The Last One

Snow falling in clumps like wet Kleenex, ground slushy and puddled, chimney across the way pumping out smoke. Kids finishing procrastinated homework, hanging with friends, gearing up in snow clothes for a ten minute play outside. Laundry humming along, hot chocolate steaming, a long run to work out the cobwebs. Dog covered in local dirt road mud, bounding at first, lolling at end.  A day home, holiday celebrating Presidents. A surprise egg, from our infamous Truffle Hen who defied a grisly fox-death and sacrificed a toe in her harrowing escape.

All bits of one day, moments held briefly and so easily forgotten. Reminders of those gone by, rejoicing and grieving simultaneously at children growing and becoming, differentiating and leaving. Ten years like dust, when baby number three emerged, to join what seemed like two big kids then, recognized now as toddlers. How perspective shifts and bends, grace withheld for all I thought I should be doing, rather than just getting through some days, with coffee and Diet Coke as my only joys. I hear folks say, “Don’t survive, thrive”. I want to wring their necks and have them sit in my then-home with three baby-toddlers and make them write it out longhand thousands of times on the slate of my sanity.

Boy now, gangly, sinewy, lanky and lean. This ten year old body, on the cusp of separation, still allowing tender moments between mother and son. Hair shaved, eyes and ears too big for face, pants at ankles, instead of nicely folding over the shoe. Child with his fair share of suffering, for a privileged white middle class upbringing. Great heart and head for understanding and mercy, compassion and reflection. Is this learned? Maybe, but feels more like instinct, a soul discontent early from being unable to spell out his burden wreaking havoc inside.

This Last One, seeing him across the room, wondering, “Is that really my kid?” The changes all of a sudden ganging up on this mother, not wishing it any different, but taking pause, taking notice. A mother’s heart has to defy all logic, all fear, all slashes that come from carelessness. These children, take my naked and vulnerable heart, with no understanding for the pain leveled when they hurt or hurt others. This ache is felt constantly, ebbing and flowing with circumstantial life, conjoined with relief for the freedom. Oh! to no longer be the parent of baby-toddlers! Yes, they are becoming, this is the natural order of things, but never chosen with ease. Mothers across the globe, spanning all time and space have fought and lost the battle of keeping our children small and held tight, with very good reason.

My greatest mothering work is to relinquish, to allow the emotion and feeling to wash over, to settle in, to release, once processed, into the abyss of the collective grief and feeling of all mothers.  There are probably enough tears to power entire countries with this weight…of longing, hope, relief. Tears of pain and joy, equal, salty, flowing, some waiting for redemption, for forgiveness, others redeemed and forgiven.

My beautiful boy, high pitched screams and shrieks, just three years from deepening. My beautiful boy, my youngest child, sealing the door just behind him on this parenting gigue that has been both beautiful and obnoxious. I hear often, “Once a parent, always a parent…the fear and concern never leave”. I don’t like it. I’d rather they say that all my hard work will pay off, all misunderstanding will cease and none of them will do stupid, damaging things. An impossibility, I know.

Lazy home days, taking notice, remembering, forgetting, appreciating the mundanity, the divine in the smallest and most insignificant of moments. This holy work of parenting, mothering, is not for the weary or faint of heart. Let us all give grace freely, recognizing none of us has a corner on this crazy market of letting go. Let us mothers notice one another and cling tight for these days are short. Our children will leave, some peaceful and some in fits and tantrums. Hopefully, they will return as friends, people with whom we may grow, generously and respectfully. People who challenge, teach and question us while providing for their own young families, repeating the wonderful, necessary cycle of raising up and letting go, honoring and learning the truths that come from this holy, messy, beautiful work.