People or place? That’s been the dilemma of 2014. After coming within weeks of heading to Monterey with our earthly belongings, an opportunity came along to stay close to those who hold our hearts. Now that the decision has sunk in, it makes perfect sense. Gabe will be within a short drive. My sister and I can meet for our lunches. Dear friends will still be able to wander in and out my front door on a whim. No, we will not walk beside the ocean listening to seals bark, taking in jaw dropping views. I will long for escape come January, and if all goes as planned, embark on new adventures around the globe. And then I will return home to Granville. To the people and place we’ve chosen. And this feels right for right now.
So it’s a normal Sunday with a teenager…
Me: Would you please help me paint?
Him: grumble, moan, whine
Me: Would you please text me every couple hours and let me know where you are.
Him: whine, grumble, moan
Me: Why does every interaction with a teenager have to be a pain-in-the-ass?
Husband: I know, right?
Parenting a teen has been the hardest stage on this journey I am on, by far. I never realized I had it in me to be so frank with someone about porn, drugs, sex, and many other subjects. I just feel like so much is at stake. And it’s amazing how one minute a teenager can seem so mature and the next like he hasn’t evolved much from the toddler stage.
So yesterday I was experiencing a very common feeling these days of wanting to strangle my son. The eye-rolling, defiant, teen ‘tude was just about to push me over the edge. Then I opened my e-mail and read a note from the high school principal that a boy at his school died yesterday morning when he ran off the road and was thrown from his car. And my heart just ached all day. I just wanted to hug that mother and weep with her. There could be nothing worse than getting a call like the one she must have gotten. I wondered what was their last interaction like?
When I think about all I have and all I have to lose, it feels like too much to hold sometimes. How do I keep him close and safe and let him go out into the big wide world without me? But that’s what mom’s do, right? I’m supposed to be working my way out of a job… helping him learn to take care of himself and to not need me.
A lovely home in the country with soul quenching views… And much gecko gawking.
Leisurely mornings with coffee, the sun warming my back and white egrets flitting against greenest green and bluest blue.
Sloppy trails that made us work extra hard for the pay off of dazzling views, descending with mud squishing between toes, legs splattered with Kauaian red dirt and smiles.
Afternoons of surfing, paddle boarding, beach strolling.
Returning to our upcountry nest for simple dinners and mostly peace.
I can’t remember a more lovely, satisfying family trip.
As I listen to you practice moonlight sonata, I am amazed that the baby girl I’ve watched over for 17 years, can make music that makes me feel weepy.
As you explain that placing ear buds in your nostrils and opening your mouth will cause your mouth to become a speaker, I feel fortunate that I have a child that always makes me laugh.
As you walk out the door to spend the night on campus, because you’re 18, and you can, I will not sleep because a piece of me is not safely tucked away and I will worry.
That each of you make my life infinitely richer by being your unique beautiful selves.
As a parent, you never know when the last visit to the playground will be. You really don’t even think about it. The day just passes, unnoticed, and you’ve pushed your last swing without fanfare or sadness. Nor do you know when the last time will be that your son will hold your hand. Suddenly, he just subtly withholds his grasp, and it just is. Later, looking back, you realize life is a series of sweetly sublime moments, blending together. You pick the memories apart like threads from a beloved sweater, and it’s enough to make you weep. Not just because you realize the fleeting moments are gone, but because you also know that much of the time, you weren’t paying attention when they happened. Maybe you were preoccupied by bills that needed to be paid, or how frustrating your coarse, curly hair could be and how polished the other moms seemed. Maybe you were just wishing to be anywhere but on that damn playground again, pushing the swing for the umpteenth time. It’s why Emily in Our Town wanted to go back and relive an ordinary day… to savor and deeply notice and feel the gift of everyday life that we take for granted.
And then, you blink, and you’re standing in the middle of Peace Park in Taipei, next to the playground with the squealing children swishing down the slide and the beleaguered looking parents pushing swings and you hear your 16 year olds voice, nearly in tears, imploring you to understand that she’s been living abroad for 8 months and she feels so different, so changed. She’s independent now. Not only does she not need you to push her swing, or catch her at the end of the slide, she doesn’t need you. And that, I suppose, was the job description all along. To teach her to not need you.
As the taxi pulls away from the curb, you watch her through the back window as long as you can. She’s walking confidently toward the MRT heading to another part of Taipei to deliver a speech in Chinese. Your heart aches with pride and sadness, but mostly pride.
Your children are not your children.
They are the 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.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Kahlil Gibran (1883 – 1931)