As I walked into the family room, my heart stopped beating. There, in the middle of my new beige carpet, stood my 1-year-old daughter, Lauren, in a puddle of blue paint, smiling brightly. Instantly, my eyes began to sting with the tears that would soon come. We’d saved five years for that new flooring, and now it was ruined. Oh, the joys of being a parent.
Over the past 37 years, the one thing I’ve gotten really good at is crying when it comes to my four kids. It all began when I found out I was pregnant with Michelle. Having been told I may never have children after a miscarriage early in my marriage, you can imagine my ecstasy. Then, nine months later, blood-curdling wails rattled the hospital walls as I delivered her the old-fashioned way, sans drugs. No epidural or oral medication to ease the pain, just a stick between my teeth and Lamaze breathing. Crazy, I know, but back in the early ’80s, I took my new role as Mother Earth seriously. Jenni would soon follow, and my tears of joy became deeply profound.
While I’d like to think that moms control the cases of Kleenex that come with child-rearing, I know that dads have their moments, too. Just like a pendulum that swings from a delicate silver chain, a parent’s emotions sway. In one minute, it’s sublime happiness with only a look, smile or an “I love you.” But two seconds later, it can easily soar in the opposite direction with words that feel unkind or insensitive. How I blubbered the first time I was told, “Go away, you’re so annoying.”
Now that I’m 65, I find myself reminiscing about when my kids were little and life was a constant adventure. How I blissfully teared up at their accomplishments in school, sports or dance, and later the workforce, and internally mourned any broken heart, failure, disappointment or pain.
I giggle over how silly I was to want Timmy to go to kindergarten. With all four at St. Simon School, I’d have a few hours to myself. But my anticipation for a little freedom quickly crumbled as my baby broke free of my hand to run and play, uninhibited and independent. Bawling, I walked away sure that I’d lost him forever, for he now belonged to the world.
I’ve spent their entire life filling many a hankie for one reason or another. So many, I finally had to buy the cloth type because I was afraid I was destroying the environment with all the tissues tossed. Especially when the Hoover Dam burst and they went onto lives of their own.
I once read, “As women, we are the divine channel beings come through. And, yet, we never own them.” How I sometimes wish that weren’t true. When I treasure someone, I want them with me always. I have a hard time with separation, even when it’s part of the natural order.
But despite the fact that the years have wreaked havoc on my emotions, leaving mascara on my cheeks, eyes red and swollen (and those were the good times), I smile. In a fairy tale long ago, I was granted the privilege by the universe to shelter four souls who, through trial and error, discovered their true selves and purpose in life. For some of those years, I was the teacher. In the end, however, it has been them teaching me my lessons – who I am with them and, more importantly, who I am away from them – through their generous art of love and all that goes with it, including soggy tissues.