Monthly Archives: October 2010

Books I Wish I’d Written

I’m off today, so instead of a full post, here is a list of some of my favorite books. Whenever someone asks me what my favorite books are, my mind goes blank and all I can think of is Flowers in The Attic (which was my favorite book in 7th grade). So here’s the beginning of a master list, which is not inclusive. I know I’m missing a ton of favorites, so feel free to comment and tell me what I’ve left out.

Happy Friday!

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Monsters of Templeton– Lauren Groff

Confessions of Max Tivoli– Andrew Sean Greer

Unaccustomed Earth– Jhumpa Lahiri

Evening– Susan Minot

Kissing in Manhattan– David Schickler

Pride & Prejudice– Jane Austen

The Talisman– Stephen King & Peter Straub

The Sun Also Rises– Ernest Hemingway

Middlesex– Jeffery Eugenides

The Keep– Jennifer Egan

The End of the Affair– Graham Greene

The Blind Assassin– Margaret Atwood

Atonement– Ian McEwan

Play It As It Lays– Joan Didion

Neverwhere– Neil Gaiman

Good Omens– Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

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Balance is Not a Four Letter Word

In art and dream may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth. – Patti Smith

Balance. That mythical, unattainable nirvana. A word that gets thrown around with much abandon in Mommyland. There are many many things that you learn when you become a parent. You learn how to change diapers, how to survive on no sleep, how to successfully hold a baby and load the dishwasher/put on your shoes/feed the dog. You also learn a whole new language. Swaddling, colic, reflux, Bumbo, Boppy, Jumperoo vs. Exersaucer, attachment parenting, four month wakeful. Words that were foreign to me before O.

Then there are the mommy conversations. No matter what kind of parent you are, you will find yourself having these conversations, conversations you swore you wouldn’t have. Eavesdrop on any mom conversation, though, and what you are hearing is really a secret language. The shorthand is something like this:

“What’s his nap schedule?” Which means, can we be friends? Are our children on the same schedule so we can actually leave the house at the same time? And further, it’s a test. If you have NO nap schedule for your child, then that says something about you as a mother. And a nap nazi is probably not going to want to be friends with a mom that can be so unscheduled. Who knows what else goes on at that house?

“Is he walking/talking/feeding himself/banging his head against his crib yet”? This is the great equalizer conversation. It serves to let each mom know where in the spectrum of great genius their child is (aka walking early is a definite sign of potential Einstein status- never mind that all kids eventually walk and very few geniuses when accepting the Nobel Prize for Physics or Economics acknowledge their early walking). But it also is the way to know you aren’t alone, that your kid isn’t the only one doing weird things like trying to eat butt paste.

And then there is the balance conversation. Balance is the thing that we are all searching for, the word that means everything to every mom- it means peace, happiness, a world where schedules work and no one is tired and screaming and you don’t wake up everyday feeling like life is pulling you into a million directions. Most of all it means feeling no guilt. “Work-life balance” is the one you hear most often. But even stay at home moms struggle to find balance. Balance between being everything to your kids and still maintaining a small piece of yourself. Not letting your kids swallow you up whole. Balance is the thing that we as mothers are always searching for, and is never attained. A working mother can spit out the word “balance” like it’s the dirtiest word on George Carlin’s list.

“Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away.” -Barbara De Angelis

A friend recently said to me “I don’t know how to do this. How to balance a child, a relationship, friends, and myself in the little two days I have to pack it all in.”

I of course have been feeling the same way. As a working mom, I horde little scraps of time and ration them out to the demanding and starving pieces of me. The loudest one gets immediate attention. So I am a mother, a wife, a lawyer, a co-worker, a boss, an employee, a writer, a friend, a daughter, a sister, and whichever little piece is starving the most gets fed. Oh and then there’s simply “me”, the me that needs quiet time that isn’t devoted to being any of those things above. Before marriage and kids, “me” got my full attention. It wasn’t hard to balance.

Now there is never enough time to feed those pieces. I was thinking about what my friend said this weekend and realized my life would be so much simpler if I stopped writing. Now that I am at home on Mondays and Fridays, I would have ample time to be a mother, to get my errands done, to be a good wife and sister and friend. I might even have time to get organized. And frankly, no one would care or even notice. The world at large would go on just as it is if I stopped writing.

