Thursday, March 29, 2012

So maybe I can't give you everything

Parenting is tricky.

The first few years you spend sustaining the fantasy that you can fulfill your child's every wish and whim. Life is a tiger and you have it by the tail.
 Mommy can do that. Mommy can get that. Mommy can be that.

The past, present and future of a small child seems so easily contained, easily controlled. Then, suddenly, you realize you are losing your grip, on everything.

You control nothing.

She's growing, changing, blossoming, learning, getting wiser by the second. She has memories and desires, based on more than just impulse. She has hopes and dreams and fears. She has thoughts you would never imagine she is thinking, but are shocked to discover in a "song" she's written.

Esther and I admired Jupiter and Venus stacked one on top of the other, with the crescent moon hovering on their left, or was it their right?, are the stars facing us, or looking away? the other night.

 Esther was enthralled. And Orion was dazzling as well. We sat there, kneeling at her attic bedroom window, looking out onto the dark meadow below and the black humming sky hanging above it. Esther talked about missing France, missing her friends in France, missing our French life. I knew this was coming. Almost one year out. And it almost made me angry, thinking about how often she made it clear that France was not her home, she didn't feel "right" there and wanted to come back here, to Vermont.

But I'm not really angry, just confused and empathetic.  Because, I feel exactly the same way she does. I feel that life is strange, and the more you see and learn, the more people you meet, the more choices you encounter, and the more aware you become of what could be, might be, what could have been, might have been, what will never be, what you have lost and what you have gained, what you have left behind, what you are facing head on, the less you really know and understand. You only feel.

And it's no help to my children to have a mother like me, who lives much of her life in some kind of a fantasy that anything is possible-- maybe we can, some day, maybe we can do this, do that, go here, go there, live like this, live like that, why not?

It all seemed so much more easily harnessed, the mom with the magic lasso, when they were tiny. Don't ask me what I'm talking about. I do not know.

So I will let Mary Oliver take over for me, with her achingly exquisite poem, Spring:

a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring
down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring
I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue
like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:
how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge
to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else
my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its cities,
it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;
all day I think of her –
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

~ Mary Oliver ~


Jane said...

Oh Betsy, it's like you can look into my mind and write down exactly how I am feeling. I promise myself and my kids the world and get disappointed when pesky old everyday life gets in the way. I am a dreamer and spend alot of my day in some sort of fantasy too. Thank you once again for expressing these thoughts and feelings so beautifully. I wish I could write as half as well as you.

Liliana Holtzman said...

You, Betsy, seem to me to be the best kind of mother - the kind of mother who is never intrenched in her ways but always open to changes, possibilities, interpretations.

I send you hugs and best wishes.

Kingsmom said...

I love to read your writings. Seriously. It's like reading a good book. I never want the post to come to an end. Thank you.

On a side you wonder if the draw back to France is also due to the fact that the family was together there? That maybe her desire to be there won't be so prominent once her daddy is back "home"?

Anonymous said...

Your daughter's poem is breathtaking. I am the mother of a two year old. I had a long winter adjusting to "mom" life in a home on the beautiful, but v. isolated Maine Coast/Maine 'burbs?. After years of doing and earning (degrees & a diversiy of friends and experiences) in childhood home Boston (& cities bigger (NY) and further (SF) along the way), I am finally seeing the beauty of that bear. I started looking at your blog on night when I was just looking for something from somebody articulate who was writing about parenthood but not mentioning coupons at the same time. Thank you. I am in the "I am creating a wonderful child/often contended stage" right now and blissful. I know there is change ahead, but it is giving your children an intellect and a survival mechanism for this world ,which woman need. I also have a daughter. Let her know she is inspirational if you could.

Pregnant Pause said...

I meant to so that, despite confusion you may think you're creating, you are giving your child an intellect etc. Not sure where "it is" came from. So much of what thinking woman always must remember, that men do by instinct, is to find peace in things like that bear, because we deserve it too! Best wishes.

Pregnant Pause said...

Oh no, your daughter did not write the poem! Embarrassed! But they have a mom who conveys it's message it's anyways. A rare and beautiful mother to have. Thanks for entertaining my random comments tonight!

Anonymous said...

One of my daughters, who's now 19 years old and about to get married, used to call me "the magic mommy". She thought that I could do, see, and knew everything. I remember the day, with tears rolling down her cheeks, she yelled "You're NOT the magic mommy!" at me. I broke and cried right there. I loved being the magic mommy! But, that god-like mommy-ness ends at some point when they're little. Now, she tells me that I really AM the magic mommy, but for different reasons. All of them placed firmly in reality. That means a lot too, but it's different. So, yes, I know what you're talking about when you say "...the mom with the magic lasso...". I used to be her too.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that last comment was from KiminAZ!
I was lost in time and it made me forget to write it.

Betsy said...

Kingsmom: Yes. Our last memories of being together as a happy family are from France. And France was a particularly special time of family unity. We all needed each other more than usual, life was different than it is here.

Betsy said...

Pregnant Pause: Honest mistake. Mary Oliver is a fantastic poet, but not everyone knows her. Check out her other poems. They will blow your mind. If Esther had written that poem, I would hand over the reins and make her the mother. (:

Betsy said...

Kim in AZ: Thanks for understanding, so completely. The lure of the magic mommy is strong.

Anna said...

Betsy, A beautiful post. I love it.

kathy said...

How timely this post is! Just yesterday, after a particularly trying day of attempting to be all and do all for my son (my husband has been away for work for two months)I broke down. As I sat at the dining room table, a hot wet mess of tears and snot, my boy patted me on the shoulder and told me it was OK to cry. He asked why I was sad. I replied I was sad because I couldn't always play with him or do all the things he wanted because I also have to take care of everything in the house and yard and car, on top of working a paying job from home. I so very much want to always be available to him, but I find myself unable to be emotionally shut down on some days. It's the only way I can actually survive to the end of the day without totally disintegrating...

mooserbeans said...

You know the pithy saying "Motherhood is not for wimps"? That's how I have been feeling lately. I love how you admit your flaws for us all to see. Although I suspect that you (like me) are much harder on yourself than you need to be. It is so hard to see our children yearn for things they can't have, but I am starting to learn that this yearning teaches them to reach and to problem solve, and often times to accept that they can't have, do, be everything that they want.

GG Mora said...

I shall hold my breath for you and Ian tomorrow, and cross my fingers and toes. My deepest hope is that your predicament is now resolved speedily.