Posted in College, Insight, Teens, What's Next? (18 & beyond), Wisdom of Youth

Parenting bites…

With the nest almost empty now, my parenting insights come in shorter bits which I suppose is just about right as I turn more & more toward other things…

And yet, I’m learning that this role is the role of a lifetime…

~

Payback Theater

That rare night when he goes to bed before us. A dramatized rendition of what we endure night after night. Door latches. Stairs. Lights. A sudden desire to share scientific discoveries, insights, intimacies.

~

IN A FAMILY WAY

It’s such a comfort, this being a family. A buffer. An ease. A certainty. Sweet. Exhausting. Consuming. Distracting.

The silence, after, is deafening. Resurrecting. The original. Sin. Of separation. Abandonment. Mortality.

There is this larger family. This shared dwelling. This belonging.

There is this whole.

Past. Present. Future.

One.

~

OUR TURN

My state is proposing a 24-hour waiting period to buy a handgun.

Here’s an idea. Until this country figures out its shit when it comes to guns, men are unable to purchase them, and women are in charge of any firearms in the home. Furthermore, public funds are provided to women for firearm training and to provide the necessary equipment for safekeeping. Additionally, all new hires in positions that require firearms will be women until such time that a 50/50 gender balance is achieved in police departments, security teams, military personnel, etc. Public funding will also post armed women at every school, church, and each of the other venues that the men of our country frequent to kill people begrudgingly and at random.

You’ve had our vote, our money, our bodies. We’ll have your guns.

~

FROM THE MOUTH OF BABES

”It’s like the release of a new iPhone. Is it going to be good, and are we gonna like it, or is it just gonna be the same thing without a headphone jack?”

Our youngest, on the Mueller Report

~

APOCALYPSE

You know how if your kids are plugged in–at home or in the car–you gain some well-deserved solace, but it’s bittersweet because they’re checked out, like that rambunctious kid in your classroom on Ritalin, or the outlying boroughs of NYC, silenced by the seduction of indoor screens, or the neighborhood of my childhood on the base at West Point, the roads in front of the homes now three times as full with oversized SUVs obscurring the view of the Hudson, while the sidewalks and the playgrounds and the woods, once sprinkled with kids, are barren, even on a perfect July day, like the ghost town we visited when we lived in the Rockies, or the Apocalypse we inhabit now–quieted, distracted, consumed.

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Posted in (Actual) Empty Nest, Adult Offspring, College, Fragile Life, Holidays, Home again, Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Cutting Teeth

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Kelly Salasin, May 2018

I suppose every mother has her sweet spot.

There are those who get pregnant in an instant,

and those who feel better than ever when expecting,

and those who deliver with ease.

There are those for whom wearing a baby night and day is just right,

and those who delight in the ever-shifting expressions of a toddler,

and those who are made whole by the emerging consciousness of the preschooler.

There are those who can manage the ins and outs of homework and lessons and birthday parties and playdates,

and those who know whether to lean in or pull back as hormones shift and stakes heighten,

and those who can pivot from manager to consultant providing just enough space and just enough support for young adults to emerge.

There are even those who go on to develop healthy, reciprocal friendships with grown offspring.

~

From Thanksgiving to the New Year, this Empty Nest of mine has been awakened in new and mysterious ways leaving me unable to place my own sweet spot (though I was once particularly fond of the preschool mind.)

And then they all departed, again–my oldest and his partner (until the next holiday perhaps), and my youngest on the 1:00 train for a few days in the city ahead of returning to school full time.

I wandered the empty house, and then lay down on the couch, absorbing the silence, until I found myself, like a teething baby, drooling.

I often wonder if I made the “right” choice. Perhaps if I had remained in a demanding career or at least made more money (both of these fit together nicely), I would be riddled with less self-doubt or at least less space to consider it.

While they were home, I left them all, in an ice storm no less, to meet up with a young friend who since we last met became a mother, and I found her in a kitchen soothing an 8-month-old baby girl who was cutting her first teeth.

“Teething,” I said, “That was my hardest time.”

