Tuesday, October 2, 2012

why we have children (Original post 2/2/2010 Walking to Joy)

{I'm going back to my old "Walking to Joy" blog.  Aren't titles everything?  How very much different is Walking to Joy from Spontaneous Delight?  In anycase here is one that I want to remember.  Febuary 2, 2010.  We lived in a small town in New York.  My back was injured, my job was horrible, my commute out of this world horrific, but Q was 7 years old and amazing!  A joy constant and surprising.}

Why We Have Children

so, it's hard
really bleedingly difficult.
i want to publish a magazine about the reality of it.
the posts that receive the most feedback, the most comments
Are the ones where I discuss how I’ve failed
fallen down
how my kitchen is dirty as I light a candle to do my morning meditation
how I consider it a success if a guest doesn’t stick to a chair
i think this magazine of mine would succeed
aren’t you tired of the pretty photos
what does that set us up for
this idea that we’re failures?
a friend just posted on fb about having the stomach flu
and lying on the bathroom floor while one of her three young boys
asked her to put on a show for him and move his baby brother out of the room
because he is too loud
this is a woman who gives birth at home,
has three very young boys,
starts her own home business and yet…
is smiling most every time I see her
and protests injustice with this kind of iron will soft-spoken quality that you
have to be born to (I wasn’t)
see, i surround myself with the best.
feel better nell.
and yet, we do it.
we have one
and then another
we search the world
and decide we are strong enough to bear a young child's grief
we make a home for them (sometimes referring to those blasted picture-perfect magazines)
bring the wee child (or even more amazingly, the pre-teen or the teenager)
to the lovely room, with the warm curtains and carpets
and soft sofa’s with pillows
we wait while they begin to learn a new language
sometimes their third
and then
it comes
the words
the questions
the grief
and we question
are we strong enough?
can we do it?
bear it?
the museum.
we introduce them to matisse
and let them slap the behind of a rodin.
peace to you julie.
you, now, the experienced mom
and me watching on in wonder
and taking notes.
we love
so deeply
and yet,
every waking moment we wonder if love is enough
if love that could drown the entire earth
like that flood
if that will be enough
to build up the self-esteem of our brown-skinned children
even while we know
that we know
less than they do
about this white world we live in
what if all our learning comes from them?
so we try to balance it
the love with…what?
we look around
seek out
get out of every comfortable situation
and throw ourselves with purpose into
new places
the way cliff divers
knowing the danger
the cliff can jut out in a way you didn't expect
but having faith
that with practice and skill
and attention
we will enter smoothly
the ocean below
and then...
there are times when we do everything just so
and we enter the surface of the water
as smoothly as a dolphin curves into the waves
as if we were born to this high cliff adventure
we are happy, satisfied, full of joy
as we make our way back up to the surface
and just as our head is about to breach the surface
just at the moment we think we are out of air
cannot hold our breath one minute more
a wave breaks just over us
and suddenly we are ten feet below the surface again.
we panic.
wonder if we have enough
if we can hold on until we get to the surface once more
we struggle
forgetting that what we are swimming in is the rawness of love.
just love.
courage katy. love may not be enough
but it sure is something
and awareness mixed with love can take you anywhere
and everywhere. At times joyously, at times heartbreakingly but truly
it's the only journey worth being on.
this past week i lost the last person i knew
who every single time i saw her
every time i called her on the phone
(minus this last year which i am not counting)
was literally ecstatic to hear from me.
for 40 years if i called
she stopped everything
'ok krissy!"
she would say
35 years after everyone else stopped calling me that.
aunts, uncles, grandparents
get to love you in such a different way than parents do
i feel so sorry for children who don't have much of an extended family
(whether that extended family of aunts, uncles and grandparents is inherited or chosen it matters not)
parents have to raise you
and the love, is in some ways conditional
yes, i love you when you make a mistake
but it's also my task to sit down
and discuss
and give you alternatives
and sometimes be stern about it
if the transgression is hurtful to others
and as a parent if you don’t live up to that part
the tasks of parenthood
the hard conversations of parenthood
then you’re not really parenting
you’re just hanging out
