The Motherhood Surrender.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

I was sitting on the driveway in a fold-up chair.
One of the ones we haul to the kids' softball games and baseball games, soccer practice or whatever outdoor event beckons our presence.
Twelve years of parenting, thus far, and they've conformed nicely to our mid-life butts.
And there I nestled in the shadow of my garage where it was quiet for the moment.
All the kids beautifully dispersed among neighbors' houses, 
far enough away for me to read a book in peace, close enough for me to hear the faint echo's of their squeals and laughter over distant lawn movers and weed-whippers an afternoon in August.
I sat with gratitude and joy for this rare occasion in summer when I could actually SIT undisturbed without the incessant requests and needs of elementary school-age children.
And isn't that when shit happens?
Of course.   
Of course!
We know this, don't we my fellow parents?  How often we are humbled when we start to get too comfortable and maybe start to take 'easy' days for granted.
I heard a scream.  Not too far away.  A block or two?
A screech of tires, metal crashing in to metal.
That unique but distinguishable sound of a car slamming in to something.  Another car?  A fire hydrant? 
A crappy Walmart-brand bike?
Although I couldn't see it, I felt it in my bones.  The pressure of two objects colliding.
Like the energy of that impact had no where else to go but through the ground and up my legs.
I dropped my book and froze in my chair.

"Charlie."  I thought.

My heart was pounding.  I felt dizzy.  Adrenaline was running through my legs, so much so I felt like I couldn't stand.
Oh, these physical sensations are old friends.  I know them well, the bi-product of our reactions to our fearful thoughts of the moment.  Telling our bodies we are under threat. 

Coupled with the thought that you need to carry yourself to a potential tragic scene involving your child?
My God, the worst feeling ever.  Because you feel paralyzed but know you need to move.

I knew where the sound came from because it's a busy street, a constant stream of cars going to and from the main road out of the neighborhood.
Also near where Charlie, my 7-year-old, was supposed to be playing at a friends.  
I didn't want to panic.  

But. . .what if he's not at his friends?  What if he was the cause of or effect of that horrible noise?  God damn it, knowing these idiot kids, it could very well be him, pinned under a fender or flattened by a distracted teen.  What if he snuck to the corner gas station for gummy worms and a Gatorade (which they have been known to do,)  
and is now. . .
I peeled myself from the chair and started to walk toward the scene.  My mind racing with these thoughts, all the what if's, and the only 'logical' thing I can think to do, other than walk,  
is to pray.
"PLEASE let him be safe."  

Listen, I know by now praying to God, or a divine being, begging for what we WANT, may be setting a lovely intention in motion, but doesn't always produce the result we want, simply because we askedBut we do it anyway.  A last ditch effort as parents.

"Ok, God.  I need you.  Please be with me.  I'm not sure what's going on or what's about to happen next, but be with me.My walk turned in to a run, now seeing other neighbors heading in that direction as well.

This is dramatic.  But this shit is motherhood in the summer, people.
When your kids are growing and clamoring for freedom and independence and you want them to have it and to learn responsibility and accountability.  You WANT to allow them to hop on their bikes and cruise the neighborhood, take the remaining 1's in your wallet to bike up to the corner gas station for licorice and Dorito's?  But it's so hard.  

I smile now at the days they were babies and toddlers.  Yes, up all hours of the nightHow sleep-deprived and delirious I was.  But at least I could see them at all times.  They were always within reach.  Their sweet, little lives cushioned by baby gates and outlet plugs, bumpers and monitors.  I could easily restrain them in a stroller, scoop them up in one fell swoop, outrun them if they got away. 

Now they just want to be free.  And I understand.
And for us, as a parent,
their need for freedom and independence seems to come at the price of our own sanity and is SERIOUSLY trying of our patience, faith and trust.
So yes.  You pray.  

An ambulance was already singing through the streets, no doubt en route to the scene. 
I rounded the corner to the house Charlie was supposed to be at.  
And there he was.  Bouncing away happily on their trampoline, the edges of his mouth stained from a recent candy purchase or juice box inhalation.  

"Hey mom!  Look at me!"
My heart slowed.  Feeling returned to my legs.  Tears flooded my eyes (which I held back, because, okay, calm down.)

"Oh.  Hey bud.  Was just checkin' on ya.'  You good?"  I said.  Trying to hide my immense relief and play it cool.

"Yeah, why?"  Totally oblivious.

