One day, while sitting in a greasy spoon somewhere, I was treated to this shouted explanation of a child’s presence. The child in question sat between two huge-bosomed women in tight T-shirts. Their greasy dirty-blonde hair matched their greasy skin. The child, a smallish, grey-coloured girl, looked unsurprised by this comment. It took me a while to work it out in my head, and ever since then, when I introduce my children, I have to restrain myself from saying, “well, I birthed ’em”…
There’s more truth in what the women said than it initially appears, for all of we mothers. We give birth to these marvellous creatures and we help them through their first steps and before the blink of an eye, they are out in the wide world, and from then on, we share them with other mothers and fathers. These friends and stand-in mothers and teachers and bosses and others all take a part in raising these things we’ve birthed, for good or ill. Luckily, it’s often for good. Mothers like me, who are quickly tired, enjoy sharing their kids with others to help parent. Not that I had much chance to do that, mind you – my kids’ dad was away a lot, and the kids viewed most babysitters as the enemy and a puzzle to be solved – as in “how can we ensure they NEVER want to babysit us again?” I foolishly let them read Calvin and Hobbes, and they used this information to tie up one babysitter because she smoked. SHE didn’t come back. So I didn’t get to share them much.
The influence of others grows as the children grow and as we gently let the tethers out. I used to visualize a virtual umbilical cord between me and my kids – I could sense how they were through vibrations in that virtual cord. I even had the dog on it. The cord is too stretched now for easy contact – they’ve broken off entirely, and instead I am treated to the occasional invitation into their lives and, rarely, the real treat of them asking my opinion. I like this phase. They are grown up, independent, and I like the relationship we have with each other, for the most part. It only gets irritating when they advise me. I haven’t quite become senile yet, and think that maybe I can still manage my life. No doubt they think they can manage theirs. So we’ve made a pact not to tell each other what to do. Mostly, we abide by it.
They are still a big part of my brain and heart, though. I think of them daily, I send them my love, I hope their new families of friends and advisors are good to them.
Twenty five years ago today, on another Friday the 13th, I started this parental journey with my dear daughter Chris. She’s off tree-planting or something wild today, but she’s also here, in my heart. I’m sending her my love, eternal and unchanging, though she probably won’t accept it. But maybe if I send a happy birthday hum down that so-stretched virtual chord, she’ll know I wish her well. Happy Birthday, dearest daughter. Love you.