November 17, 2002

warped parenting

Elaine makes an interesting comment to my post below about Jenna landing on her head on our concrete garage floor. Elaine admits that parenting never ends, nor does the fear and hurt we feel over the welfare of our children--even once they're grown. While I've always "understood" this in my head, it's a weighty thing to understand it in your heart. It's something I grapple with--really.

I was talking on the phone to my friend the other day, who is also a mother of a young child, telling her I think that I often consciously avoid engaging in the moment with my daughter. I've recognized this in myself and have begun to think about why that is. She's my life, my world, yet I (more than I would like) try to avoid being completely present when I'm with her her. I think I do this to avoid completely engulfing her.

It is difficult for me to give completely to someone whose absoulte vulnerability and purity undoes me.

I told my friend, I think that if I engaged with her all the time--if I felt the presence in the moment that I only sometimes feel--I would never let her out the front door again. I can't reconcile it. I can't reconcile letting her out into the world, which I've had to do now that she's in Pre-K, with keeping her safe in my womb, metaphorically. I can't quite get to the grey area. I'm having trouble living in the space of improvisation, of life and love. The space that lets you love without the anticipation of, the fear of, disaster. The space where you can love in spite of the possibility of danger, of death.

The surprise of my father's death for me at 6 broke my innocence in that regard, set the tone for a life that anticipates shock in order to defend against it. One therapist called this catastrophising. I thought that word fit pretty well. And while I don't actively catastrophize as much as I used to, there's still a little lock in my heart that I wish I could spring for good, that when it does unlock is like no other feeling I have, like nothing I understand. And I wish I could remove that lock and accept (even enjoy) being present in the moment more often.

Well, I'm working on it anyway.

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