The eldest daughter (can no longer call her child) has already returned to the town where she works and goes to college. This afternoon we take the middlest daughter back, as well. Last night as we were doing the hall dance as she and I both readied for bed at the same time, I pulled her into a bear-hug and asked her if she wouldn’t be happier going to school locally and living at home with me some more. She hugged me back and patted me on the back in a very nurturing way and I knew what her answer was going to be. “Fine,” I said, or some such.
I was sitting here doing a spiritual practice that I’d forgotten I do (pet a cat who wants to be petted, nay, insists on being petted), and it allowed my mind to wander among many thoughts, but this one theme has been routine throughout my posts of being a parent: last night it was the dance around the bathroom in a very small hall, this afternoon it will be the dance between holding on and letting go. It snuck up on me again, as I petted that cat, and felt his full weight on me–reminding me viscerally of the weight of my children as I rocked each of them to sleep as wee ones–that what I am feeling these days is a form of grief. And I wouldn’t be surprised if my children were feeling it, too, but in a different way.
No, the house isn’t empty. Yes, there is still a child here. But the house is not the same. Our time together–all five of us–is rammed into little capsules, little snapshots that remind us that things have changed.Not unanticipated change. Not unplanned-for change. Nor is it even unwelcome change. We have had rituals and ceremonies to mark the changes, but I wonder if we have taken the time fully to say to each other that this is hard, as well as exciting and wanted.
Another thought I had as I sat petting that silly cat (and here’s a photo of him getting that morning scratch), which may only be tangentially connected to these thoughts of grief, was about this other spiritual practice I have–writing. I have blogged here inconsistently from the get-go, but less so over the last several years. The invitation to join the UU Blogger’s Workshop has stirred up the desire to blog again, but also stirred up in the wake is how to be on the internet. (I just realized that’s about the 87th time I’ve italicized something for emphasis, which reminds me of how difficult this medium is for actually and genuinely communicating a personal thought.)
This thought came after I perused my Facebook feed and there was a comic posted that I thought was rather on point–even though it was making fun of my own way of being in the world. Less vaguely: the comic reminded me how much of my time I spend judging. And I’m tired of it. I need to remember how to think critically, not be a critic.
My husband and I were watching Melissa Harris-Perry’s show on MSNBC yesterday and I realized why I like this show so much is because she constantly reminds us to be critics but not critical. Think critically; act compassionately.
The show also reminded me to think in terms of spectrums, not dualities. And this, I think, is what I’m struggling with as I get back to writing here, on this blog. I’m not a crunchy mama; I’m not a paragon of mom-ness; I’m not an expert on being a mom and what I write about my experience as a mom is only meant to be a snapshot of my experience. I know my feelings will change as will my experience of those feelings. I write things down so I can remember them; can remember the human moment of despair and elation or just plain contentedness. I don’t write them here because I think my way is THE way. It is a way. My way.
The internet sometimes seems to want things to be either Yes or No; Male or Female; Black or White. But the world is full of so much more that falls within and beyond categorization. And so this is my fear, in writing here: that people will read me talking about “grief” in terms of my children leaving the home and think that I am smothering them with my own need for them. Or that they will think that everyone should get a cat to pet. Or that their life will be improved if they get a cat.
You’ve all seen it. I know you have–there’s the woman with three kids and abs of steel who challenged others to get up and be fit, too. And she got skewered on the internet. There are women who dare to be fat and happy on the internet. There’s the whole “parenting done right” and kid-shaming, parent-shaming, person-shaming, shaming-shaming thing going on here that can be a little less than spiritual, if you let it.
Then again, my writing teachers always told me–way back before there were such things as the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the dreaded comments–that you have to stand by what you write because you won’t be able to explain it to people in person. It’s a good rule, even now that there are comments which allow you to clarify what you meant. Say what you mean and get on with it. People will understand or they won’t. The internet is what it is. There will be bullies and their will be allies and there will also be kindred spirits and, better yet, billions of other people who really haven’t noticed your ripple in the internet.
So, there’s that. Take your photo. Pet your cat. Enjoy your day. And don’t mind my weeping as my middle daughter heads back to her other life–the one we have prepared her for.