I mentioned this to the Husband last night at dinner. We didn’t really talk about it, as we had O with us and he is in a “phase” right now where he is really happy until he’s not, and then he turns into a shrieking, melting puddle.  It was one of those perfect nights, the weather was warm but not hot, we put O in the stroller and walked over to a local restaurant. We have found that when O is in a difficult mood (i.e. refuses to nap in the afternoon and therefore has a meltdown when you do something like dare to close the dishwasher before he’s done playing), it is best to take him out of the house. No, not to torture other people, but he’s actually much better behaved and entertained around others. He’s quite the show-off and flirt, so put him in a restaurant and he’s in his natural habitat.

Anyways, so we’re at dinner, the Husband and I are taking turns. He feeds O some chicken or plaintains and I take a long drink of my cold cold beer. Then he grabs his margarita, while I distract O with some beans and guacamole. It’s a good system, but one that makes actual conversation difficult. I mention that my life would be a lot easier if I just quit writing for now.

The husband doesn’t really look at me, it’s his turn to feed O, but he casually says “And give up on your dream?”

And that’s that. I didn’t really intend to give up the writing. It’s the one thing that makes the least sense in my life right now- why would I pick the first year of my son’s life to focus on something so completely selfish, internal, and time-consuming, and one that has no guaranteed path to success? It is not a balanced, logical thing to do.

And yet. It is the one thing that makes me able to handle everything else. Well, my husband and nanny make it logistically possible for me to handle everything. But writing is the thing that feeds the “me” part, that despite it’s time suckage, actually replenishes me. I feel more grounded, less untethered after I write. I don’t feel pulled in a million directions, I don’t feel anxious or depressed or like there is something missing. I feel balanced.

I go home and I sit with my son and I watch him dance around with a bead necklace his dad and I got at a long ago Mardi Gras. The small square of plastic lights up and sings a Mardi Gras song, and he delights in pressing it over and over, and dancing around in circles. I don’t get impatient and long for him to do something else. We read the same book over and over and over, and I feel lucky to get these moments with him.

Karen Maezen Miller, author of Momma Zen: Walking The Crooked Path of Motherhood (among others) and the fantastic blog Cheerio Road, discusses balance. A lot. A friend gave me her book when I was on maternity leave, and it was as if I was drowning and someone showed me a way to breathe underwater. I was stumbling and sleep-deprived and felt completely lost and helpless in my new role. I especially felt as if I was the only one who wasn’t feeling like this was the most magical time of my life. I opened Miller’s book and the very first chapter she admits the same. And Miller is a practicing Buddhist!

Miller talks about being in the moment and focusing on what is in front of you as a way to find balance. If you are doing the laundry, do the laundry. Nothing else. If you are working, work. If you are watching your child play, watch your child play. It’s called being in the moment and it’s damn difficult.

But for me, after spending an hour or two writing, this isn’t that difficult. Writing pushes away all of those selfish thoughts the former “me” has, or better yet, it lets them breathe. It gives my inner pieces a voice. And then I can just let them go and be. Be a mother, be a wife.

For me, writing, even though it tips the crazy scale of logic, is the thing that makes me feel the most balanced. Balance, like everything, is relative.

“Evermore in the world is this marvelous balance of beauty and disgust, magnificence and rats”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

And leave it to a poet to sum it up so beautifully and weirdly. Balance is not just juggling your life. It’s the thing that allows us to appreciate and recognize the extraordinary. Without rainy days, sunshine is monotonous. Without sadness, happiness is taken for granted. Without rats, how can we recognize the majesty of giraffes?

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The Heights Are Wuthering, and I Like Stephen King

I’ve got a confession to make…

Though I love to read and read all the time, I have read very little “great” literature for an aspiring writer. I often have ten books on my bedside table and start and read three or four simultaneously.  Usually a “good” novel (by which I mean “literary” and well-reviewed), a collection of short stories, and then a book. By “book” I mean the one that I really want to read. Notice the discrepancy. And when it’s been a long day, full of work and phone calls and a screeching baby, guess which one wins out? I mean, who comes home from work and says, “I am dying to get into a bubble bath with my Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and get lost in Finnegan’s Wake?” Hint: not me.

I have noticed a division in the types of responses I get when discussing books based on whether I am talking to a “normal person” or an “aspiring writer”. I say “aspiring” because it’s not like I talk to Margaret Atwood or Jennifer Egan on a regular basis. Or ever at all.  The only writers I know right now are like me, wishing and hoping and scribbling.

So ask a “normal” person what they are reading, and most will happily rattle off a list, without any thought at all. “Jodi Picoult, Stephen King, Jennifer Weiner, Emily Giffin, James Patterson.”  No embarrasment, no qualifying.

