I am 2 years into this kind of parenting (yes I count the 9 months of being pregnant because it’s about time someone starts counting that) and I finally know what it’s all about. Bold statement, huh? I can feel the moms of 3+ grown adults rolling their eyes from here. Bear with me…or quit reading. Your call.
Parenting is one giant lesson, experience, invitation in Letting Go. Letting Go of preconceived notions about yourself, and about your child. Letting Go of exterior pressure, messages, and societal insults. Letting Go of expectation, mom guilt (that bitch), five year plans, and spontaneous summer vacations (at least for a few years). And the worst one? Parenting is one giant lesson, experience, invitation in Letting Go of your child.
I am of the mindset that our children do not belong to us.
“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, they belong not to you.”
This poem in full is posted on our fridge, and we’ve held to its truths that resonated with us long before we had our son. But since I am being bold here anyway, I’ll go ahead and say that Kahlil Gibran has left out an important piece. I do not believe my son belongs to me. And yet, I cannot escape the deep seeded truth — those ones you feel in the depths of your gut — the ones that you feel so sure of that you don’t care who disagrees because regardless of exterior pressure, messages, and societal insults, they are your truth. And that alone is enough. I do not believe my son belongs to me. But, I know that I belong to my son.
And so I find myself here, overwhelmed by life’s invitation to Let Go. Over and over and over again. Mostly because, well, do you want to know what I am terrible at? And I don’t mean this in a negative self talk kind of way. I mean it in a I know myself very well kind of way. I suck at Letting Go. I might be the worst at it. Like so bad that if they were handing out Participation Trophies I wouldn’t even get one because I wouldn’t have showed up. (And if they start handing out Participation Trophies to people who don’t even participate, so help me god.) Those that know me well know this about me. Which is why they should also know that I am constantly holding it against them for not giving me even the slightest of warnings about parenting and it’s gentle forceful way of getting someone to Let Go. A simple “Hey Noelle, heads up — parenting is a lot about Letting Go. You’re not very good at that. God Bless.” would have been nice.
My son was in a wedding this last weekend. I know, his social calendar is more full than mine. He was probably the cutest ring bearer in the history of ring bearers. I’m holding a trophy ceremony later for him. I watched him go down that aisle with the heaviest and lightest of hearts. And then he walked back down it to me and I scooped him up. Millions of moments racing through my head — curiosity and reality leading me to wonder about all the aisles he may walk down. School hallways, aisles that end with receiving diplomas, aisles that end with his own bride or groom. Hospital hallways, nursing home hallways, aisles of stone marking what’s been lost. And each one, I will be gently forced to let him go a little more; to hold on a little less.
I am not ready. And I don’t think we ever are. I see it in mothers’ eyes all the time. Mothers whose babies are 45 years from being babies. That twinge when they leave. Or. That twinge when they don’t even come. That ache when the phone rings, because you know once again, the hanging up – the Letting Go – is coming. That ache when the phone doesn’t ring. And we have to Let Go, once again, of the notion that our children belong to us. And we have to live with, once again, the tension of the truth that even still, we belong to them. Our bodies, their homes, whether we birthed them or not.
For me, right now, belonging to my son means exactly what it meant last weekend at the wedding. It means I stay back, crouched down behind the crowd, with arms opened, ready for him to turn towards me, if he needs. It means I hold on to the heaviest and lightest of thoughts; to my own mother heart that knows that his needing of me is not indicative of his love for me. It means I let go. I let him go. And. I let part of myself go with him.
Over and over and over again.
People have a way of encouraging parents to bear with their baby, as the baby is learning about this world. They have a way of advising parents to bear with their toddler, as the toddler is learning about how big feelings can feel. They have a way of reminding parents to bear with their child, their teen, their young adult — as this phase will pass. This too always passes.
But they forget to tell children to bear with their parents. And so I write this letter to you…
My love, please bear with me as I learn about who I am as a mother and how that does or doesn’t fit with who you need as a mother. Bear with me as I adjust my self to meet you and mother you.
Bear with me as I learn about postpartum depression, what my body needs to heal from bringing forth life. Bear with me as I try to keep all the balls in the air that I kept up so effortlessly before knowing you. Bear with me as I watch them drop and find myself on the floor beside them, disappointed in all I have let fall. Bear with me as I learn that more balls in the air means less balls on the floor for you and I to play with.
Bear with me as I wrestle with what I envisioned this would all look like versus what this all really looks like. Bear with me as I stare at my own reflection trying to relearn what it is I look like.
Bear with me as I cry. My love, I will cry. So much more than you. I will cry when I feel like I am failing you. I will cry because I can’t believe how much I love you and how much I am totally nailing this mom-thing. I will cry when you say my name. Mostly because it sounds so beautiful coming off your lips. But probably sometimes because I am just so tired of hearing it. Bear with me.
Bear with me as I learn to Let Go. I am really awful at this. Bear with me as I learn to Let Go of the pressure society puts on me as a woman and mother, and the pressure I put on myself. Of comments made by strangers and friends alike that do not serve us well. Of unsolicited advice and negative self-talk.
Bear with me as I learn to Let you Go. I am really awful at this. And really good at helicopter parenting. I want to put you in my pocket and protect you from this cruel world. Bear with me as I learn that if I protect from its cruelty, then I also shield you from its goodness. Bear with me, son, as I learn to trust in goodness. In kindness. In humanity — mine, yours, and the worlds. Bear with me as I search for, find, lose, doubt, hate, and love God.
Bear with me, when you walk away and I keep crying. Bear with me when I wait up at night drowning in worry about your safety. Bear with me when I over think why you haven’t called or why you didn’t answer. Bear with me when I question your taste in women or men; when I question your choice of friends. Bear with me when you find me sitting in the preschool parking lot weeping. Or when you find me hiding in a bush trying to spy on you and your friends (whether you’re 3 or 13 or God help me, 33). Bear with me when I tell you I miss you, even though I just saw you ten minutes ago. Bear with me when I tell you how much I love you and how insanely lovable you are for the fifteenth hundredth time in one day.
Bear with me when I hold on a little too long, or a little too tight. I am learning to Let Go; to Let you Go. And it is the hardest, most brutal, most blissful, most rewarding, most kind, most emptying and filling aspect of being your mother. Bear with me, my love, as I learn to be your mother.
PS- I will always be crouched in the back of the crowd – at the beginning of the aisle – waiting with open arms, in case you need me. Cuz that’s how this works – the arms that open to Let you Go, stay open to welcome you back. Over and over and over again.