When you are in the middle of family life, it’s so easy to lose sight of that constant. My children feel like my passion and my purpose, but their childhood will pass, and is passing, like all things. My husband is the love of my life, but our eventual parting is written into our marriage vows. What will one or the other of us live for, then?
Dear one, it is not the shoes and skin and hair and food you need to devote the most energy toward: It is their heart. No matter what age your child comes to you, abandonment runs deep and the wounds are severe. Broken biological attachment breaks something in our children, and it is the work of the heavens to fuse it back together. Your child will come to you scared and alone and ashamed and insecure. At best. Our darlings were loved and held and nursed when they were babies, Jesus be praised, so they learned healthy attachment when it mattered. The pathways were formed, and we are finding them again together, day by day. We are learning to tap into the deposits of trust and security they once enjoyed, though they were so brutally interrupted. Eliminate & Concentrate | Mama Manifesto
But, more importantly, I want them to be peaceful, humble and to live in a family environment that is not frenzied and frazzled and out of control. These are all "good things" – who doesn’t want their kids to play the sports that the kids are around them are playing? I have heard the saying "good is the enemy of best" so many times recently and my soul knows this well. When my children and involved in too many "good" things, the BEST for our family is sacrificed over and over and over. It is easy to say that we will be a "one or two sport" family but more difficult to stick to those guns when all the kids around you are playing multiple sports and you feel like your children will be left behind and made fun of for being the only ones who cannot throw a basketball right. But, I have to step back, focus and remember what my long-term values are for these little humans.
After my mom abandoned me (there is something so uncomfortably permanent about writing that word), I naturally doubted my own maternal instincts. This fear was rooted in a belief that I was a mirror reflection of her. I thought I would fail as a mother, because she failed. I thought my fate was inextricably intertwined with her choices. I thought I would repeat the same cycle of abandonment in my own life. These thoughts imprisoned me. Freedom came the day I claimed my own individuality. I am not the sum total of my mother’s choices.
I cannot put up walls to numb the truth of life’s pain. I tried for a long time and all it did was stunt my growth toward peace. So now I am set back and sometimes curled on my side, needing my husband to come home from work or my mom to come over and make the food and run the bath for my children. Then I feel ridiculous and want to say I’m just fine, I’ll be fine, I’ve always been FINE. But I’m not. Not right now and I will shout at my pride, tell it to hunker down and stay still. I will wait for the waves of crippling anxiety to pass and I will hug my husband and tell him I’m on the road to getting better, to having the road replaced to the soles of my feet, because I am. Not the road around that goes back to the start, but the road through. Through and closer to peace. For me, it works that way, in reverse. Pain and then more peace even if there’s always some kind of peace all the while but not enough because oh how frail I am, a soul gifted with a heavy weight.
And speaking of this, note that we live in times when we’re all, potentially, the media: not just television, radio, newspapers & other news outlets, but also Facebook, Twitter, and all the other online presences that we are each capable of having and controlling. Remember there is power in having access to the media. What you write or say about people can have sweeping implications (and this goes for things you say about someone even without mentioning his or her name, particularly if s/he is able to identify herself or himself in your words). Be sure to consider those implications before you publish, and (whether or not you decide to publish) remember to use this power wisely, and for good, not evil.
You see, my parents never once talked about African Americans. Not at all. Not in a derogatory way. Not in a positive way. Just nothing. I wasn’t poisoned against black people, but I was so completely ignorant that I was scared when our hands brushed each other. Ignorance is like a breeding ground for fear. I stood up, brushed the sand off of me and went to a different center. I never told my mom about it. I wonder if it’s because I was worried that I’d be in trouble.
He’s all of these things, and more. He wears more labels around his neck than most people wear in a lifetime. He is all of those labels, those random tags pinned onto him to help other’s identify and deal with his uniqueness and he is more. Strip away all the medical and legal jargon and maybe you’ll see my son the way we do. There is one label, however, that my son refuses to claim. Jumby is many things, but he is not, RETARDED. He is not the butt of your jokes, he is not what you mean when you accidentally or casually toss the ‘retarded’ word around.
The larger issue is one that most news outlets are missing. By calling Fluke a slut and prostitute, Limbaugh called every woman in America who gets prescription birth control through her health insurance those same things. While my daughter isn’t old enough (yet) to think about her reproductive years, my two stepdaughters are. And my nieces are. And loads of my friends still are. And that’s where Limbaugh crossed the line. No woman, regardless of political party, is going to stand for anyone calling her daughters or her friends sluts. And we sure don’t like politicians who won’t stand up to bullies who try to smear the good names of the girls and women in our lives. I’m talking to you Republican presidential contenders who refuse to take on the Limbaugh power machine and who kowtow to his kind of hateful misogyny. You’re forgetting that we’re the majority of voters and at the end of the day, we have a lot more power over your political future than Limbaugh.
So it’s like the first really warm day in Philadelphia in eons. Every child was there west of the Atlantic. And it wasn’t just regular kids. It was the dreaded “BIG KIDS”. We moms of toddlers say BIG KIDS like it’s a troupe of Nazis. “Oh we had to leave, there were BIG KIDS there”. “Yeah, I hid with my family and some rations under the floor boards because there were BIG KIDS coming”. You get it. But G was so excited so I was ready to take them on.
People with different histories and heritages have so much to teach. Yes, I am that annoying friend who bombards you with dozens of questions about all the ways that we are different. I want to hear about what it was like being a little girl in Poland and watch you cook Indian and Pakistani food. I want to really listen when you explain why you vote Republican. I’m the girl that will ask for all the details about growing up in a big city and be thrilled when you invite me over on a Friday evening to observe Shabbat – and I’ll ask you to tell me why you eat challah. It usually takes my friends a little bit to get used to and realize I’m genuinely curious and not being willfully rude. It’s just that I want to know. I want to know all the things I do not know. The more different we are, the more I have to learn, and learning new things gives my brain the same *snap crackle pop* buzz that traveling does.
I’ve been wondering lately if the reason I’m not finding the kind of joy in motherhood that I know is there isn’t because I’m so exhausted, but is because I’ve been trying to live up to some impossible standard that both the world and my own ideals have placed upon me. I’m not talking about working outside of the home. Please work outside of the home. Most of us need a significant income to make it in the US these days. But before you get angry at me for what you think I might mean, understand that what I’m talking about here isn’t the need to become employed but is is this sneaky little lie that most of us modern girls believe that if we don’t do something more than mothering, somehow we aren’t worth anything to the world.
In evangelical Christian circles, the temptation is to demonstrate our love of truth by allowing no dissent. The more popular our blog, our books, our speaking, our music, our church – sadly – the less likely we are to scrutinize our lives and beliefs honestly, to pick out what is good and beautiful in other points of view. This is the point I’m trying to make: As we all go through life, as we navigate the tension between feelings and intellect and faith, we must not become so defensive that we are unable to learn and to love. We must love God with all we are and love our neighbor. It starts with dialogue. Moves on to common ground. Then affirmation and celebration of what is true and good. Then we listen and learn, knowing that God can speak at anytime through anyone. Peace may not end with much agreement, but with relationship that makes both parties better.