Friday, August 7, 2009

It's 3.30...

It’s 3.30, and I'm imagining my son leaving his classroom and making his way out into the schoolyard. He will find his way to after school care, or they will find him. He is an autonomous being. His own person, with his own life to live.

I know that. So why am I so frequently struck by this notion and so destabilised by it — the thought that my children are at this moment out there in the world where I can’t see them?

It makes me feel like a constantly unravelling ball of string — the further the kids roam, the more diminished I am, but the more liberated also. I find the levels of trust and faith I have to employ as a mother overwhelming sometimes. If only freedom — mine and theirs — didn’t seem to come at such a price!

Yesterday my daughter’s kinder teacher told me she was being targeted for bullying by a little boy she’s known her whole life. That day he had tipped a vase of flowers over her head, and when he was told that it was now his responsibility to clean it up, my daughter offered to help him.

This broke my heart — even more so, somehow, after a full morning of such appalling tantrums that I was driven to think: ‘Jeez, you’re lucky I love you so much, because this is the kind of thing that drives less adoring people to murder children!’ (Can anyone describe those unbearable hours when a child won’t stop whinging and screaming and throwing things at you? At those times, some part of me is forced to shut down, just in order to cope.)

I still worry that I haven’t got the guts for it. That I don’t have what it takes to override my own desperate fears in order to give my kids the space and trust they need to grow. That I haven’t got the discipline to avoid succumbing to lazy strategies — or rivalling my children’s behaviour with equally juvenile behaviour of my own.

Nothing rang more true for me than the wonderful Mindy Sotiri’s notion that parenting requires “a superhuman effort. Sometimes a more than superhuman effort.” Oh, how I agree with that! Superhuman effort — on a daily basis. And I have the great luck of having children without significant problems.

This is a very sentimental post, isn’t it? Must be the afternoon light…


Nikkers said...

Don't imagine for a minute that your're the only parents who feels like you do.
It does require a ``superhuman effort'' to be a parent.
I feel as though there is an almost constant tug-o-war of give and take with me pulling in one direction and them the other.
Being a parent is very much a daily work in progress for me. Some days I do better than others, but I always try to give my best. And that is, I think, what's at the core of being a ``good parent'' (if there is such a thing) - caring and loving enough to want to do the best you can.
It's those parents who don't have self doubt or at times wonder they have what it takes to give their children a good upbringing that we should all be truly concerned about.

D said...

Nice post.

They are little emotional pirates, aren't they?

Nice to read about yours and see their pics.


Red Hen (dette) said...

I felt conflicted as I read this, both sad and sentimental and highly amused. Just wait until your little one is 6'2" and tells you he will be traveling around Australia! It happens too soon. And yes you are left wondering what has happened and where you fit in the scheme of things. And Yep you will more than likely resort to childish responses, or hold too tight but mostly you will do what you feel is right for them. Good luck!

Kate Moore said...

Rachel, revisit this post when they're teens. Though I may be 35 I feel 20 years older than I am when I listen to the stories of mothers of young/er children. I listen and nod sympathetically and while I could swap stories, I don't. Some are raw and shocking. Still. What I can tell you, hon, is don't beat yourself up too much, you've got some good years of arse whipping ahead of you. If you haven't already been rocked to your core, you will be.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Rachel I’m THERE with the ball of string thing. There is something so visceral about both the desire to be with- and the desire to be apart- from your children.
I also find the frenzied, heart pounding, trying not to shout times with my own wailing, whining MAD children only adds another layer to the relentless tension between the need to be both with them- and apart.
I am right now unravelling in anticipation. I made an outrageous decision a few weeks back and booked a solo trip to New York. I am beyond excited- and terrified at times to the point where I feel sick. I haven’t spent any time at all away from my kids- so it seems a particularly bold- and possibly insane- move to choose a week in a different hemisphere for this experiment…
Anyway, as for the question of guts- I don’t think it’s an issue- you’ve got plenty. The mere act of your reflection on all of this is a form of bravery

Sally Rippin said...

I love your ball of sting image, Rach, it is very beautiful and very powerful and something I'm sure many mothers can relate to. I certainly can.
When I feel like this I try to remember my own childhood, where I perceived my parents as merely a faint hovering buzzing in the background of my intense world of friendships, school and my wild imagination. They were there, I'm sure, but only in the periphery, and sometimes even that was too close.
Or I remember the stories my father used to regale us with as children of his own childhood, where he would set out in the mornings, slice of buttered bread in hand, to the paddocks that backed onto his neighbourhood, meeting up with the other kids in his street, with siblings in tow, or even just on his own, and only come back when it was dark, or to report an incident where a soldier had been wounded. Those daylight hours were the terrain of wild adventurings, his mother couldn't possibly watch over her four children while there was clothing to be boiled in the copper and bread to be made. And as a child these wild stories my father told sparked my imagination like nothing else I know of, more than any book I'd ever read.
I think sometimes we worry too much about our place in our child's world, but perhaps that is our own stuff to deal with? Perhaps children like to be sometimes left alone? Perhaps children need space, and sometimes even - god forbid - boredom! - to allow their imaginations to grow. :-)
Hope that makes you feel better, Rach? xx