Thursday, September 22, 2011

Architect

Dakota 17, Ever 8 months

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
Steph(anie) said...

That photo and the Harris quote are perfection. The stuff in the middle is pretty hard. You cannot do better than your best. As far as it being enough... I guess we find out later, but I think it is. It has to be.

silverfinofhope said...

Thinking about you...

Wouldn't it be wonderful to keep our boys in the world of women for just a bit longer? It's rough out there. :(

Elizabeth said...

I do not know what to say. I feel your anxiety and wish that I had words of wisdom, but I do not have the parenting experience that you have. I can only imagine that your loving guidance, your belief in your son and your steadfast honest and devotion to him and his well-being is enough. And that everything passes -- both good and bad -- and we cannot control anything, anything at all. Dakota's journey is his own.

Maggie May said...

Thanks girls. Elizabeth, this 'Dakota's journey is his own' is something I am working, every day, on absorbing and accepting. It's true regardless of if I 'accept' it or not, so I might as well get on the boat...if only it were as easy to do as to write

Angella Lister said...

hold on tight and look deep into that photograph, because Dakota's essence is right there, tender and good. it can be so hard, but all we can do is keep on keeping on. and loving them as you do.

Caroline said...

Maggie we must be on the same wavelength in the universe right now. Both of us dealing with the letting go but with children in different stages of life.
I've struggled to let Lizzie (my oldest) go off to her first year of kindergarden. So much so that in the beginning, I was waking up in night sweats with nightmares of people harming her while she was away from my sight. The other parents so normally let go and I was the one basket case at school fraught with anxiety and fear just walking her to class! What in the hell and I going to do when they are teens? I will be a wreck.

I feel your anguish and I wish I could hug you and make it go away. It doesn't matter how much we have loved or love we can't fight their battles and I know you know this.

Sending love to you. Lots of love and I just want to say that your words as a mother, as a mother who loves her children SO much always inspire me. They always help light a fire inside me. How can that not be enough?

starrlife said...

Maggie- I have three blog friends who struggle with the same issues. If you want their links I'll give them. We usher them into the world but parenting is about giving the best opportunities I fear and tolerating their karma as they separate from us is something I am sure to find unbearable since I often feel like my daughter is the best of me in many ways. Sigh.... and hugs.
The way that you describe Dakota, he sounds like a guy with some wisdom...

Hyacinth said...

For most of my life, I have watched my mom struggle with the exact same feelings that you describe so perfectly here...and yet she cannot let go of the guilt and self-doubt and helplessness that she feels when she watches my younger sister struggle in life...and can never let go of the desperate need to save her child, to fix things, to make it all better...I don't know what to say other than to send love to you and all the moms out there...

Robin said...

A dear friend and I were discussing the raising of our children. One thing upon which we both agreed is that struggle builds character. The difficulty comes in quantifying the exact amount of pain necessary to develop the sort of human who is socially, financially and emotionally responsible. As parents, we want to insulate our children from discomfort, danger and hateful people. With adolescent children it is so hard to know when we should stand back and allow them their mistakes or when to wade in with the rescue kit.
Do you remember what it was like to be his age? Do you remember pulling your mother close when you needed her and pushing her as far away as you could if you felt she was intrusive? I remind myself of this as my daughters navigate their all too rapid journeys into their own universes. Love him, love him, love him, but do not allow what he's doing to define him or you. No matter how awesome you are as a parent, teenagers make really crappy decisions sometimes. It's part of becoming an adult. Teenagers are not too spiffy about foresight, either. You seem like an NPR sort of person, but just in case you missed it:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124119468

Dakota is lucky. You love him. He has a home with you and a place with his grandmother. If you can. think of him as not so much adrift, but as someone who is testing the moorings.
Safe journey, Maggie.

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