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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Slipping Through My Fingers

Yes, this title is an allusion to Abba. Yes, the movie was schlock. Yes, I saw it ("MamaMia") and I saw the Broadway Show. And you know what? It really touched a nerve, that movie did, anyway. I know I'm not the only one who thought so. One of my friends described the movie as a secret pleasure, her grown-up "Dirty Dancing."

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. with an ineffable sadness, thinking of my 6th grader growing up for almost a whole summer without me. Thinking of how she might have changed when we see her, thinking of how I'm still allowed to hug her now -- quick hugs, not too many kisses, always on her terms -- and wondering if I'll still be allowed to when I see her again. Thinking of how fast time is going by. None of this is unmapped country for any parent, I know, but sometimes the universality of an emotion really manifests in a moment. A moment of insomnia, usually.

As I struggle with myself these days, I have an added pressure that this little girl's awareness is becoming more profound, and that she is becoming aware of my struggles, too. Until now it's been pretty easy to present a reasonable facsimile of a well-adjusted parent to my children; but now the struggles are a bit more personal, and I am loathe to show them my humanness, because with it comes awareness of a lot of things about me and the world I would rather they not know.

I'm not speaking about Death, at least I don't think so. We've had many a late night conversation about it when she was supposed to be in bed, and I've felt for her, remembering those moments when I used to feel so terrified at the thought of no longer existing. C and I usually try to talk her down from her anxiety and then make jokes, and that works. I always remember, although I have yet to say this to her, what Victor Tolkein, a boy at St.Albans said to me (this was high school, probably senior year) when we were talking about death. He said he didn't worry about death anymore because when he was dead he wouldn't care.

Okay, maybe that's not so profound, but it struck me at the time. Sometimes the root of a cliche is profound. Still, I'm not sure my 6th grader is ready for that piece of existentialism. Unfortunately, I can't comfort her with God talk, because I just don't buy it and she knows.

I really wasn't thinking of death, although it occupied a whole paragraph, didn't it? And probably was what caused me to become wide awake this morning, thinking of time slipping away, of daughters slipping away, and therefore, of course, of myself slipping away. Before I've really got a grip on myself, is what I was thinking. Before I can demonstrate for her and her sister that grown up life is good. It's funny to me that until this last year, I have always maintained being grown up is much better than being a child. This year, though, while looking for a job and trying to manage a house, my teenage years are looking pretty good. I lived in a lovely house that other people took care of, without a care in the world about money, and with a sense that if life was hard now, it was going to improve once I got out of that house.

Sigh. It did, overall. But right now, sending out job apps, on a very tight budget, overwhelmed by responsibilities, I find life challenging. I wish I could show it to my daughters in a better way, but that's my route right now. I just hope it doesn't defeat me. That's the most important thing I want to show my children: that if I can meet a challenge, they can, too.


  1. I'm sure there's been challenges before, this is just a different one. You will be OK.

  2. Working hard to meet a challenge is one of the best examples you can set for your children - but it IS tough. I know what you mean.

  3. Finding balance between protect and prepare is, I think the hardest part of being a parent. We want to protect our children so much to create a perfect world for them in which everything, ourselves included, runs smoothly, and where the kids have no real worries. But does that prepare them to face the challenges of life they will have to tackle some day?

    Some of the preparation kids get for adulthood can't be planned out and handed to them, like music lessons and martial arts classes. Some of it has to come from experience - and some times it comes from watching our experiences, our struggles and how we handle them. When they see us having a hard time and not giving up, they learn tenacity. When they see us pushing at the the same boulder day after day making the most minute progress they learn about endurance...and on and on. They really do need, sometimes, to see our more human sides. Because by being human ourselves, we give them permission to be human too.

    I've known so many people in my life who thought their parents were perfect and saw themselves as miserable failures for having flaws and imperfections. You do your girls an amazing service when you let them see all the sides of you.

  4. The consensus seems to be to let the kids in on some of the struggles. It really was not my parents' style, so it's very hard to do. But I hear you. I suppose it's true. After all, if I'd witnesses some of my parents' struggles, perhaps this one of mine wouldn't be so difficult.

    Then again, perhaps my parents didn't struggle....