I have always felt sort of a mystical connection to my kids… that is that they are “part of me”… an extension of me. A long time ago I discovered the quote by Elizabeth Stone that really defined how I was feeling: “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” To me this connection is the essence of motherhood, and that all mothers probably feel this, but I really don’t know for sure that all mothers do… I can only speak for myself and for me it’s very real.
Many years ago I incorporated the thoughts of M. Scott Peck from his book "The Road Less Traveled" into my life… and specifically some things about love that also speak to me about motherhood. One of the ways he defines love is “expanding one’s ego boundaries to include another”…(paraphrased) in effect, taking another person into the inside workings of “self”. That seems automatic with one’s children although Dr. Peck doesn’t, to my recollection, refer to children at all.
So here’s where I’m going with this… my “ego”.. the psychological term, I guess, for the real me…my heart, has expanded through the years to include all my (nine) kids… they ARE me. This seems quite natural to me. Sometimes it’s heaven and sometimes it’s hell. It’s heaven when the kids are doing well and loving life.. I’m loving it with them. It’s hell when they’re going through hard times… and I’m living that with them too. (Reminding myself that they are learning and growing through whatever they are experience is helpful, but I’m still with them on the emotional ride.)
I don’t feel that I’m an overly protective mother, or that I try to direct or manipulate their lives. I want them to learn and grow and I respect their right to build the life for themselves that they determine. However… I have very strong feelings about “MY” kids… my heart, my self. It’s like I have staked out my territory around them and branded them all with my mark.
(When someone loves my kids, they love me. When someone hurts my kids, they hurt me. So if anyone out there wants to endear themselves to me… be good to my kids!)
Taking it a step further… when one of my kids forms a lasting committed relationship, (usually through marriage), my heart seems to again automatically expand to include the new son or daughter in law.
Backtracking a bit… Long ago Garry and then Dan were added to my heart…. And their presence and commitment continues to grow. A couple years ago Praveen arrived. I have to admit it’s just a little different than with my own kids. With my own kids my love is total and complete and unconditional and all of me… with the son and daughter in laws, it’s a bit more of a growing process but none the less, they become part of me that grows with time… and it doesn’t take very long.
As my kids bring girlfriends or boyfriends closer into the family I always wonder… “will I be adding this one to “MINE” someday?” At first it’s like they are black and white, sort of transparent beings on the outer edge of the circle.. then as they linger longer they gradually take on color and less transparency….a few of them finally become “real” to me and are added to “MINE”.
The hard part of this is opening the gate to another, admitting them to “mine”.. and then through circumstances having them leave. My own kids can’t “leave” (it’s not possible) but their spouses can… and when they do, they take a little piece of my heart with them.
This has happened with Jason, the husband of Rinnah’s youth, Ben, ditto for Rachel… and most recently, Megan, Amon’s soon to be x-wife. Even so, each of them leaves a bit of a presence behind. Right now, I am, in a way, grieving the loss of Megan, but still feel that she is mine. When she and Amon got married, she was auto-admitted to my heart, and I don’t let go easily. Besides that, she lived with us for almost a year. I enjoyed her presence and her wonderful sense of humor. I know that my kids may not want me talking about these pieces of their past, and out of respect I won’t.. but I have to admit the reality that they existed in “MINE”, and that flickering positive memories of them remain, even as negative ones fade.
And then, there are the grandkids… another layer in the circle.. and also “mine”.
Another thing Dr. Peck talks about in his book is that love is not effortless.. it is ‘work’. …so as my circle expands, so does the work of loving. “Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” And... “When one has successfully extended one’s limits, one has then grown into a larger state of being. Thus the act of loving is an act of self-evolution even when the purpose of the act is someone else’s growth.” And … “The act of extending one’s limits implies effort.” With such a large and ever expanding circle, no wonder I always feel so busy, even though sometimes to on lookers I am apparently doing little to nothing at all. The workings of the heart are not always easily observed.
There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings. ~Hodding Carter, Jr.
I think I’ve done a pretty good job on both counts.
On Saturday, Feb 2, Naomi and Dane drove away to start their new life in the San Francisco Bay area. Ruth, of course, moved there several years ago. Others who have spread their wings, but not flown quite so far include Rachel in Kansas City, Rinnah and Esther in St. Louis, and of course Nathan who has been half way around the world and back with the Army and is currently in Texas at Ft. Hood. All of them make a huge effort to be here together at least once a year (usually more often), on Thanksgiving. Their roots ARE here at “home” but their wings have taken them on to lives of their own making… which is how it should be.
I was going to say that as Naomi and Dane drove away I felt a little melancholy… but that’s not true. I misunderstood that word until I looked it up and found that it meant sad, depressed, miserable, downhearted, glum, low, down in the dumps. No that was not at all how I felt. I didn’t feel any of that. I thought that “melancholy” described just sort of a blah or slight empty feeling, but not a negative one.
Yes, I had sort of a blah, empty feeling which was mostly the selfish realization that I wouldn’t be seeing them as often. BUT it was mingled with excitement for the two of them, and the knowledge that they were doing what kids are supposed to do… grow up and get on with their lives in the best way they can figure out. Dane has an exciting career ahead of him and a wonderful opportunity with a great company. Naomi, being the people-person that she is, will surely run into even more people who will be able to help her along with her music. Both of them will be adding experiences and knowledge to their lives that will continue to define who they are. That’s called growth and it’s a good thing.
I’m sure I’ll be talking to them fairly often on the phone and especially on the internet. Physical distance isn’t nearly the divide it used to be in the past.
I will miss seeing (and hugging) them but I know they’ll be back. Their roots are here.
I started this blog in January 2005, shortly after returning from spending a month in India. This is what I wrote and it still stands today.
Thank You! Thank you ALL for all you did for us to make us feel loved, welcome and comfortable during our trip to India. I was totally amazed at how we were treated so well and felt so welcome in the family circle.
I will never forget this trip, no matter how BAD my memory gets. Besides the wedding and reception and some of the ancient structures we visited, I will mostly remember the friendliness and overall "goodness" of the Indian people. I think that India's greatest natural resource is perhaps her people. My family in the US is very different than my new Indian family in many ways, but there are similarities too, especially in the love we feel for each other which can now be expanded to include the larger circle of both families.