Now ask an aspiring writer the same question. You’ll either get “I’m deep into the new Salman Rushdie/Jonathan Franzen/Philip Roth” or “Oh, I’m just re-reading Paradise Lost for the 13th time, I just adore Dante”. You might, might get “Well, I’m reading a few books right now, Franzen’s new book and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. But I’m only reading the last one to see what all the fuss is about, it’s not normally the kind of thing I read, and honestly, it’s pretty terrible.”  And don’t even mention Stephen King or any other “bestseller” because you will get an eye roll and something along the lines of how King isn’t “what I would consider a real writer.”

I admit that I can sometimes fall into the latter category. With both books and music, I feel a need to prove that I have taste. If I am buying something that is considered popular or cheesy, then I feel the need to also purchase something of quality, to prove that I have a range. Because you know the store clerk at Borders or Waterloo Records is totally judging you. So if I buy Justin Timberlake, I feel compelled to also buy Ray Davies or Jeff Beck or Tool. Or if I buy the latest Emily Giffin, I also make sure to pick up a copy of some stellar short stories by Antonya Nelson or Tobias Wolff.  Pathetic on my part. But no more. Today I’m making my stand, standing up for good stories.

“Hello, my name is A—–, and I like Stephen King.” There, I said it.

I simply cannot believe that every person in my writing classes only read Proust and Joyce, and that they never read what I would call an actual good story. There is no way that one can truly enjoy Joyce’s books as stories. You might appreciate his writing, you might marvel in the context and his inventiveness, but you cannot tell me that you stay up late because you simply couldn’t put the book down.

Now that I live in Mommyland, I don’t have the luxury of time that I used to. So if I’m going to read something, it better be good. And I don’t just mean pretty writing. To me, a great book is one that is written well, that has developed its characters, AND that is telling a good story. Yes, it should make you think and be compelling and have something to say. But at the end of it, if you don’t have a great story, if I can put your book down, if I struggle to get through a chapter because I’m bored, then I’m sorry, it isn’t a great book. It may be beautifully written. It may be the novel that holds a mirror up to our generation. It may change the art form of novel writing. It may win every award. But if it doesn’t also have great characters and a compelling story, then it’s not a great book. To me.

So I am challenging myself to read a few classics here and there. I’m going to edumacate myself, so to speak. I’ve never read Wuthering Heights so that is first on my list.

My criteria for judging these books is simple: Does it hold up? Is it a good story? I have no context to Wuthering Heights. I never studied it in school, so I don’t know why it’s supposed to be a classic. All I know is that Heathcliff and Cathy are supposedly two of the most passionate and romantic characters in literature.

Initial Thoughts:

1. There is a lot of ejaculating going on at Wuthering Heights. The word “ejaculate” has been used an impressive number of times already and I’m only on pg. 82 As I don’t think Emily Bronte was attempting to write an erotic novel, I looked it up and it’s what I assumed. Turns out “ejaculate” also means “to utter suddenly and vehemently”.

2. Dialect- I have always been told to be careful with writing dialect phonetically. Well apparently, Wuthering Heights is the reason. There is a character named Joseph. I’m not sure what he does, but he is very religious. That’s about all I am ever going to know about him, because I’ve started skipping the paragraphs when he speaks. Sorry. Actually, no apologies. I can’t understand him. Don’t believe me? Here’s an example.

“They’s nobbut t’ missis; and shoo’ll nut open ‘t an ye mak yer flaysome dins till neeght”.

Yes, if you take your time, you can figure out what he’s saying. But imagine whole paragraphs of that. I’ve found it doesn’t matter. You can completely cut out all of his dialogue and it changes nothing.

3. Point of View- The first chapter or so is told from the POV of a rather annoying character, a Mr. Lockwood. As I’ve been told that WH is a great book, I kept going, though to be honest, if I had just picked this book up without knowing anything about it, I probably would have stopped reading by now. Even in the early chapters, there is something about Cathy and Heathcliff that I want to know, want to get closer to them and hear their story. This Lockwood guy is like the annoying person at a dinner party who is seated to your left and keeps ranting on in your ear, while an utterly fabulous and interesting couple is seated to your right and they are having the conversation you want to be having. So you keep trying to end the conversation with Lockwood, without trying to be rude, while at the same time trying to hear what the fab couple is saying.  As a writer, I am wondering why this POV? Why Lockwoood? Why not just give us Cathy and Heathcliff?

