’t sure if he imagined it or not, but he thought he could hear a chuckle in his parents conversation.
They were happy about this! “Hey!” he said, indignantly. “Don’t make fun of me!”
“We’re not, dear,” his mother replied. “We’re just rejoicing that you can learn a valuable lesson at such relatively low cost. Your accident could have been much worse since you were not wearing any safety gear.”
Taylor gaped at her. She was happy, he realized. But why, he couldn’t understand.
You’ll understand someday when you have your own children,” she smiled sweetly at him, and rummaged in her purse for the insurance card.
When gravity was more closely centered
you grasped at all the straws
never settling for just one.
The distance to fall is greater, now
and you settle back, and in.
Occasionally a grin tickles
your eyes and mouth while
choosing a straw as best fits the moment,
as best fits you.The infant you were lingers in my mind
a shimmery wave of blurred
and I wonder
about the odd, discordant dance
that we both seem to enjoy . . . and yet, maybe not.
Chores, limits, and clear expectations for behavior give children the chance to practice valuable skills and grow into competent, responsible adults who know that they are worthwhile and valuable.
Children that do not get these chances build internal messages of worthlessness and uselessness.
When parents stand firm on chores, limits, and behaviors, there can be conflict. All parents and children experience conflict to some degree – it’s natural.
What it means is that the parent loves the child enough to sit with the short-term discomfort of conflict for the positive long-term result:
a child growing into a competent, responsible, happy adult.
Some Things That Are Valued and Adhered To In This Home
Doing chores teaches life skills, work ethics, and time-management. It gives people a sense of usefulness, belonging, and importance.
Being truthful about what you think, feel, do, or plan to do is critical to happy, healthy relationships.
Doing what you say you will do – following through – helps people trust each other and succeed in meeting goals and reaching dreams.
Learning is life-long. Graduating from high school and continuing on to the Peace Corps, trade school, college, or military is also key in meeting goals.
Being a part of a faith community gives lots of chances to practice skills, build relationships, and form internal beliefs about how we fit in this world.
Caring for the people and places that form the community we live in help us feel connected and follow through on what is important to us by making a difference.
Do you suppose he’s looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?
Or thinking about something much more esoteric?
At 15 1/2, he’s a constant wonder to me.
On the one hand, a mystery. On the other, he shares more about what he’s thinking and feeling than he has in a long time.
I imagine him standing in his life rather like he is in this picture: poised on the brink of launching into his adult world. There’s still some room in his pack for a few more tools, words of love and advice from mom and dad — but he’s filling his pack on his own merits more and more now.
Words can’t describe how proud I am of his growth, of the person he is now, and the person he is growing into — still a miracle, still a blessing, still a rascal, still a challenge, still my baby — no matter how grown.
Rock gardens are fascinating — particularly wild rock gardens.
The discovery of vivid color and delicate scents within rocky creches pleases me no-end on day hikes.
This treasure was found as Nathan and I scrambled up the Comet Falls trail in Mt. Rainier in early August. He was practicing for his upcoming big hike, and like a billy goat bounded up and over rocks despite the twenty pounds or so on his back, returning every so often to help his slower-going mother over a particularly big stepping stone.
And patiently waiting for me to “oooh” and “ahhh” and otherwise exclaim over and admire the unfolding beauty of this glorious world we live in.
Hopefully, he hasn’t caught on yet to how some of that admiration is built-in R&R time . . . *grin*
Keeping up with the young man on the trail is getting tough!
But, ohhh — so worth it!