I watched as my friend juggled cooking and setting the table and conversation while tending to her child—diapers, feeding, play, comfort—revealing a depth of connection between these two beings, as if it was always so.

It’s the absence of control, matched with the emotional impact, coupled with the unpredictability and absurd variability, that slays me, particularly now, when I have such little reference for my role and so little clarity of how to do and not overdo.

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?

As the sun sets on another day, on another month-long school vacation, and on the first half of my 50’s, I have forgotten who I am.

Sunrise, sunset, Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears.

One night, after everyone went up to bed, I took to the stairs, tucking my head under the railing while playing the soundtrack from Fiddler on the Roof to an empty room.

What words of wisdom can I give them?
How can I help to ease their way?

I looked out across the kitchen table to the French doors and recognized that new paths were emerging while the sweetness and burden of the path once shared necessarily fades…

Now they must learn from one another
Day by day.

Posted in (Actual) Empty Nest, Adult Offspring, College, Holidays, Home again, Mother to Crone, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Home from School

The children, once grown, move in and out of the home like water.

Trickles, flash floods, sun showers, but rarely if ever the familiar steady flow, though evidence of it is everywhere, like seahorses found in the desert.

It all happened so fast.

Not the day-to-day, which seemed without beginning or end, but the vanishing which screams in silence from room to room…

Two placemats on the kitchen table.
The empty bedrooms (though we do our best to avoid them.)
The basement, from which I’ve just returned, with a hand on my heart and another on my belly, as if I’m about to be sick.

Like a morgue, the basement houses the remains of a life once embodied, together.

What to make of the favorite toys? The collections? The artwork? The photos?

I’m a Keeper, the consequence of a fractured childhood.

But now, the keeping weighs me down, leaves me sad, makes me wonder what I am to do with it all (and myself.)

To whom does it belong?
To whom do I?

My mother departed before her nest emptied, so it’s my husband’s mother whose gradual paring of the home I watched over time. I hadn’t known I’d been watching. Absorbing. Digesting. Over three decades. (Three decades!)

I had such hopes for thinning this autumn. But the weather, it kept changing. Inside and around me. The visits fast and furious and sometimes choppy and extended.

“Be like water,” wrote Minister Kendra Ford.

Run deep run clear
fill any space to its
own dimensions
respond to the moon, to gravity
change colors with the light
hold your temperature longer
than the surrounding air
take the coast by storm
go under ground
bend light
be the one thing people need, even when they’re fasting
eat boulders, quietly
be a universal solvent.

Am I water too?

I’m not sure which direction I’m flowing.

Should I swim or float or dive deep like I did each time I welcomed a new baby into my body and onto my breast and into our lives. “I feel like I’m living underwater,” I used to say to friends.

Perhaps I am a beached whale or a fossil of a whale like those discovered in the Green Mountains near Lake Champlain.

In part, it’s the way the leaving instantly aged me, signaled the impending Swan Song. Maybe that’s the secret of large families–perpetually immersed in the sea of new life–wave after wave–grandchildren arriving before the departure of the youngest.

And what of those without children? Do they experience a more seamless, fluid aging?

Must we stay young?

How do we know when. To hold on. To let go.

Posted in College, Holidays, Insight, Nuts & Bolts, Teens, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Puzzles & Families, A-Z

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A 1000 piece puzzle may be the most revealing of family activities, exposing individual traits that shape the function (& dysfunction) of the dynamic of shared lives…

a. A few years back I bought a Will Moses “Thanksgiving Snows” puzzle as a charming kick off to the thanksgiving break

b. (even though we have never finished a puzzle in a decade)

c. my youngest and i started the puzzle; while my husband repeatedly asked if we were ready to pack it up.

d. i finally gave in (gave up) and sorted the edges and the finished bits into ziplocks to give us a better start in the following year

e. a year later i put the puzzle out again

f. my husband taped cardboard together so that the puzzle could be easily relocated

g. our oldest, home from college, never approached the puzzle. (in 2015 or 2016)

h. our youngest and i began the outer edges

i. he complained that no one was returning to the puzzle

j. he then devised a flow chart to assemble the ample sky pieces which he sorted–by cut

k. i showed our oldest his brother’s flow chart of sky pieces as a point of amusement; he was only slightly interested. maybe.