4. POV again- Now Lockwood has smartly asked Mrs. Dean, a gossipy house-keeper, to fill him in on Cathy and Heathcliff. Now the POV switches and Mrs. Dean is telling us all about Cathy and Heathcliff as young children. Now we’re getting somewhere. Now I am thinking this POV works, and even might be more effective, because it is keeping our glam couple, Cathy and Heathcliff, just out of reach. We are hearing about them, and are getting tidbits of gossip, yet not really knowing what they are thinking, so we want more. It’s like meeting Brad and Angie’s nanny.

I’ll write my “review” of WH when I finish. So far, I’m enjoying it. I am not staying up late because I can’t bear to put it down, but I’m definitely intrigued and want to know what happens next.

Have a great weekend. And if you’re a closet best-seller lover like me, stand proud.

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No Words

I feel shattered today, come undone by a death I learned about on Facebook, about someone I do not know. This person’s tragedy has no direct impact on my life, I am not stricken with her loss, and yet, I find myself feeling her impact today, find myself with a tiny hole in my being, a hole that is filled with sadness and despair and questions. I can only imagine how big that hole must be for her family and friends.

This lovely woman and I went to law school together. I don’t remember her, but she was in my husband’s classes. She graduated and did what I wished I had the guts to do- she fought the good fight and was a criminal defense attorney, specializing in capital punishment. She fought hard for those that had no hope left, who were living on borrowed time. She was beautiful. She had a husband and a 5 month old baby. And she took her own life, allegedly because of post-partum depression.

Part of me feels wrong even writing about this. It’s not my story, it’s not my grief, it’s not my loss. Who am I to talk about her? I feel a bit as if I’m stealing her family’s grief to talk about how if affects me, as if how it affects me means anything. And yet. I am haunted by this story, haunted by the turn of events, haunted by the little girl she left behind, and haunted by the fear that this could be me.

Last night after I read about her death I felt raw and opened up. I kept looking at my little boy in the monitor, still and sweet in sleep. I had to grip the sides of the couch and focus on the TV show we were watching to stop myself from running in there and gathering him up in my arms and holding on. He so innocently slept, counting on me to love him, to support him, to feed him and let him grow, but most of all, just to be there. My most important job is to never leave him, never let him feel abandoned.

And I can’t bear the pain that fills me up when I think of how lost she must have been, to be able to leave her little girl like that. HOW can that be possible? I think I can imagine being so far removed from reality that life seems too painful. I have been depressed before, I know about the inability to connect to even the smallest things in your life that once came so effortlessly, the feeling of walking outside of your life and your skin, to always be watching yourself from afar and to just not care about anything. What once gave you joy, gives you nothing. It’s like being a walking zombie. You try to eat and sleep and laugh, but it’s all from rote memory, the only reason you are able to make the motions is because your body has done them before. There is nothing of you behind it. You aren’t there.

But what I can’t get to is how even if your life is full of pain and nothingness, there is still a little one there, a little one that counts on your existence. I get how ending it might end your suffering, but as a mother, I cannot get to how you don’t know that taking your own life is abandoning your child. I cannot get to how she could do that, how she could feel the love that a mother feels and then leave them.

And yet. There is a persistent little tapping in my brain as I write those words. An impish little thing that doesn’t let me keep my own thoughts, that constantly insists on pointing out that which I would rather not remember. She reminds me of cruel things I’ve done, or embarrassing things, or immature things. She remembers everything and she lets nothing go. So my little imp is tapping tapping tapping and what she wants me to remember is this.

That the way I feel now about my son is not how I’ve always felt. That I had many days and nights of darkness in the first few months of his life, regardless of the fact that it was August and bright and shiny outside. Inside, it was dark, always dark and heavy. I grasped at the small moments of sunshine I could feel. I knew they were there, yet I couldn’t always feel them. I don’t think I suffered from post partum depression, but I’m not a doctor. I didn’t want to harm myself or my son, I knew that things would get easier and better, I knew that he wouldn’t always be so needy and that I wouldn’t always cry everyday. But the thing that the little imp keeps trying to remind me of , the thing that makes me understand what I don’t want to understand just a little is that I didn’t feel overwhelming love for my son in those first few weeks. He felt like a stranger.

