The thing where your kid is just like you and you know first hand exactly what they are going through while not really knowing anything about them is a real thing. I always suspected that this might be the case. Back when I was a teenager my parents, the original ones, mom and dad, would look at me with this specific look sometimes, and that look is what led me to consider that it might be so. It turns out that I was exactly like my mom and dad, that they most likely had intimate knowledge of what it felt like to feel the feelings I felt, but in other ways knew nothing about me at all.
When my son was born, he was me. He was himself, but in as much as his needs became my needs, his wants became my wants, he was me. We had a super closeness because in the infancy days of the parent child relationship, there is no outside world, no outside expectations that the child can see, and no reality other than keeping your very own perfectly imperfect little being alive, and safe, and smiling, and fed, and warm, and snuggled, and giggled, and clean.
I didn’t expect that to change quite so fast. Yet here he is, my child who is not so much me anymore, who feels the outside expectations, who is starting to think that perhaps I don’t understand them. Here is my child who is concerned about what my reaction will be when he fails to meet these external expectations, and no matter how much I tell him that, quite honestly, and in the language of childness, I couldn’t give one single fuck about these external expectations, and that while I understand and appreciate his impulse toward achieving the goals presented, that achievement has nothing to do with the loving, thoughtful, intelligent, brave, person that he is, he nonetheless feels the burden of them.
Ah the burden of expectations, how clearly I can relate. I felt very strongly the weight of my parents’ expectations, and feared that I would falter, then feared how their opinion of me would change once they realized how badly I had let them down. That’s what I felt. That’s what I often still feel, even though I am an adult and I don’t really think they think anything negative about me at all. I’m pretty sure they even like me. I was talking to my dad last night, who pops into town occasionally, and he was telling me how it’s hard to convince himself that another person could love him. He feels this knowing in as much as a person can know that his wife, his children, his family, all love him. But I recognize this feeling. I don’t want my son to recognize this feeling. But if he has anything in common with his father or I, he will come to know it, and I won’t be able to stop it. Perhaps I will be able to temper it, much like my parents have tempered it for me my whole life.
The other night I was singing to C after we’d read some bedtime stories. Lots of times I make up story songs with their own little chorus in a soft voice and sing them until he falls asleep. Moonbeam Racer was a big hit for a while, but I can only remember the chorus now, so we’ve dispensed. This night I sang in a far away voice about a boy who lived in a small village on the edge of the ocean who decides he wants to travel the world. By the time I hit the second chorus I became aware that C was crying. “What happened?” I asked. “This song is too sad, sing a different one.” I hadn’t meant to come up with the saddest song, but I had, and he felt the sadness of it so strongly. I did too, really. I don’t know why I did that to us. Maybe it’s the start of a new school year, a new school, kindergarten, my general tendency toward the sad beauty things instead of the bouncy happy-ish things.
This morning we looked at the vase of cut flowers he and Dave picked up for my birthday.
“That one’s dying Mommy.” He was concerned.
“That’s the exquisite beauty of cut flowers,” I said. “Their beauty is fleeting.”
“What does fleeting mean?”
“It means that it lasts for only a little bit and then it’s gone. These flowers will die, but we got to enjoy how beautiful they are for just a little bit.”
“But they’re going to die.”
“That’s part of it, we know we have to enjoy them as much as we can before they’re gone.”
None of which is what I meant to talk about at breakfast. The pleasure of the sublime. The fantasy of that which is temporary. Exclusion from pure joy. A small tint of sadness to the beauty of life experience. The overripe fruit so sweet before it decays. The feeling that the most essential thing of being a human being is to experience the lifeness, the thing of life itself. What is it to feel things? What is it to attempt to bring love to each moment? To understand the whatness of pain without succumbing to the emotion of it? To glide along the surface of feeling, like running fingers along the surface of the water, fully aware of its depth, but choosing if, and when, you want to dive in?
So that’s what it feels like to feel like this. How to be an integral part of one’s own life in each moment of living it. I don’t know. I’m passing it on. I don’t know if it’s the right thing. But it’s what I’ve got.