Liminal

Grace is such a liminal creature right now, straddling girlhood and tweendom, the baby she was and the young woman she’s becoming at warp speed both visible in her bottomless brown eyes.  I look at her and it takes my breath away, the dizzying identification, the breakneck pace with which almost 10 years have rushed by, the inevitability, somehow, that she and only she would be my daughter.

I read two posts over the weekend that brought me to breathless, gasping tears with their evocation of what lies ahead of me.  Of us, Grace and me.  Launa’s essay, On Heartache, reminded me how very much growing up of my own I have to do before I am able to effectively mother Grace through the next several years.  I know I am not up, yet, to the challenge that Launa elucidates:

Because this is what it means to be a good teacher, and a good mother, to adolescent girls.  It means to hold your own self together, to endure and be strong and be both firm and loving, so that you can be the adult they need you to be.  Even when it stings the most, we mothers and teachers have to be stalwart and certain in the boundlessness of our love and the firmness of our boundaries.

Oh, oh, oh.  I am still so immature myself, as a woman and a mother, and this strength and firmness seems far out of my grasp.  The boundlessness of my love, that part, I’ve got down.  The rest of it, I need to work on, and I am immensely grateful for Launa’s wise and articulate counsel as I move, just behind her, through the myriad stages, each full of an amalgam of heartbreak and wonder that I had never imagined, of mothering a daughter.

And then I read Katrina’s stunning post In Awe, about watching her son in his element, about observing the flowering of the innate skills and passions that she glimpsed in him early on, when he was a two year old toddler.  Katrina’s a mothering role model for me, there’s no question, and each and every piece of her writing moves me to tears as it shifts something heavy and essential inside my chest.  She puts into words the challenges and glories of this road, of the effort to remain steadfast and of the need to believe in what we know to be true of our children better than anyone else I know.

And what is our real job as parents, if not first to nurture the beings entrusted to our care, to have faith in their inchoate processes of growing and becoming, and then to show up, again and again, for as long as we are able, to bear grateful witness to their unfolding destinies?

It is this faith, and this showing up, that is central to my life now.  I watch Grace and Whit as they stretch into the beings they have always been, leaning into what I know of them, even when they behave in ways that I dislike or as they begin to explore where the limits are.  They still look back over their shoulder to make sure I’m watching them, and as much as this can feel like a burden – I have to watch everything – I also know these days are precious, and numbered.  What Launa and Katrina remind me, though, is that even when Grace and Whit roll their eyes and push me away, I need to keep watching, witnessing with forbearance, trusting, loving, even – perhaps most of all – when I doubt that they notice or care.

I’ve written before about my conviction that my children do not belong to me, shared how deeply I’m honored to be the passage they chose to come through on their way to the great wide open of this world.  It’s a privilege beyond expressing to watch them flower, to watch them grow, and while I know that there is more shocking bittersweetness ahead, it’s all worth it.

Some days I can do nothing other than kneel, press my forehead to the cold window, watch the setting sun turn the sky orange and pink, and whisper my gratitude.  My gratitude for these children of mine, for this ordinary and painful and startlingly lovely life, for these friends and sages – today, and often, Launa and Katrina – whose words give me solace, comfort, and inspiration.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.


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10 Comments

  1. Posted February 22, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    You’re welcome. I am still so new at all of this, toddling just a few steps ahead of where you are now, only because that is where we are in time. You remind me, always, to really NOTICE my girls while I am loving (and setting boundaries.). Thank you for that.

    And I am so glad for your day off in the park yesterday. Beautiful.

  2. Posted February 22, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I read and loved Katrina’s post, too. Even though I am many steps behind you on the journey, I commented on her site that I am amazed that, even at 17-months-old, Abra is simply becoming who she has been all along. She is not that much different than she was the day she was born. And I always find it interesting how children want you to bear witness to their actions (as time-consuming as that can be). A friend and I take our children to the children’s museum here in town once a week, and there is always one kid on the playground whose parent is not paying attention to them and asks us, random strangers, to watch what them go down the slide or negotiate the monkey bars.

  3. Posted February 22, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    So beautiful and moving. I’m off to read those essays right now. Thank you!

  4. Posted February 22, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Being 10 is such a wide open place. This post brought tears to my eyes. I am so scared of parenting a teenager. She told me she was afraid to reach teendom, too. Because the teens she knows don’t get along with their parents. We can only hope and pray that our story will be a little bit different.

  5. Posted February 22, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if we will ever feel ready to parent teenage girls? I wonder if Luana feels ready now, even as she clearly does a beautiful job…

  6. Posted February 22, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, LIndsey, for the honor of being quoted here, in the midst of your beautiful reflections on Grace and motherhood and the processes of becoming. I’m more and more struck these days, as I look at my (nearly) grown up sons how much they have always been who they are; looking back, it’s like a game of connect-the-dots. The picture was always there. I just couldn’t always see it. I think you do, though, more than most.

  7. Posted February 22, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    And thank YOU for being that for me.
    xo

  8. Posted February 23, 2012 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    This was gorgeous, and completely true. What we need to provide for our children as they grow to teenagers is intimidating. It pushes us, like a healthy marriage, to be better than we are.

  9. Posted February 23, 2012 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    This is just so awesome, Lindsey. I have no words.

    Thank you.

    XOXO

  10. Posted February 23, 2012 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Gorgeous. I’ve found myself slowing and watching Abby and Henry a lot more lately. I’m finding that I’m like a squirrel preparing for winter–padding my memories with the rich, tender moments that are so exquisite and so fleeting. xo