It’s strange because I did feel love for him, I did feel an instant and overwhelming urge to protect him and feed him and keep him safe. But it felt like I had rescued a hurt little animal and my job was to keep it alive. But he didn’t feel like mine, I didn’t feel like I knew him or that he needed ME, in my uniqueness, he just needed the person that played his mom. It’s hard to explain that to people, especially moms that I know that felt instantly and sappily head over heels the minute they met their babies.

I waited for that. I wanted that. I didn’t get it. He was a strange little alien that just required my milk. It took me awhile to love him for himself and not just because he was my baby. And I don’t think I’m that abnormal. I don’t think I’m the only one that took awhile to get to know their baby, to get to the place I’m in now.

Because now, I can’t imagine what filled me up before I had him. Now I look at him and I know him, I recognize him, he is exactly who I thought my son would be. I can’t imagine having any other baby or little man in my life. He fills me up when I am empty, he is the thing that creates my energy and my courage and my purpose. Before I was doing it for me. Now I am doing it for him and it’s so much sweeter. I looked at him, sleeping in the monitor last night, and it felt like the love that I held for him inside swelled so much that I wasn’t sure that my body would contain it. It almost hurt, but it is an exquisite pain, a pain that I will gladly feel every day if in return I get the joy of watching him laugh and grow and become a little person.

Which brings me back to this woman. While part of me cannot fathom how she could leave a 5 month old baby, part of me wonders if she just didn’t feel that connection either, yet. If she felt that her baby didn’t need her but just needed love. And if she was so exhausted fighting this nameless darkness that she felt she didn’t have any love to give. And so she gave up.

The website dedicated to her contains the sermon given at her memorial service. It is one of the most honest, painful, and beautifully written sermons I have ever read. The pastor said something that resonates so clearly that even the imp has to stop tapping and sit in wonder.

Life is delicate.  The human heart and mind and body are fragile.  Like Jesus, (she) has proven to be an utterly precious being, but one terribly vulnerable to the power of darkness.  So too are we all.  We—you and I—escape one day into the next bourn along by the illusion of our intelligence and our forcefulness and our presence of mind, but we are vulnerable to our darkness…”

And that’s what it is, that’s what stuns us. Because when we hear of these things, when we hear of Andrea Yates drowning her children, or of other horrors, we think how terrible and how sad. But we also think that we, we would never do that, because we are too intelligent and strong and aware of such things. We use our intelligence and our reason like a shield, so sure that our brains could never turn against us.

And that is the fallacy. New motherhood is wondrous and amazing and life-changing and bigger than anything I’ve ever experienced. But it also can take over, take over your mind and your body and put you in a place you’ve never been. Since being a new mom, I’ve noticed most moms feel forced to put on this perfect face, to only allow to the world the amazing and beautiful part. They never admit to how hard it is, how numbing and overwhelming and identity-stealing it can be. So I make an effort, to always talk about the hard times as well as the good. Because we as women have to be able to get help if we need it. We have to be able to name the darkness if we are going to conquer it. This is real and we can’t afford to lose any more mothers. So please. Be honest with your experiences.

I was talking to one of my closest friends recently, who is pregnant with her second child. She was talking to me about some anxiety she was having, about losing her first child or something happening to her second. I am so grateful she feels okay to talk to me about this stuff, because it’s so normal. Being pregnant heightens everything. And what I think is this:

Once you are a mother, your capacity for love grows infinitely. Which means our capacity for loss is so much greater. We have gained the world in our children, but we stand to lose the world if we lose them. The thought of that is more than we can bear. It’s normal to fear losing that which is your world.

I have no answers. I have typed these words, but I feel I have no words, no real words for this. I can only pray that while our intelligence and our forcefulness are never shields against the darkness, that our love can be.

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Because You’re Mine, I Walk the (Crooked) Line

We’ve had a few firsts over here in Mommyland. O had his first haircut and we got him baptized. He is pretty much running everywhere and is much more aware of the world around him, the actions/reactions of people and things, what things are. I am starting to be careful of what I say. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t about to utter a curse word. But he’s now on the same level as my dog. In addition to not being able to say “walk” out loud, I now cannot say “milk”, “phone” or “I-Pad” out loud without O immediately screeching for those things.

Yes, I said I-Pad. He is obsessed. My one year old can not only unlock the thing, but he can find his apps, correctly “play” the games, and turn the pages. He also knows where we keep it and often toddles over to it and reaches his little hands up and screeches for it. His dad is excited and thinks this means he will be a gamer. I am a bit worried about what it means for a one year old to be so immersed in technology already. But I fear I’m fighting a losing battle. Though I admit that having one on a plane ride with a toddler is GENIUS. They should have I-Pad commercials showing all the little hellions on planes sweet and silent and captivated by their I-Pads.

