Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Scrying (future perfect)

You love your kids way too much to ever feel safe again.  - Anne Lamott 

Once in a great while - usually when I am distracted by something mundane like boiling noodles or sifting through the junk mail - I will glance over at Cowgirl and in a flash see the young woman she is slowly drifting towards becoming. 

It is a bit disconcerting but also thrilling.  Kinda like coming upon a wild animal and experiencing that frisson of awe and instinctual fear.  The image jarring in that the memory of her needy, wispy-haired, mouth-gaping-in-perpetual-want, baby bird self is still very vivid for me.  

But here is the evidence of my girl slowly orbiting away from me. The separation not yet visible, but imminent.  

Her being is as close to me as my racing pulse; at the same time she baffles, excites, delights and frustrates me to no end. 

I was talking with a friend I had not seen in a long while.  This friend is someone I view as a mentor when it comes to mothering.  A professional and a professor, she has a resumé long with achievement yet her focus has always clearly been centered upon her family.  So I was surprised by her reaction when I relating to her my struggle to determine what it is I wish to cultivate within my life.  I was telling her how I admire people like Julia Child (did I throw you with that one?) who so passionately devote themselves to something they believe in and how I have been seeking my whole life to find that one thing - my thing - for myself.  I enjoy too many things I explained to her and I feel the pull to go deeply into something and see where it takes me rather that continue to graze upon the surface of my life.  

The gist of my friend's response was "You are a mother and that occupies your time ... isn't your child your thing?" For a split second I could feel the relief of slipping into that belief.  To heap upon tiny shoulders the responsibility for my meaning and purpose.  It is a tightrope walk - to balance upon a thin wire of being  totally present for and focused upon my child while maintaining our separate identities, our separate needs.  I do not want to make my child a vessel for my longings and aspirations.  I do not want her to believe she is to fulfill the dreams I was too fearful to pursue.

I want her to be her own person and to be able to hear, trust and follow the urgings of her own heart, her own mind.  And as painful as it feels to me now as I witness these first forays into independence, I want her to slip into a life of her own choosing free of any  guilt over pleasing or completing me.   

I tried explaining this to my friend.  I told her if nothing else, I want my daughter to see me as a complete person empowered by knowing it is within my ability and my right to seek that which brings me joy and fulfillment.  When she is in her adult life - a race car driver or a paleontologist as of this week - I want Cowgirl to think of her old mother as an interesting if somewhat eccentric person.  

And perhaps she is witnessing clues to my future self for her school essays about our family always read "My mother likes to paint. I like her paintings."

 And so we both grow.   A thrilling if somewhat dangerous and uncertain process. May we always hold space for the other to be who they dare to be.   


  1. NO, the children can't be the "thing." And this from a firmly extended-breastfeeding, co-sleeping, attachment parenting mama. I put my children's needs front and center as they arise, with the goal of producing independent people. Each step towards independence is a success...if the children are my thing, isn't there the danger of making sure they continue to be my thing, so that I'm not, then, purposeless? That's just Too Much to ask of anyone, especially a child. The entire purpose of parenting is to enable them to move on and out and up...

  2. it is such a dance for me Lis and you have put it beautifully... your desire to meet her needs entirely and yet to not be beholden to you for anything... it is like the photos so beautifully say a wild frenzied seemingly unchoreographed dance... and yet it must be - we, each of us follow our own path our own destiny and she will stand on your shoulders... your drive to create beauty, to share your heart and wisdom is the nest she will fly from... is that not your thing and how she flies, her trajectory, her thing?

  3. here I am again saying "yes! yes! yes!" I whole-heartedly agree that we do our kids a lifelong service by pursuing passions that have nothing to do with them. they need to know we will meet their needs, but they need to know they are not the center of the universe. yes, they will hopefully see us as complete people, and hopefully will see us as role models in their own parenting. plus, the benign neglect I bestow upon my son while I'm lost in art makes him more independent and more capable. If I'm not hovering around fulfilling his every whim and solving his every problem, he will figure it out for himself. and we are BOTH much happier with this result. and ohhhh those photos of dancing cowgirl take my breath away. xo Karen

  4. There has always been a deep conflict for mothers and their children about how we/they lead our/their lives. I believe that most children like their parents to be available, "there" - it is part of their security in growing up to be independent. It is a fine line and a personal battle to be ourselves, as parents, whilst giving our children what they need to grow. I know I struggle with it (coming home from a two day retreat that required one day travel to and one day travel fro) but know that my relationship with Riley is stronger because of my absence. Now, the last time we were separated as such was two years ago....On this subject, one of the films I watched on my long flights was "The Iron Lady", the story about Margaret Thatcher and that was one of the themes - how a woman who had something running through her so strongly had to sometimes choose "where" she served - at home to her children or in parliament to herself. Luckily, she had a very supportive husband who thought the world of her and who, at the same time, seemed to keep her on her path. I felt a certain kindredness with her with those choices and struggles. To make a short story long, I think these are all human conflicts and will always be. And its good to talk about them and to share insights and feelings. I think Cowgirl is who she is right now partly because you have given her the springboard to be that person. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for all you HAVE done. Riley proudly tells the people in his life that his mother is an artist and I love his lack of hesitation in that statement. He was proudly calling me an artist years before I was able to do so. They see us as we are, bare bones. And it is an incredibly humbling learning experience.

  5. This made me wonder if you've ever read book "the renaissance soul." I understand that feeling of wanting to sort of be an expert on something, or have something be "my thing." When I watched that "Julia & Julia" movie I also felt like I wish I could dive that deeply into one thing. ...but that book freed me to realize that if something like that hasn't come naturally to me, it's probably because I'm just the type of person that needs to have several focuses, and it helps with how to do that successfully. If you haven't read it, you might like it.

  6. Mothers and Daughters...you two are well on your way to becoming adult friends. In every post you write about her, I read the love and respect you honour her with and how she responds to you in loving ways. Separation from you is vital to her growing up. Only in being herself can she reach out to you forever. Enjoy these days of togetherness and look forward to what comes next.

  7. The one thing I had to teach myself as a young mother was that my son could not be the center of my life. For me to model a successful adult to him, I had to have something in my life other than him. For me, that was crafting, in any form - crocheting, knitting, beading, writing, whatever my craft of the moment happened to be. Now, at 28, he knows I love him deeply, and also knows that I am a person outside of him and his needs. I watch him interact with his wife, and I am so proud that he respects her as a person with her own needs. I hope that is partially what I taught him - that you are important to the other person in your life, and that the other person has their own needs and interests that fulfill them.

  8. awesome
    wise words Lis
    and I echo them
    that is the road a choose too...one of individuality yet connection of family
    I want my boys to thrive, flourish, go forth and conquer ... I just don't think I can expect any of that unless I am doing the same : )

    thanks for this today
    love and light