Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Gift

In those absolutely rare flashes of clarity, that occur to few and far between, it's an amazing marvel to see my children. Life is filled with so much noise--white noise, background noise, fulsome noise, outside noise--that my life, and how it intersects with my children, is seldom quiet. But recently, the din has lessened (I know it won't last long, so I'm grasping the moments), and I found myself seeing these people I helped create.

I stand, sit, lie, and gawk in awe. 

Seeing them this way, in this brighter light (or with the veil lifted) is like being in a nature film, where, through time-lapsed photography, we watch a seed grow into a stalk, then into a bud, then into a flower, then, finally, but in a matter of moments, into full bloom. The remarkable beauty takes your breath away, yet makes you laugh at the impossibility of it. There's this sense of seeing something rare and special and forbidden, almost voyeuristic. 

How can you possibly explain to them, or someone who has never raised a child, that regardless of their age you see them as they were--with puff-ball hair, small, clutching hands, soft cheeks, and voices to wake the dead? 

My oldest son is 20. And, honestly, we struggle to find a way to communicate. I continue to be his mother, utterly flawed, yet with expectations and requirements, and he's pushing away from being my son--he's bursting out of his skin to be an adult, but he's confined by my rules, my way. So we tread carefully, and often clumsily around each other. We toss out barbs and occasionally wound each other. He's developed a protective skin to cover his sensitivities and vulnerabilities, and I hate it. I desperately miss the warm, sweet, thoughtful, gentle little boy he was, before he began to protect himself from the world, but mostly from the nasty, vitriolic divorce his father and I went through. 

I still see the slim 8 year old, worry filling his face, as he pressed one of his special, treasured keepsakes into his sister's hand as I flew out the door racing her to the Emergency room, not the tall, hairy man he's becoming.

We have constant and regular conflict. Up, down, in, out, back, forth--"we don't respect him, his needs, or his privacy." "He doesn't help out the way he should, drinks our last beer, every time, and has no direction." But, then, as things always do, something changed the other day: a shock to our family that registered on the Richter scale. And as I braced for the shaking and trembling the shock would cause, I also braced for his reaction and what it would do to him, and us. I expected the worst. I actually thought I might lose him.

But as I steeled myself, my life was thrown into the slow-but-double-time motion of that nature film, and I saw my son begin to bloom. He's beautiful, just as I always suspected he would be. 

I know that this moment suspended in time will end and that we'll go back to our see-saw of strife. It's life. But for right now I'm staring in wonder and holding my breath. The seeds of who my children are, and who they will be, were always there. That tall, hairy man is the sweet, gentle boy.

My children are beautiful. And for this brief moment, when bills and groceries and lessons and housework and cooking and scrambling to make a life fades to the background, I'm deeply grateful for this glimpse of their possibility, and their radiance. And today, to be their mother, is a gift. 

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