I try to focus on the larger issues, and instead I see toes. Baby toes. His baby toes. The curse and blessing of a parent: we see the vulnerability, innocent core, love, the challenges and hardships that have landed their blows one by one, carved their place and carved the face of a child into a young adult- we struggle to squint and find the place where the soft skinned hand of a teenage boy comes to rest on the door handle of our house and say I'm going to Grandmas, and I'm not coming back for a while.
Some of you know what is going on with my oldest son. Some of you do not. But all of you, I'm sure, know what this agonizing feeling is: helplessness in the face of your child's suffering. We can fix, mend, comfort, argue, provide supports, guidance, there is so much we can do, and much of the time, I'm in that place. But sometimes, I look at Ever's little self, and I see Dakota's littlest self, and I am crushed with my love for him and all I cannot do- the letting go to do. It is a labor in it's own right.
The panicked worry that you, the centre of everything that happens to your child ( via society and your own secret beliefs ), are responsible for what is happening can be either completely reinforced ( by the angry teen, a scared loved one ) or quickly negated ( an emotionally detached therapist, a loving husband ) but ultimately you have to come to terms with yourself, not your child, the therapist, the loved ones.
Did I do the best I could? Can I do better?
Yes, and surely, life's work, yes.
The age old question that strangles me is that perhaps my best was not enough.
I have always been a fiercely felt believer that parenting is absolutely exhausting work that pushes you to the brink of your personal end zones, if done well. Perhaps this is a self flagellating American belief, but even if that is part of the truth, it's not the whole. A 'hands off' approach works well with a small particular of littles. Benign neglect is a concept that even if it is to work well, requires a smooth and humming engine of parenthood running underneath the nonchalance, one that still requires effort and thought and discipline. Nothing good comes easy. Even ease requires a graceful architecture.
I have done nothing since the day Dakota was born more than I have worked on myself as a human being and mother. And still I cannot say that I do not doubt myself deeply as he struggles so hard.
The beauty of "spacing" children many years apart lies in the fact that parents have time to learn the mistakes that were made with the older ones - which permits them to make exactly the opposite mistakes with the younger ones. ~Sydney J. Harris