Does every mother, every parent feel like this when their child faces new milestones? Nervous, excited, unexplainably fragile? Our path to parenthood was perhaps longer, more complicated than some. Does that make a difference? All I know is, being a parent is simultaneously amazing, and hard, buoyant-brilliant, and mountain-rugged climb. Today, our eldest took her first small black-sneaker-clad steps to her school career,beginning kindergarten. Some reflections on my complex feelings below, in a form of letter to other parents…..
Dear Fellow Parent,
Fellow warrior of nights and days. Fellow worrier of countless possibilities. Fellow lover. Fellow learner.
Today is a big day. Or maybe the days before this one have already weighed enough on your shoulders, you wonder if you have any more margin or muscle left. And yet, each morning the sun rises, and there you are wearing your parent skin again, the one that is the speckled texture of bewildered-wonderment, of equal parts expectation and wariness: because it baffles you how the one/s you love with every last ounce, who dance joy, can also frustrate and frighten you.
Change is coming, and you feel it in the air’s anticipation, in the shifts of expression on your child’s face, in the erratic beat of a new rhythm, just starting, not yet fully formed. And you wonder, can we do this? And the question hangs delicate and tremulous, like a fragile birthday balloon in wind, waiting to be caught and tied to the ribbon of an answer. We must do this.
And your child is growing. Bit by bit, and, almost imperceptibly at first, the fibres that hold you together start to loosen. And as the unravelling begins, you spin, remembering each moment of the story so far. First, hidden growth. Then, startling appearance, new eyes gazing forward, not yet focussed. For the first few years you not only do the seeing, but the growing, too, close together. And then the navigating begins, and you play the role of guide: Baby-of-Mine, Meet World, World Meet Baby-of-Mine. And you warn the world: be gentle, be kind. Be soft beneath the soles of these feet, because (believe me) you have never seen the likes of them before. And no, your viewpoint is not biased. It is merely parental. It is love.
And then, there comes a time, like this one, when you need to let go a little more. And as you shed further fibres (with each shedding, so many questions, so many hopes, so many hesitations) you allow your child to walk alone a while. And you wonder at first at what you are hearing: is that the sound of their child-heart tearing as it expands?
But then you realise that it is in fact the reverberation of your own parent-heart, stretching, even as it is held tight and close in the tremulous grasp of your child’s fist. It is the sensation of moving forward, together — apart —together into the future. It is the experience of new growth.
A Prayer for Parents Facing Change
Thankyou for the precious gift of life. Each new birth unique.
Help us as parents to both love and to let go, to hold tight and to loosen, and to know when each is necessary.
Be with us as our children grow and step out into the world without us, guide and support us as our feelings appear to loom larger than our capacities.
Help us to embrace change, and to walk always in love. In you.