By Narcissa Lyons
We’ve many of us been there. Taken a test, rejoiced or cried at the results, decided to just carry on and see what God meant to happen. The pregnancy test. And all this means, with or without child, is that our life will veer one way for a while. That if we’re seventeen and it is negative we breathe a little easier, a little forlornly at wondering how we could have been stupid enough to have gotten so close to those kind of chains. Or at seventeen it is positive and we are immediately dread-soaked – first, to keep or not to keep it and the many ways to recover from either decision—then once decided to weigh everything, to trade teen-age angst with way-too-early-motherhood angst.
That is one picture. There are many others. Others of mothers that are precisely where they need to be and want to be, get seeded exactly as planned so as to have their first child on that best day of that best year. Goes to shit after that but at least the birthday is perfect.
We all end up roughly the same. An entity of which we were pretty sure we had some rough idea of what it would be and what it would mean, forces its way into our lives and promptly proves we didn’t know even one shred of anything. The doctor pulls it or cuts it out of us, father by the side or in the side room, doesn’t matter since it’s a side of some kind regardless, and we see skin, blood, forced breathing, – later ridiculous but beautiful expressions, odd but clearly needy cries and that is how first we crumble—crumble tumble happily in love. There is no other spell greater than that particular one, by myth or by legend or fact. We look at this less than perfect unit that came from the mother, that was formed by father and mother, and it is so pure it is the essence of holy. We cannot speak very much at that juncture but exchange looks that are for that moment alone, and maybe a few moments more in life, and then we quietly thereafter start the mundane but devoted aspect of raising the baby.
The sanctity of birth gives way to the dirtier, but no less lovely pieces of babyhood. The diapers, the nights of being really pissed off you are not being permitted to sleep by this interloper, the gooky looking food, the traumatic transition of breast to bottle or bottle to next bottle, the business of feeding this loverly beast.
Then they start to move and cause more serious damage and ask answerless questions among those that are reasonable. They waver and then wander off, and then one day just disappear around a corner in a neighborhood while you turned to pour a glass of water. You wander the three story house not screaming but loudly yelling his name, still believing no disaster could visit your home for so little a miss. In desperation you begin to bribe the devil by along with shouting his name you mention that you have a popsicle or ice cream or anything you can think of, and you run outside and around the corner after only maybe three minutes of agony that were three days in your head and you see your child, your rarified smaller existence come around the neighbors’ house laughing, bubbling and never understanding (not still) the pure agony and ecstasy of a mother welcoming her son back into a fold that had not in fact been compromised.
And that is again only one story. But is an example of just what hits us on the journey of “raising the children”. Of raising these unimaginably adorable thwarts on an otherwise more carousing life.
Every family has difficulties, and we handle with our respective pools of knowledge and look up/ask questions of those we deem wiser how to figure the rest out. We watch, oft times cringing at what transpires. We want to smack any other child that dare hamper the growth or happiness of our own, but realize that it would be more logical to smack the parents. Kidding. Mostly. Children have to evolve and experience just like we did, and it will work or it won’t but it has to be them evolving and growing which they cannot do if we tangle in everything.
I am lucky. I would not always have said that, and some days still don’t say it, but I am. I have two amazing sons who make me laugh and smile. Not all the time, and some weeks even infrequently, but we have mustered. Genetics and happenstance mean that we all don’t get dealt the same hand. But we all have children with their bends and their sicknesses and their fears and their foibles – just like our parents were handed. We hold them, guide them, pull and push them when we need if we’re doing the right thing, and whereas everyone will tell you and it is always true that it all goes too fast, it is also painful and slow during some of it.
I mention the strife and the hardship because it is true and because it is also a large part of what develops between parent and child and how we get to know one another and adapt accordingly. How we realize that even as parents we are not always right, sometimes far from it, and the dynamic between birth and more testing times is one that affects us forever, that causes the one to without hesitation defend the other, and to even battle wits defending comical arguments. You can talk trash to you and yours but in no way can you do that to them and theirs.
I wrote a letter to the son we dropped off last week to try and help explain why it is so painful an experience for a mother to do just that. Along with advice for succeeding in his collegiate endeavor, I gave him a few key points about his beginnings, events that he would not remember but are what has become part of the definition of him, who he is, so that he can understand better the tears that ran down my face. It took me two weeks to write, and it took much more out of me than that, but I think it helped him on that first night in a foreign town far away from home. It’s been a week, and the girls, the roommates, breezy beaches, and the music have certainly done a better job to welcome him, but I know he tucked that letter away somewhere. And I know he is stronger for having braved the reading and I am stronger for having braved the writing.
I have watched my sons walk out the door aimlessly and gladly, sometimes frustration all over. Or should I say I have gotten to watch them do that? I would never have thought that watching your child show fits and spits of incorrect behavior would have been a privilege, but it’s all part of that crazy, that fling shot mayhem that is raising a child to become someone happy and fulfilled. Seeing disharmony as part of the other bits, is part of the back story of your success. Or at least that is what I am clinging to right this second. I have one wonderful son in South Carolina living an incredible dream that I think he does appreciate where he might not have a year ago. We have another beautiful son that now has started to steer the car, or rule his portion of our kingdom. And what I cannot fathom even while I can, is having to take one more drive wherever it is to drop him off as well. To embrace this loving and warm person and try to in one long hug convey the momentousness of who they are, who they have been to us and who they are to us. And so it is only thusly conveyed. Arm in arm, cheek to cheek and that is all.