Divine Secrets of the Yo-Yo Motherhood and the Traveling Fat-Ass Pants.
Posted Mar 03 2009 3:09pm
Okay, so here’s my first confession: I don’t really have any divine secrets of motherhood.
But, it’s not because I haven’t looked for them or that I haven’t wanted any.
It’s just that I’ve never been able to find them. And the yo-yo part, well, that’s pretty self-explanatory.
As it turns out, parenting is one of those pay as you go, sink or swim, plow right in and figure-it-out-as-you-go-along kind of jobs. I suppose this is not so bad when you are learning how to roller skate, ride a bicycle or maybe even throw a Frisbee.
But when the consequences of your actions have the potential to harm the universe or mankind in some way, alter the course of history or simply annoy the hell out of your neighbors, it only seems reasonable that one should have access to some sort of an owner’s manual.
I mean, at the very least, there ought to be an 800-number to call for operating instructions or find out where you can purchase replacement parts.
But that’s not the way it is with parenting.
What’s worse, there are no dress rehearsals or do-overs either. That’s because everything happens in real time with no pause, rewind, fast forward or mute. It’s the original live and in prime time reality programming. Which is exactly why I believe that in order to parent even half-way effectively, a good dose of the divine is absolutely necessary.
Take the other day for example.
My 15 year old daughter and I went out for lunch. Just me and her. Mommy-daughter day if you will. We decided on a place that would offer lighter caloric fare - girl food - and headed out the door.
Settling into our booth we both ordered a Santa Fe Chicken Salad.I ordered raspberry ice tea. She ordered raspberry lemonade.
As we sat, waiting for our food, few words passed between us.
Sipping our tea and lemonade, we gazed quietly out the window at the snow and looked around the restaurant at the other patrons.
She twiddled with the paper wrapper that was wound around the napkin and the silverware.
I chucked my straw up and down in my glass, amusing myself with the ice.
The waitresses bustled back and forth in the aisle next to us, clearing tables, chatting cheerfully and bringing food. I noticed that one of them had a tattoo behind her ear and wondered to myself what it was about them that appealed to so many of her generation.
The silence that draped the space between us was heavy, loud and persistent. Pressuring us to speak. Or maybe it was just pressuring me. This is not unusual for us though. In fact, during the entire course of her life, we have spent many hours in each other’s company without speaking.
A naturally quiet child, she is content with her inner world and rarely makes demands on others. ( Unlike her brother who demands enough for the both of them.) Reserved and somewhat aloof, she is sometimes thought of as snobbish, standoffish or uninterested.And her languishing disposition and yielding nature is often misconstrued for a lack subtlety or sophistication.
I know, because I’ve done it myself.
But spend any length of time around her and you soon realize that not only is she warm and engaging and nuanced, but she is also a curious and fascinating blend of contradictions.
Simple, but complex. Soft, but incredibly strong. Naive, but deeply perceptive.
So much so, that even her name communicates a contradiction. Erin Nicole - a peaceful, victory for the people.
Tall and willowy with a buoyant grace, she always seems as if she is floating.Much like she did in my womb. Gliding, slipping and sliding with the airy lightness of butterfly wings in God’s water-filled cocoon.
Most babies announce their presence with the usual customary kicks and jabs of elbows, feet and knees.But not her.She preferred to establish contact with heart signals. Tiny, delicate reverberations that echoed softly from her heart to mine, forming our bond in a gentle way. As she grew, the strength of her quiet nature expanded in me. Filling my soul with hers. Fusing our lives together.
So it only seemed natural and very fitting that we would sit together once again, without speaking.
But, the verbal inertia was like swimming in the doldrums.
I desperately wanted to talk to her. To connect with her. To feel close to her. I wanted her to know how much I think of her and how deeply I’ve always loved her, and yet, for some stupid reason, that I still cannot fully explain, have always failed to adequately express.
Soon, the desire to speak felt like a suffocating weight pressing down on my chest. Every breath was a laboring effort that seemed to only allow for the shallow intake of oxygen or an occasional sigh.
Eventually though, my words helped themselves. Pooling together and rising above the wall in my heart, they spilt over the top in a sudden, gushing eruption of tears and emotion.
I was as startled as she was as I fumbled around the table looking for something to sop up the spillage, with my shoulders shuddering and nasal drainage finding its way to my upper lip.
“I’m sorry” I sobbed, as I wiped away the tears and snorted the snot back into my head.
“Are you okay?”she asked, searching my face, reaching for me.
“Yeah, I’m fine” I lied, bowing my head to clear my nose and regain some sort of composure.
“I, I, I love you.” I managed to stutter between convulsive hiccups and sucking gasps of weeping. “I love you very, very much.”
“I love you too, mom.”she answered back with a quiet and slightly perplexed concern in her voice.
By that time our food had arrived. We thanked the waitress, placed our napkins in our laps, assured her that we had all we needed and began to eat.
If I had had my owner’s manual, I could have flipped to the trouble shooting section and found out exactly what to say next.
But, as it was, the best I could muster was a lame ”thank you” between bites.
For a woman who is never in short supply of vocabulary the moment was excruciating. The unequitable ratio of words to emotions felt so grossly inadequate and insufficient. Yet, that was all the situation seemed to allow.
For nearly twenty years, I’ve tried to side-step these awkward moments with my children. Always searching instead for the perfect opportunity or the ultimate breakthrough, so that I could stamp some lifelong imprint on their lives in a dramatic way.
Believing, sometimes foolishly even, that bigger and more theatrical is somehow better and more effective. Yet it always seems to be the simple songs and the unadorned melodies that are the easiest to sing. And likewise, it seems, it is the ordinary words and the everyday common place expressions of love that seem to endure the longest and reach the deepest into our souls.
Throughout those same years and much to my chagrin, I have not been able to pry open the door to my children’s hearts either. Nor have I been able to force any much needed illumination into their minds. But, I have been able to set my words and intentions free on the wings of God’s love and allow Him to decide exactly where they should land and how.
Yeah, this is the long way around. Sometimes too long if you ask me. But, it does seem to be the only path that is the shortest distance between two points. And if strait is the gate, narrow is the way, and few be there that find it, then it only follows, that it is in our best interest to hire a tour guide.
I suppose I could muddle through, like so many others, relying on the latest pop-culture child psychology or maybe even give a shout-out to the village every now and then. But it seems to me, that raising a child takes a lot more than a village and a few trite child-rearing cliches’. Besides, the village leaders seem to have enough on their hands these days simply trying to manage the wampum. And I’ve never been too keen on the one-size-fits-all approach to much of anything anyway.
They say when an alcoholic hits bottom, he is ready to be helped.
I figure it’s because when you finally do hit bottom, you are broken, battered and bruised from banging against the walls on the way down.
You need all the help you can get.
So, trying to raise a child without help, God’s help, is not much different, I suppose. You stagger and stumble in your ignorance, swinging at the air and punching at the shadows, kicking at the dust, looking for steady ground.
That is, until God steps in and shows you where to plant your feet. Softly, deftly and with great love. I know it’s hard to trust in something you can’t see. To seek wisdom from a God that sometimes does not seem to hear. But, when the stakes are high and your own reasoning has only marched you straight down the road to hell, well, maybe, just maybe, it’s worth a shot.
Here’s my second confession: I really do have fat-ass pants.