Friday, October 16, 2015

Parenthood

I look at the pictures I posted of my kids.  They are all adults and are amazing people.  I have known them intimately since before they were born.  I felt them flutter and roll and kick.  I nursed them and diapered and bathed them all.  Potty trained them.

Those things all sound like chores, like "jobs", maintenance, being a caretaker.   Yes, I was their primary caretaker, but our relationships were so much more.  We shared cuddles and I kissed skinned knees.  Nick and I went to, how many parent teacher conferences and back to school nights.

We raised these people.  These adults.  Our children.

The relationship is complex.  At first it is mostly primal.   Survival mode.  Nurse the baby to feed it.  Nurse the baby so mom gets relief and a hormonal rush of mothering hormones.  The baby needs to be cared for it is totally dependent.   I thrived on that.  Being the source of all that is good.  That period is brief though intense.

Those "firsts", smiles, steps, ability to read.  No less amazing and magical with the fifth than with the first.  If anything, I think my amazement grew.

And now, they are grown.  Independent.  And I sit here and reflect.  And wish I had been more patient.  Kinder.  Just all around better.  I am not looking for praise.  I am acknowledging life and it's frailty.

Placing that new life into your arms is so simple, yet enormous at the same time.  I thought I was shaping these new lives, each one.  And I know that Nick and I did a lot of shaping.  But I know that we also stood back and tried to let go, a little bit at a time.  To be here when we were needed and stand ready when we were not.

And now.  I don't know.  The love is there.  The intensity is there.  The fear and angst of anything ever hurting your child is there for the rest of a parent's life.   How do you do this parenting thing with adult children?   How do you accept their choices and their pain without interfering?   How do you, every now and then, swallow the hurt feelings when you are told to step back.  I don't know, but you do.   I guess in a way, the fact that I can feel hurt sometimes shows me a couple of things.  One thing it shows me is how tender my feelings are.  But it also, I hope, shows me that the relationship keeps growing.  That my adults (adult children) need to push me away sometimes to be independent and find their own way.

I wonder how many times I must have hurt my mother.  How many times I pushed and resented her.  She meddled and pushed back though.  The way she pushed me is not something my adults would put up with.  I have one child who says, sternly with hand held out "MOM".  That's all it takes to remind me to step back.    One time I wrote a letter to my father that told him just what I thought.  I was an adult, mother of five already when I wrote it.   He asked me "when do children stop blaming their parents?".    My stepmother was there.  She answered the question.  She said "never".

My own father must have been very hurt as a child.  He and his brothers all loved and cared for their mother.  But none of them ever spoke about their father.  He left the family in 1939, returning to his home, Norway.  They never saw him again.  I am so sorry my father lived with such pain.

And so the mysteries of life go on.  Who knows what happens next?   Not me.

I never thought it all through when I was young.  I wanted to be a mother.  Now I am.  I help new mothers figure out what their path is.  I hope.  I give them some direction and leave them to go on their way.  And one day they too will be wondering where the time went.  And who are these amazing people!


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