I often hear other moms say that they miss having a baby and where did their baby go? I understand the sentiment- I’m amazed at how much O can do. But I don’t wish for his babyness back. Partly because I found it really difficult and partly because I am really enjoying this time with him. I tend to be impatient, but I find with O I am actually able to just enjoy the moments. I don’t wish for him to be a baby again, and I don’t wish for him to be bigger. I love watching him just where he is.

We decided to have O baptized out in California. There is a beautiful glass chapel in Palos Verdes called The Wayfarer’s Chapel. It is on a bluff overlooking the ocean and is a simple, but stunning building. It was built by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son and is a one-room structure. The walls are glass and the trees and foilage surround and are entwined, so that while inside the church, you feel almost as if you are outside. It is a very peaceful and wondrous place. We called and they happily agreed to baptize O (for a small donation). The Wayfarer’s is officially a Swedenborgian church. They don’t baptize into their religion, but into the Christian faith in general. This sounded good to me, so we signed up.

During the ceremony, the pastor said something that I think about all the time. He said that though O was obviously developing his own little personality (obviously because O performed and laughed and flirted with the audience during the entire ceremony), it still wasn’t clear WHO O would be. What his strengths will be, what he will be passionate about, what will come easy for him, what difficulties and hardships he will face, what his life will hold for him.

I watch this sweet little boy who looks at the world as an absolute treasure right now, every nook and cranny and book and doorknob is a marvel and something to twist and turn and explore and laugh at. There is nothing that mars his memory or existence yet. He has not learned he can’t do something yet, he doesn’t know that people can be cruel, that life can be boring, that his parents aren’t perfect, that not everything will always be such a marvel. Someday, and soon, that doorknob will just be a doorknob.

And to be honest, that boy-to-be scares me a little bit. Right now it’s so easy to be his mother, so easy to make his world happy and right, so easy to be the hero. Someday soon, it won’t be so easy to be a mother. I won’t always be able to make everything right. He will learn that life is not always fair. And he will learn that not even his mother can always be a hero and wish away his unhappiness.

There is a small church in downtown that I drive by every morning on my way to work. It has one of those signs with the black letters that can be changed.  For more than a year, everyday during my pregnancy, the letters said the same thing:

I will go before thee and make the crooked path straight.”- Isiah, 45:2.

Everyday I would drive to work, my decaf coffee in my hand, listening to NPR, and I would see those words and smile to myself, knowingly. It was as if the words were speaking to me directly. You are a mother now, they were saying. It is your job to protect and clear the way for your baby. And I felt like I understood the meaning of those words for the first time, actually felt the mother’s instinct to protect. And it felt good.

I watch O and I think about those words. They popped into my head when he began to crawl, and then walk. And I realized I was wrong. My job as his mother is not to make his crooked path straight. My job is to love him and give him the confidence and the skills to navigate that crooked path and navigate it well.

What makes a person strong, what makes a person interesting, is how they walk their crooked path. If his path is always straight and easy, what will he learn? If I do everything for him and clear his path of heartache and struggle, then how will he know what to do when he is inevitably facing those struggles alone?

This is the hard part of being a parent. Letting him fall. Letting him have his heart broken. Letting him learn about forgiveness and strength and doing the right thing. Our instincts are to protect our children from these things. But what kind of adults does that make them?

I think of my first broken heart. I think of mistakes I’ve made, big mistakes. I think of what I learned when I fell down, when I chose the wrong path, when I trusted the wrong person. I wouldn’t be who I am today without those experiences. I wouldn’t be a writer if I had never experienced heartbreak. I wouldn’t know the value of telling the truth if I hadn’t learned the hard way how terrible it is to lose someone’s trust. I wouldn’t have empathy for someone who feels left out if I had never felt left out.

Of course, my heart will break the first time my son comes home crying because someone called him a name, or didn’t invite him to a birthday party. And I will want to rip the hair out of some saucy girl that will decide that O isn’t good enough for her. But. I hope I remember that these things are there to teach him, to show him how to grow up, how to treat people, and how to one day be a man.

I hope I have the strength to let O fall, to let him have a heartbreak, to let him find his own crooked path. And all I can do is make sure that he knows that I’m there, right beside him, the whole way. So when he does fall, there will always be someone to pick him up, tell him he’s okay, and encourage him to keep going.

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