Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Having reservations

summer girl

Dear Ittybit,

The summer is scooting by.

I hadn’t been paying attention as most mornings have been encased in a cold crust and me in the desire to stay under the winter covers. The down comforter on my bed has been employed for a fourth season instead of stowed, and there are days I think I could employ another part time.

You never seem to notice the weather. You seem impervious to its grasp. Only when the possibility of cooling ice cream or warming cocoa are in the offering do you pay it any mind.

But the heat arrived, finally, and with it the breathless realization of humidity and humility: School will start for you and with it comes a whole new life for all of us.

Not that we ever took off mid-week to go berry picking or to climb a hill and peer off into the distance from its apex, but now the potential to just get away is monitored by many someones else … principals and teachers and so forth. The eyes of the state are upon us now that you shall have to attend and be counted.

I'm not worried. Not really.

I know you will be brilliant. I know you will rise to any height should you want to reach it.

As any mother does, I worry that others won’t understand you or that they’ll hurt your feelings. I worry that you will lose the confidence and the fearlessness you’ve shown to my ever growing amazement.

As most mothers do, I look for comparisons. I measure my untrained observation of you against my untrained observation in others.

I look around at other girls your age and, still, you stand out to me. Your wit; your observations; your calm, measured approach to investigating new things strikes me as unique though I know all mothers must see this in their children. All mothers marvel. It’s what we do.

We also doubt and get defensive. We project our tepid experiences and lie in wait for their return. I am awake late at night wondering about all the things I will not be able to control; all the things I should not try to control.

I tell myself that my job is not to fix things for you, but to show you how to fix them for yourself. And to teaching how to accept and move on when what is broken seems beyond repair.

I was reminded of all of this as I tried to keep your brother from raiding the cake plates at a birthday party while you girls sat in a circle playing “pass the pressie.”

The object of the game was to pass a present among you until the music stopped. The girl holding the package would carefully unwrap it revealing another later of pretty paper. Three times the music played and stopped as the giggling became quiet and nervous. One girl was saying how she never won anything. Another agreed.

I found myself looking in any direction but where the laughter was keeping time with the tune. I just couldn’t watch.

I didn’t want you to lose. But I didn’t want you to win, either.

That is my dilemma.

What to do?

While in Maine, I had an opportunity to take a surfing lesson for mothers and instead of happily rushing into the water I stood back, angry and indignant. The only reason I felt compelled to do this, I raged, was to prove myself to you, who would be standing in the sand, cheering me on.

It wasn’t proving anything to me.

I have no interest in surfing. I have less interest in balancing on a wave or wearing the seal-like suit that would keep my somewhat warm in the chill of an Atlantic morning. But I said I would go through gritted teeth. I’d committed to looking like a fool and envisioned myself chasing a board through the waves.

As I stood by the surfshop counter, looking in any direction but the clerk's, I almost didn’t hear her ask for the reservation I didn’t have.

Face saved by the reservations I didn’t have, but ego bruised by the reservations I did have.

What to do?

I want to calm the waves of this growing storm; to remind you that life does seem unfair at times; that you will feel the sharp words of others digging into the soft flesh of your innocent chatter. But you will undoubtedly gouge your indignation into some poor soul’s inner core, and you will be the guilty party.

But what is life but a series of highs and lows? An exploration into the unknown.

And then I realize that my job isn’t really to calm the waves, it’s to help you learn to ride them.

Love and reservations,



Meagan Francis said...

This is just, just beautiful.

And your daughter has THE most spectacularly gorgeous sprinkling of freckles just under her eyes. If I were you I wouldn't be able to stop photographing them.

Kcoz said...

that was touching.