Being a parent and the peril of love storage.
There are big damp pools in my eyes right now about to spill over and I decided to write about it rather than do what I know needs to be done. I’ll do it later. After I’ve dealt with the emotions.
It all started with trying to take a photo on my iPhone and repeatedly getting the message that the storage was full. I upped my iCloud storage plan to a ridiculous amount and still no dice. Then I had a notice for an upgrade and no dice there either. The upgrade needed 4.4 GB of storage and I had less than two.
I had deleted most of my pictures. What the heck was going on? Something was clearly wrong with my phone. Maybe I dropped it one too many times and the little storage gremlin got dinged. But no, it was more serious than that.
The fact was – right there when I looked – messages: 6.9 GB of usage. For those who aren’t familiar with GB (gigabyte) vs MB (megabyte), one is big and one is little and that is as technical as I can get. Sooo… nearly half the storage of my miraculous (not damaged) little phone was that every message with anyone over the past several years is nestled neatly in that small rectangle with a worn and unglued red leather case. ‘Right’, said I. I’ll delete all the other messages so I can keep the important ones – those from my princes. I did and that freed up a whacking .2 GB. Still no upgrade and still no pictures.
Oh boy, the thing is that to hit ‘edit’ and ‘delete’ obliterates all the many and various love bytes between my most darling sons and me. There are pictures of new shoes, paisley socks, favourite guitar, haircuts, full moons, the red coat with fur collar, Thanksgiving with their surrogate mom, champagne toasts, the palm tree taken from the balcony their first ever night in LA.
There are songs they wrote and played for just me while they were in the working stage. There are covers of Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire” and Prince’s “Kiss”. There are emoticons of laughing so hard there are tears, crying so hard there are tears, hearts, big red lipstick kisses, and smiley faces of every nature – with hearts for eyes, blowing heart kisses, and the one with zzzz when our time zones sent one to bed while one got up.
Mundane, because it is in the little gestures a life is crafted.
There are texts as the excitement built till their trip here to Greece and ‘way back the perplexity of finding mice in their Toronto apartment, the ‘landed safely’ notes that allow me to sleep. There are questions about how to get stains out of a white linen jacket and how to get over a lost love when even though it’s for the best ‘heartache sucks’! Most precious of all are the notes of encouragement to get my book out there and suggestions on edits and design. And the cheering up when I was unsure or discouraged; the reminders of who I am and what I stand for.
It may be more poignant because today is my younger son’s birthday and he is in Hollywood and I am here in Greece. Yes, that piques it a bit. But it is more than that. It’s not about missing them. We will be together very soon for the holidays. No, it’s the humbling realization that the lives of two complete and utterly amazing young men are twined with mine in the most intimate, tender and mundane weave of love. Mundane, because it is in the little gestures a life is crafted.
I am a mother and for a while I thought I had to be a father too. But I didn’t. My sons had the best dad on the planet and he gave them all they needed to be tall and strong and majestic – and I mean that physically, emotionally and spiritually. He must have been complete because he died. My job was to hold the space for the integration that would rise up through challenges and triumphs and creative fulfillment and make them the men their dad would be so incredibly proud of.
I read once that a parent’s role is to nurture and protect and that role should never be confused with a mentor’s role, which is hard and demanding and objective. I agree with that. Being a parent means creating a sanctuary where all is well and that is a space in the heart. I think this is one of the reasons I have such an extraordinary relationship with my sons and they with each other. And how they have been able to embrace the next love in my life with such open heartedness. It was never my job to tell them life was hard or unfair. Life would show them what it might be and they would decide for themselves if it were hard or unfair or if it is rich with potential and opportunity. Character grows from taking life on as it presents itself and in the moment. Competence is gained in doing and confidence grows out of competence.
I learned that day to zip it.
When Nick was small he got a magic kit for his birthday, which was on a Friday. Fascinated all weekend, he announced Sunday evening that he thought he would give a magic show at school the next day. All my insecurity bubbled over in my gentle suggestion that maybe he practice a bit more before he got in front of people. “It’s okay mom”, went the beginning of my lesson, “I’m only learning, no one expects me to be perfect”. I learned that day to zip it. And Criss, when just two, struggled a full half-hour working his little fingers around the button on his jeans. No offer to help was accepted and his tenaciousness could not be derailed by the admonition we had to go. So I waiting ‘patiently’ and was richly rewarded by the beaming triumph when the button was finally fastened. It was a small thing.
For any artist, like Nick, being willing to take a risk and put yourself out there is the prerequisite to success and personal fulfillment and applies to the art of life itself. For Criss, the determination is the bedrock of his outstanding accomplishment as a completely self-taught musician. Sometimes (probably all of the time) the characteristics that make parenting a challenge, if one is vying for conformity, are the behaviours necessary for that child to thrive as an adult in the field that they are meant for.
I saw a dad once with his young son who he was trying to coax back into the stroller so he could ‘get going’. The child insisted that he wanted to walk alongside the stroller holding onto the handle to steady his little legs. At length the dad won out and the child was buckled in and noisily resolved to his fate. I often think about that little guy when he is a teen and a young man and a father himself. On another occasion, a young mother I know was consoling her crying two-year-old with a compassionate look and the words that yes, for sure it was a tough world and he better get used to it. I wondered why anyone would say that to a child, for indeed that is what he will find when that is what he has been taught to expect.
How many times have I sat out of the light?
If I had overruled to enforce ‘a better way’, I wonder what the outcome might have been? How many people sit on the bleachers never daring to be themselves? How many times have I sat out of the light? Part of me is hesitating right now as I prepare to launch my book. These days I’m learning from my sons. That is the privilege of being a parent. The extraordinary gift is finding out your strengths as you lead a child to discover who they really are and then let them go to be all they might be – and trust them even though you won’t be there for the end. As in the words of Gibran in “The Prophet”,
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.*
As to my dilemma, deleting the gigabytes of love notes? I’m not doing it. Not today anyway.
* For the full text On Children go here!