Their HAD been a car accident a few hundred feet from them.  At an intersection my kids cross daily.  A crowd of people already gathering around the victims, helping a shaken woman to a chair (both drivers fine, by the way.)

Now I know FULL well Jesus/God did not keep my child safe.  That my praying in that moment did nothing to alter the chain of events.  It was an accident.  They happen everywhere.  To anybody.  But that's what we often do.  When we are beside ourselves with fear and doubt, so desperate for assistance through our angst, sometimes we have nowhere to look but the skies to say, "Help!  I need you!"  

So I have this. . .person.  
This. . .kid.
Three, actually.
Technically speaking they're mine.  Ours.  They came through me, you know.  They were beautifully gifted to us.
As WHOLE PERFECT BEINGS that somehow survived birth, gained entry in to this world, 
were dropped in to our hands for us to shape, mold, guide and protect.
But DEAR.GOD how are we going to do that?!

This is a job FAR too big for anyone.  
If I arrive to their adulthood without having developed an ulcer?  It will be a frickin' miracle.
If THEY arrive to THEIR adulthood in one piece?  
Praise Jesus, Hallelujah. 

How can I make this happen?
Be ulcer-free AND 100% guarantee of their total protection?

I can't.  No one canNot even the God I believe in.  I know this.
That seems to be the great paradox of becoming a parent.
You feel this love like no other for these little humans.  
You claim ownership over them and would willingly sacrifice all faculties about you to assure their own health and happiness. 
And you feel great joy and gratefulness for their existence and their little faces so intensely you feel you may burst.
But you also know in your heart that is not enough to keep them safe, protected or ensure their emotional and physical well-being as they pass from one year to the next.

What a joy and blessing it is to get to experience that, but also a small torture to now have to live with your heart beating on the outside of your body, in the form of your children, at all times of all hours of the day.  For the rest of your earthly life.

Some days, it feels too big to handle.

I am a self-admitting spaz of the worst kind.  I'd like to believe some of my fears and anxieties have melted away each year I've grown in parenthood, but gosh, I don't think they have.  Clearly my paranoia and spaziness will be schlepped along with me while my children still walk this earth.
OR I could continue to practice surrendering my worries and paralyzing fears to God/a Divine Being/The Universe.
I was secretly hoping motherhood would get easier as they grew.  Some things certainly do, but it also feels to get more complicated, more risky.

They are tall.  Some as tall as us!  All arms and legs.
Full of pinions and FEELINGS and more often than not, much more wise and present than WE are!
My 12-year-old has already passed me in height.  When we hug, we are eye to eye.  I know tomorrow he will driving and working a job.  He already tucks US in at night and closes up the house before he goes to bed.

I went to pry my 10-year-old daughter off her bedroom floor where she'd fallen asleep reading, to transfer her back to her bed.  And I nearly threw my back out trying to lift her up and tuck her back in.  

My 7-year-old, he just wants to do what all the big kids are doing.  Go where they go and roam freely about town with his buddies, which I am just not ready for.
  They are growing despite my best efforts to keep them small and close.  
And I know, if I want to be free, I have to let go.  Let THEM be free.
Just a little, every day.

I remember my own mom, perched under lamplight.  Holding vigil with a People magazine waiting for my car to pull in at 16, 17, then 18. . .how tired she was.  Before cell phone's and texting.  Just waiting patiently (maybe anxiously,) for that cue of the garage door rising, to let out a breath and say, "Okay.  NOW I can sleep.  She's home."

But she sat and waited.  And sometimes my dad would sit if she was too tired.  For three girls.  For a good decade of their lives.

Although my kids aren't driving yet, I feel each day we make it to sunset, that they arrive back to their beds fully whole, we have achieved some small victory held in immense gratitude for having survived another day as a mother.

We want the journey for our children to be seamless and with as little suffering as possible.
Of course we do.  
But I know now that is the whole purpose of being here.
To simply do our best.  Show up and give it our all, which no longer becomes about cushioning every fall, but being there to meet them with understanding, warmth and acceptance.
To LET them fail.  LET them hurt.  LET them make ridiculous and oft-repeated mistakes and then WATCH them grow from it.
We will see them open.  Even help others along THEIR paths.
Pain will come.
Despair WILL level us.

But we can always talk to God.  Ask for help.  Hand these little people over.  DAILY.  
And continuously learn and practice, surrendering and LETTING GO.


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