aunts, uncles, grandparents and god parents
knowing they are not the main drivers of this
learning bus
just get the heap on extra love part
accept you totally for who you are part
wrap you up good and tight
take you out to the movies
the show
heap up the ice cream in a bowl
three times the size of what mom and dad would
and every once in a while
when your mother is going crazy
looking for at least one clean shirt for you to where to...
well, where ever,
you both look over your ice cream spoons at each other
'oh, my gosh, how much ice cream did you give him?!"
and you smile at each other
because you know
that she, me, ‘ your' mother is just a little bit crazy
and your great-aunt, or you grandmother , or your uncle
will smile and wink, and stage whisper
'she's always been that way....but we love her anyway..."
and the two of you giggle.
aunts, uncles, grandparents, godparents
the double agents of the family
working both sides.
loving and imparting the family culture
while telling both sides they're doing just fine
i lost my last best co-conspirator
the one who understood.
the one who shared my love of travel
and the ballet
and art
the one who went to the small apartment closet and pulled out the metal screen
set it up in front of the tv
and pulled out the slide projector
and there in the dark
with the city lights behind us
clicked from slide to slide
a market stall in guatemala
a city square in switzerland
haiti in the 1950’s
hong kong harbor
portland Oregon
we sat the three of us
with a bowl of frango mint chocolates
and they seeded my dreams
there you will go one day
and there
and there
she gave me
a love of the city
and taught me by her example
to greet every bus driver as I pay my fare
with 'good morning"
or 'good evening' and a smile.'
on saturday morning my mother called.
afterwards i went into q's room
which was dark and the only room in our wee house
where i knew no one was going to come into for a few minutes
and i rocked in the rocking chair
that we've been meaning to take out of his room
and has no real seat
i rocked myself and cried.
a couple of minutes later Y came up the stairs
to get his clothes on and to look for me
not seeing me where he expected, in our bedroom
i heard him walk into the hallway
check the bathroom
and then quietly open Q's bedroom door
his face peered into the dark room
took a moment to adjust to the darkness and then realized i was sitting in the rocker
completely and totally beyond my ability to go one step further
but this was saturday
and there was a dance and a drumming class in harlem
and it wasn't the right time to tell Q
and so i
after a few minutes got myself up
it gives you super human strength
that lays there waiting
for when your child is in danger
and you need to lift the boulder off of them
or for when your heart is broken and you need to get up off that damn rocker
it’s not about you.
That’s what my magazine will be called.
It’s not about you.
that love.
that wave breaks over you and you start back up again love.
i get in the shower
get myself dressed
get all of Q's belongings into his backpack
as if it's the same sun that was shining yesterday
the book for the train
which he has chosen
is the history of mythology
we are on the train
window seat and
we pull the book out and he turns to a page of the cyclops
devouring some poor animal
blood running down his face
'ah!!!! yuck!!! Yikes!!! why are you showing me this?!"
"i know, right?" he exclaims. "when you came in my room and told me it was too early to get up i pulled out this book and this was the first thing i saw"
he makes a funny motion like it jumped out at him, hands like claws, eyes big, mouth open in a fake scream.
'you were reading this alone in the dark at 5:30 in the morning'
"no, i ran across the room and turned on the other light!'
"where'd you get this book?'
"dad and i got it from the library yesterday"
and then he looks at me with a grin that is his, only his
'i'd say mom, that THIS book....THIS is not a nighttime story time
(and then in fake falsetto mommy voice' oh...LET'S read SOMETHING that will give my SWEET boy some HAPPY dreams book.....this book, mom, is DAY TIME boook!!!"
we look at each other for a moment and then we both burst out laughing.
'so why did you bring it?'
he looks at me again and says
'BECAUSE, i HAVE to KNOW who that guy is and why there is BLOOD all over his face. i've seen it now. so i have to know.'
and on it goes. our day. Two trains, four buses, the freezing cold.
picnic on the train.
listening to him sing 'the fart song' (an original composition)
watching him dance his new dance moves.
this is why we have children.
there is no time for fretting about the deepness of the water
there is only swimming to the surface
climbing back up the cliff
and into the sun.

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