Lately I’ve been having a fair amount of those “it’s all worth it” parenting moments. Keep in mind (I’m talking to those of you who still haven’t decided whether to take the plunge), it took six years to get here. Sure, there were a few before, but not until now do I stand the chance of getting several in a week… Worth the wait? I’ll get back to you on that (right now I’m leaning toward yes).
Yesterday my son and I decorated the house for Christmas. The heart warming began when he helped me (moaning and groaning the whole way while I giggled and simultaneously validated his dramatics) haul the tubs up from the garage downstairs, and then made a big showing of valiantly moving things out of the way so I could carry in the final load on my own. He made it through 75% of tree trimming before his “hip was killing him” and he needed to rest, and before that he was joyfully exclaiming “I love decorating for Christmas! It’s my favorite part!”
I can’t even begin to describe (although I’ll probably try) what it feels like to experience these moments. When I realized last year that he was suddenly a kid and not a baby anymore I was freaked out to all hell… I didn’t know how to be a kid-mom, I had gotten really good at being a baby-mom. I didn’t want a new job! Ah! Without noticing when it happened we must have successfully transitioned into our new roles, because now when I see my six year old son express his humanity my heart feels like it’s going to explode, I get tears in my eyes, and my skin feels frosty and tingly warm all at the same time. It’s
a little a lot like falling in love.
A whole lot of Christmas cheer and an unusually small amount of whining made it no surprise that I found myself grinning from ear to ear on the couch that evening. I turned to my partner, still grinning, and said “I’m happy. I love my family. Really cool people live here.” Heart warmed. Flying high
Then I learned, via Facebook, that someone I went to elementary (and middle, high, and even some college) school with died a few days ago. And within moments I felt myself falling fast. I was aware enough to watch it happen, but felt helpless to the drop. I tried holding back the tears, unsuccessfully… and when I couldn’t hold those back I worked on holding back feelings of embarrassment for my reaction. I hadn’t spoken to this boy (more accurately a man) since… he was a boy-quite literally, but even without a present day relationship his death brought up so much in me. What do I do now? Do I reach out? Do I go to the funeral? Do I post on Facebook? Should I have reached out sooner? Does my sympathy matter? Why am I so upset? He was my first crush (back in 4th grade) is that a good enough reason to feel so devastated? Am I sham for having all of these feelings?
And I fell all the way down into a mush pot of doubt and fear.
Suddenly the heart warming nature of parenting felt like the heaviest oppression: oh my god. i am responsible for another person’s life. shit. My appetite was gone and the the thought of another slice of pumpkin pie nauseated me: still, I found a way to polish off half a bag of reese’s peanut butter cups. I had been out that morning doing errands and making smart financial choices: and all I wanted was to go back out and buy everything. EVERYTHING.
It was amazing how quickly everything felt different. It was amazing how real both felt. And it was amazing how helpful reaching out and writing about it was. And how different it felt to look at my family through a lens of gratitude rather than fear.
It’s hard to understand why young people die. Beliefs in higher power, fate, karma… all get tossed front and center and challenged with “whys?” I don’t claim to know why this young man left this earth. But I know for me it created another opportunity to realize and remember… it’s all real. The joy AND the fear and everything in between. A human brain can only handle so much at once, and what we give attention to is what we will feel. I’m going to choose joy today. I can feel the fear behind me still… eventually my awareness of it will fade. Until then, I’ll just work on learning to fly again.