Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Parenting the Quiet and Wild



It is well after dark. Well into the late night hour when usually this apartment goes still and quiet, except for the occasional passing of a homeless man pushing his squeaky-wheeled shopping cart full of cans, the harmonica-laden man who strums his guitar and lazily meanders down the yellow lines, or a low-riding car thumping with bass. But like I said, these things are occasional.

What's not usual is that I am laying with her in her bed, reading Where the Wild Things Are as she squirms and giggles at my side. 

"Child, why are you still awake?" I mumble into her hair after the book is closed. 

"Because I loooove you," she says, and reaches up to kiss my cheek. "I'm going to miss you."

"When?" I can't think of when I'm leaving again.

"When you die," she sighs, and snuggles closer to my arm. 

I'm well aware of the list of things waiting for me on the couch. Lately, after her bedtime is when my work hours begin again, and I bury myself in design programs, e-mail items, and papers filled with half-sketches. I had just poured a glass of wine not too long ago, anticipating the still.

But here I lay, with her imagining a day when I will be gone, and in my heart I'm not even present.

I wish I could tell you that I capture these days well, from beginning to end. Everyone says they're short, and I know this. I feel time is a stream of rushing water, and I'm trying to catch it with my fingers and toes. But even when I'm present, I sometimes feel myself saying, "Be present. Be here. Notice. Take it in. Don't forget." So even then, I'm not convinced I'm actually experiencing. I'm still documenting.

"Are you going to be with me forever, mom?" The recent passing of my grandmother has sparked all these questions. All these concerns. The things that make a little girl grow up. The things that shape memories and make life feel so much more fragile than we imagined it was.

(Because even at Gram's graveside, M whispered to me,
"Won't a prince just come to kiss her and she'll wake up?")


She looks at me, big greenish eyes looking for my promise that I'll be with her forever. I'm documenting her eyes. Her voice. The way those swoops of bangs curl around her forehead. I'm scooping my hands into a river and coming up with drops of water that are sure to disappear later.

I tell her I don't know when I'll die; that none of us do. But hopefully I'll be with her for a long time. And even if not, God is with her always. And that's even better. I think of how He never intended for us to feel this great push against a river pulling. I think about how Adam and Eve lived in a forest wild, and probably held each other close without the panicked feeling that time is ticking, and clocks are turning, and there is so much to do and so little time to do it all in. 



I look at Sendak's images of the Wild Things, and in so many juvenile ways, I want to sail away on that river, off through night and day, and in and out of weeks, and almost over a year, to where the wild things are. I think "Let's just leave it all love. I'll bury my phone, and forget my computer, and I'll watch you from a mountain porch while you climb, and grow, and learn."

"Read me another story, mom?" 

I tell her it's time for sleep. That the sun has already gone to bed, and all the wild things around us have settled their heads, and even now, it's time for her to rest and stop asking questions and be ok with today, right now.

For a moment, I feel it. The now-moment. The undocumented moment that is sure to slip away just as soon as I notice it. That steady river that seems to come into the room from the dark, bouncing along her fairy lights, into her bed where she closes her eyes, and her panicked grip against me loosens and rests. And at first feel of her sleep, I don't push to move back into the grown-up room. I lay still, I lay quiet, I think of nothing, except for a room becoming a forest and a child who is full of wild.

14 comments:

  1. Oh my heart. My niece asked me the same questions a few months ago when I explained to her that my mommy is with Jesus. What a conversation that was. Thank you for this. <3

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    1. Thank you for your note and for stopping by. The conversations are tough, but beautiful to walk through with this little ones, you know? <3

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  2. Stopping over from Elora's blog and so glad I did. This is so beautiful; love your writing and your insights. Thank you.

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    1. Addie, thank you so much. thank you for stopping in and leaving a note too :)

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  3. I think the universe brought me here...I don't know. I was a little bit blown away when I read this post.
    1. I'm beside myself right now because my grandfather is...hopefully not at the moment...dying...but, not doing well and suffering from cancer and chemo. It kills me and I'm in denial, just so I can function. I can't go see him lately, I'm so afraid.
    2. I was literally just googling "staying grounded" because I don't know what else to do with myself at the moment when responsible adult life is bombarding me when I just want to cry and go back in time. I need to stay in my body and in the present.
    3. Instead, I came here for some reason. I have actually been thinking of your lovely blog lately (visited a few times a long while ago and bookmarked), because hubs and I have been talking about having children someday around the corner. I want to have happy, healthy, quiet and wild children, but I'm scared of these kinds of questions and of...the rest of the world messing them up.
    4. I'm working in children's mental health (hence the fear of the effect of society). Not only is WTWTA my favorite children's book EVER, but I'm an art therapist and I just developed a Wild Things group.
    I don't know....wow, that was a big blurt of randomness. I was pointing out the eerie coincidences, even though I'm sure there are no such things, but I meant to to just thank you for the beauty of this simple story. Thank you.

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    1. Dear anonymous, I'm glad you were brought here, however it may have happened. I cried with this comment. I love sharing in this with you & your heart.

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  4. Wow, this is giving me goosebumps because as an adult I had to have this conversation with my dad, and it is amazing how I suddenly went from being 39 to being 7 all over again as I asked him if he would be with me forever (he has cancer). This is so beautiful because you have reminded me that I have to experience more, as I document these moments.

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    1. Oh man. Tears here too. I can't imagine having this conversation with my father. It's funny how as adults we can feel so strong, until we're reminded that we're all kind of still kids inside too. Document. Remember. Gather it all in. And most of all, be present.

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  5. Wow, this touches so close to home. My four year old and I have conversations like this and they run so deep...He asked me "how long" my grandma would be dead for, because the only death he'd heard about up to that point only lasted three days. Everyone should raise after three days, he reasoned. It sounds good to me! :-)

    Thank you for the heart-felt, vulnerable poetry that this is...

    Beautiful.

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    1. April, I'm heading over to your blog now. These little ones — so aware, of everything. I'm always grateful for the opportunities to talk but sometimes she asks things that I'm not sure how to answer. It's beautiful, really. Thanks for stopping by :)

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  6. This is a snippet of a tough conversation the little one and I had...http://aprilmccullohs.com/promises-i-can-keep

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    1. This post. Wow. A resounding yes. I couldn't find a way to comment, or else I would have, but yes yes yes.

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