l. i ignored the flow chart and sky pieces and began with the recognizable barns, houses & people

m. i insisted that my husband join me

n. he claimed that he was too overwhelmed to participate so I suggested he begin with the large yellow house, and I set him up with a pile of yellow pieces

o. He insisted he needed all the pieces to the yellow house in order to continue and proceeded to handle every piece in the box in search of more yellow house pieces.

p. From time to time I looked over at his work, and annoyed, ran my hand randomly through the box, and found more yellow house pieces instantaneously than he did with his methodical sorting

q. looking up, he accused me of “taking all the glory,” because I put together the pieces of a man he had apparently found. (He told me to stick to the barn i was building.)

r. i told him that i didn’t realize that the man was his and also that i was working on three barns, two wagons, a few turkeys, a bunch of people, and other unidentifiable items

s. he continued sorting pieces one by one, while i suggested he return to the house with what he already had;

t. i left the puzzle. puzzles are fun for me for a moment, and then maddening.

u. an hour later, i insisted my husband step away from the puzzle

v. we are both afraid of what our youngest will say when he comes down and finds his system ignored

xyz… (to be continued)

post script: in 2017 we finished the puzzle! (in 2018, my husband claimed that he couldn’t find the puzzle in the attic.)

Posted in (Actual) Empty Nest, College, Home again, Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Mother to Crone, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Blink!

Though it doesn’t make it hurt any less to look into their dark and vacant rooms, It turns out that they leave home at just the right time.

You’re getting older.
Noises bother you.
Lights. Chaos. Commotion.

You realize you’ve run a marathon and you’re not sure how you did it.

You’re more and more attracted to simplicity, ease, slow.

Exhale.
Inhale.
Exhale.

They’re home!

Posted in College, Insight, Round Two, Takes a Village, Teens, What's Next? (18 & beyond), Wisdom of Youth

Children as teachers


Turns out that we no longer have paints at home, yet another casualty of grown children. And so I’ve made my very first rally signs with marker and crayon. Seems like I’ve been to lots of rallies in the past few years after barely any before and I’ve always been too shy to bring my own sign.

While I’m not on the frontline when it comes to the plight of LGBTQ folks, I do know what it is to be marginalized, dehumanized and physically threatened so I’m showing up to listen and learn in the hope that others feel less alone.

~

It was 2013 when I noticed a non-gendered bathroom at my first born’s college. I ducked into it because I was intrigued and because it was closer than the women’s bathroom and mostly because it was private and I’m an introvert and bathrooms are sometimes the quickest place to regroup.

At some point, around the age of 50, or was it 40, the world started moving too fast, and I couldn’t keep up, and didn’t want to try. (My youngest talks a lot about Mars.)

When it comes to human rights, however, I have to try. My best. I know what it is to be invisible. To be marginalized. To be targeted. To be excluded.

Today I looked up the term: Gender Queer.

My youngest has long accused me of binary thinking when it comes to my use of feminine and masculine to describe what I insist are non-gendered qualities. I remind him that he’s ahead of me and that I’m still learning.

This summer when asked by older friend what I thought of parents allowing their children to be trans (she was furious), I answered that I was doing a lot of listening these days, instead of judging.

On the contrary, I do my best to ignore #45’s antics when I can. This is a survival strategy that I developed as a young woman when faced with the outrageous behavior of men addicted to substances, rage, power and privilege.

But sometimes attention is due, particularly when what He says further marginalizes those who are vulnerable, even if he’s saying it to galvanize fear in order to bend the arc of history further away from justice.

So to those who are marginalized by gender expression or identification, I may not understand everything and I may say some things wrong, but I’m with you. I want to be with you. I’m willing to be with you.

Keep speaking.

I’ll keep listening.

You matter. Just as you are.

