I first mentioned the concept of Livity here, when I shared my friend Marlene’s story about running her first marathon at 58. And recently, something happened that caused me to reflect on Livity once again. A few mornings ago, I sat in my living room sipping a cup of coffee. It was a cool, quiet, beautiful morning in my neck of the woods in Jamaica. Then I heard chirping, a little louder than usual. I live in the hills and we have lots of birds in the bushes and forest around us, so bird sounds are a constant part of the soundtrack around us. But this was distinct and louder than normal, and sure enough, a little birdie had flown inside and appeared not to know how to get back outside.Continue reading Life Lessons from Birdie: Another study in Livity.
A very happy Mother’s Day for all the mothers out there struggling today. Yay me. On Mother’s Day we celebrate an image of That Mother who selflessly gives of herself, the nurturer, the provider, the all wise, all knowing sage who instinctively knows and gives exactly what is needed to fruit of her loins.
She became a mother in pain, as she carried another life inside her for 9 months, painfully ejecting that independent life into the world. Her needs automatically became secondary to this new tiny dependent.
Remember the stages? Helpless infant leaving you to guess what was wrong. Cute toddler who amazed you every day with each new discovery. Amazing toddler who shocked you with every display of an independent personality in the form of tantrums and preferences. Interesting child learning basic skills like the 3 Rs and coexisting with other human beings. That teenager who makes you proud and exasperates you in the same instant.
I’ve watched enough movies and read enough books to know why some mothers struggle: children with mental illnesses, children who are ill, mothers themselves who battle substance abuse, who struggle with their own parenting skills because of what they lived as children growing up in a dysfunctional family context.
This is what I want for my children, and suppose most if not all mothers want, in spite of any personal failings: happiness, independence, self-confidence and a sense of fulfillment in life. If I’m to be perfectly honest, I don’t want my children to make mistakes, especially the mistakes I made. I quake at the thought of pain and wasted time that they will experience with a misstep.
LESSONS I AM LEARNING, ISSUES I AM CONTEMPLATING ALONG THE WAY
Mistakes are a part of life. How arrogant of me to accept my own mistakes and the role they have played in my own development as a person and then rail and rage and despair when I see my own child heading in the direction of a possible Mistake.
Why does the specter of a Mistake frighten me so much?
What is important to me may not be equally as important to my child. And that’s ok, because we are not the same person.
We are not the same person. We are not the same person.
Why do I tolerate people in my professional and social spheres that are different from me, and then do everything possible to get my child to see the world through my own filters?
My child is not that other child. And my child is my child for a reason. I was gifted with this child for a specific reason.
The greatest gift I can give my child is the same gift I must give myself: love, acceptance, and an opportunity to learn and move on.
The things that I am intolerant of, that I react harshly and violently to, that I sit in judgement of are often things that I see in my own self that I wish were not so.
MY CHILD, MYSELF.
This really is harder than I thought, and as I try my best to navigate, to do the right thing by my children, I am forced to face uncomfortable truths about me. I have had to confront my own personal failings and own them. I have had to confront and deal with the things about myself that I loathe, that I wish weren’t so, that I see reflected in my offspring. I’ve had to draw on wells of patience and love that I didn’t know existed, and give some of that to myself as well.
I see my child trying to cope with life by avoidance. I see it in myself as well. I see my child afraid to make a mistake. I see that in myself as well.
And I also see myself eventually pushing past the fear of failure and I hope my child sees that as well.
I see myself making the effort to be brutally honest with myself, if with no one else, and I hope my child sees this as well.
I see myself trying new things, taking up challenges (eventually, in some instances, after prolonged procrastination) and I hope my child sees this as well.
I see myself learning to forgive me, blunder after blunder, pressing through despite guilt and self recrimination, and I hope my child sees this as well.
And I see sharp wit, humour, keen intelligence, political awareness, empathy, the soul of an artist, eloquence, a gift for self expression, determination, several degrees higher than I see in myself and I shake my head in amazement and awe and respect, and I secretly high-five myself with glee and say to myself: my child will be ok. Please God, make them be ok.
WHAT IS FOR SURE
I love my children. I hope I have been able to convince them of that. I hope they conclude, if not today, then hopefully someday, the same thing I concluded about my own mother: her actions were not always perfect, but her intentions towards us always were. I have no doubt, that my mother’s love is real and fierce. This I know. And at 47 years old, I am grateful for her love. It has supported me, saved me, kept me going.