I’ve not met one parent who doesn’t get it. This one thing, so powerful, but just as earnestly – how? Some days, the noise blasting holes in my brain simply won’t let me, and on those days it is most important to crawl over the wasteland and show up anyway.
Today, little girl had carefully marked a few pages of her library book with scraps of paper. I saw five scraps. My sleep has been slight this week, because, well, I’ve been enjoying my alone time. I woke up with the most spectacular bedhead; my husband asked if a bird was in there. Coffee.
It was early. I could feel all of my ribs, and my sternum, and all the fascia wrapping me up, and all the tiniest connections of my body saying “sleep, you idiot.” Thoughts were trickling down, but no one was answering. Stupefied, I noticed I hadn’t actually started the oatmeal.
And then, the call came. “Mom, can I read you something funny?”
Mind: No. I hate that book.
Little girl: Reading, rapidly.
Mouth: “wait can you slow down, I can’t hear words”
Little girl: “can you turn the music off?”
Mind: Music is on?
Mouth: “sure but slow down and articulate, ok? you are so excited and I want to hear you.”
Little girl: resumes reading, rapidly but more clearly, one marked spot at a time
Mind: I can’t. I hate this book.
Mouth: “Hey, hold on a sec.”
Little girl: exasperated
Mouth: “Well…do you want me to listen for real, or just pretend I’m listening, because I’d like to take a minute and make my brain listen for real.”
Little girl: Dragon exhales. “Fine.”
Mind: No / Come on, you can do it / Can’t / Have to / Fine
Mouth: Determined exhale. “K, go for it.”
Little girl finished reading, looked up at me, and that look was All the things. We smiled. She’d found a trick the writer was using, and marked every instance of it in the book, and then shared her discovery with me.
These are the practice grounds. While she will have to slow down, and be patient, and I will have to speed up, and be patient, we are doing it. I have no idea what her life will shape itself to be, and I harbor no illusion that I can shape it for her. I have no map here, but I know if I can’t listen to her talk about a book I hate, I’ll never make it when the big stuff starts to happen.
I understand that my job is to be ready, for whatever may unfold, and however it may sit with me, and to make damn sure she has the unabridged user’s guide to mom, because should she ever need it, and decide that mom is the right tool in a pinch, I want her to know how to approach my rocky shores, even if at night, and even without a paddle. I want her to know that even when it is hard, even when it is hopeless, we have done it before, and we can do it again. That’s all I know, and I’d better keep at it.