#Transrightsarehumanrights #VOTE

 

Posted in (Actual) Empty Nest, College, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Half-Life

After 6 weeks apart, a week-long school break has served as the turning point for this half-life we’ve been living since we deposited our youngest (and his most cherished belongings) into a dormitory room on a campus 100 miles away.

Before this half-life becomes any more normalized, I want to attempt to capture what it is to be without children in the home after revolving around their presence for a quarter of a century.

I did not fill the vacancy so that I might truly know the absence and grieve it, and as such, create space for something new to grow.

I did, however, just ahead of his departure and in the weeks in between his visits home (weekend whirlwinds) rearrange some things, including the bathroom, the livingroom, the kitchen, and the mudroom.

It’s only now that I notice that I’ve turned the linen stand and the bookshelf and the kitchen island on the diagonal. (I suppose I would have turned everything upside down if I could.)

In the absence of a primal scream in the middle of a college campus, it helps to have one’s private world reflect how life’s tilt.

The simplicity. The silence. The ease. The futility. The vacancy. The despair

Who am I now?
Where is my grand retirement party?
Is my best work behind me?

And have I become irrelevant to it, like the founder of a fabulous company who is suddenly dismissed by the very board that she created to help it grow?

(Where is my severance package!!)

I know this half-life has reached a turning point because when he was home for the long stay, I felt myself e-x-h-ale as if I’d been holding my breath underwater for weeks.

There was some talk of my oldest returning home in the New Year, but those plans have since altered, as I, through the trial and error of attachment (favorably or unfavorably), continue to learn that the pronouncements of young adults
are always in flux, like the pronouncement my youngest made on his first weekend home:

“I don’t think of our house as home anymore. I feel sad here actually. I miss my dorm room and my friends. That’s my home now.”

Separation is hard work. For each one of us. Made more challenging by strong, healthy relationships. (If only we were happy to be rid of each other!)

None of this comes as a surprise. I’ve been preparing for it since I held my first born son at my breast, and realized in the depth of unfathomable love, with chilling sleepless clarity:

Heartbreak is my destiny.

No wonder men like Trump say they won’t have anything to do with their children. Loving is a fiercely courageous act.

It is only now that I realize how the radical separation between mother and child is also in store for my husband and me.

If not divorce, then death.

No wonder Trump cheats and trades in his wives so that in their youthful reflection he can hide from his own demise.

For the first time in 30+ years, my husband and I began sleeping apart. (There are so many beds!)

Recently, however, we’ve come together again which was the most notable sign that something had shifted in our half-life.

But first, our unusual separation was punctuated by the night that I brought my old blankies and ragged puppy to bed after a banishment that took place out of necessity when I placed a baby beside me in bed.

It appears that before I turn toward my husband again, I am turning toward myself.

Just yesterday in the midst of one mistake after another, I overheard myself say, “You’re so adorable, Kelly. I love you.”

And although Casey was the more reluctant one to sleep apart (to do anything apart really), to my dismay (and deep appreciation), he found in the space between us greater self-love, taking time to tend to his needs in ways he never much heeded before.

As we turn the corner on this half-life, I find myself thinking back to the great disruption that parenting first presented, of how quickly it swept away the sweet sense of ourselves as two, so that when our second child was born, there was the bittersweetness of nothing to lose.

I’ve been catching glimpses of that two-ness lately, we both have, and it’s a quickening that is hard to bear now that the end of life is coming into focus.

And yet, aren’t both our names Celtic for “Warrior,” and haven’t we been courageous in loving, each in our own way, for 30+ years.

There are times when I suspect that we will age to the end, and there are times when I feel the pull of an earlier desire–to be without the weight of home and belongings.

I think that Moms should go too. At least for a time. To rediscover who we were before we gave our lives to others.

“I can’t live in a museum of our family!” I’ve said again and again, to each of them, but if I’m honest, I am speaking to myself.

What I do appreciate in remaining present to this vacancy, is the slowing down, which brings to mind what the poet May Sarton said:

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is… an instrument of grace.”

And wasn’t it my child, who brought me to my knees, to see what he was seeing, and aren’t I forever the better for it.