Durable Ribbons

Every once in a while I hesitate about a post. I learned a long time ago that some things, even though they are a part of my life, are not mine to tell. Still,  I’m pretty honest here, though there is an increasing awareness of how proprietary some of this is getting as the girls get bigger. Sometimes I write posts and delete them or just save them in draft form, catharsis without life on the internet. Other times I feel like I need to hit publish and put it out there.

Discovering that you can’t teach something hurts. All the wonderful intentions I had to mold certain characteristics in our girls have slipped through my fingers like so much sand. Suddenly the time between now and goodbye seems impossibly short. There are things, lessons, I need to leave them having learned.

Yesterday there was a verbal scuffle after we tucked them in for a nap, angry whispers, then tears. They’re learning so much from us and seeing the reflection of our own actions and words in how they cope with one another is as humbling as it is gratifying. This time it was a threat of leaving the family, nothing we’ve said, but something that has been interpreted in the bends and kinks of their own family tree and in the stories in movies—orphans, step-parents, heaven. The inevitability of some fractures takes my breath, the looming idea of someone they really love dying. Hearing them threaten to leave the family hurts more.

How do I ever convey to them the incomparable worth of family? I know it doesn’t keep in the literal sense for everyone, families can crumble, dearness can be recreated through friendship, rather than blood. I had just hoped that in the tumultuousness of the school years they could be each other’s haven, that they could live without the urge to buck. Coming to grips with the reality that I cannot teach it, or perhaps more accurately, that they will not learn it from me, leaves me hollow. I am trying to understand how to tread in this place that terrifies me, can I mitigate the hurt or do I mess things up more by standing my ground?

I kept my distance on this one saying only, “No one is leaving this family. If you don’t want to talk or play, that’s fine. Leave the room, but don’t ever say you are leaving the family.” They looked back at me, three sets of blue eyes, they were sobered, but not blank. My hands trembled as I realized that already my message is weakening. They are weighing and processing on their own. Sure, I can still parent, still enforce rules and issue punishments or rewards as is suitable, but the working through in their own way has begun. I have to trust.

Trusting feels a little like abdicating, this stepping back seems less like a decision than it does a cop out. I want to warn them how lonely it can be, how cruel things are going to get at school, but they aren’t living my life and I cannot live theirs. My ears strained to listen to their murmurs as I walked downstairs. Were they going to punish each other for my mild intervention or would they align in an us against them mentality? Their voices were to soft, too deliberate for me to hear.

I walked downstairs and waited. Poised to leap to their cries, it would seem that for now that is all I can do.

I'm not kidding when I ask you to tell me what you think.

  1. This is the part where it gets really hard. On some paths, we take the lead. On others, we stay behind and watch them run ahead …

  2. Good for you though. Honestly. We have been in similar predicaments but our family is, complicated, as all three of our kids came to be a part of our family at ages 4, 10 and 11. Leaving means something different for them, and we’ve tried to calmly stand for permanence and stability. the one time an “i hate you and wish I’d never come to this family” was proclaimed- I knew that I would need to treed lightly…

    It’s hard, that line between sharing and not sharing, sometimes. This is such a relevant and reassuring post though. I am glad you chose to publish.

  3. It’s the totality of what you do, across years, that matters, not one atypical day. Children say things that hurt, and they do it more as they get older. It’s a part of testing more adult waters.

    You are such fabulous parents, both of you, and your girls are being raised so well, that I honestly think that you have no worries.

  4. I have four- ages 9 months, 9 years, 15 and 17, and really appreciated reading about your experience with kids getting older and the very new and different issues that arise. The beginning of letting go there…

  5. How little I can control in my children’s lives and how I am mostly a living example that may not be noticed for 20 years is humbling. I trust that the home I create is safe and that I can continue to be the best person I know how to be in any given moment. And I take many deep breathes and hold my husband’s hand.

  6. I held my breath as I read. There is much profound here. It seems life is spent learning the incomparable value and preciousness of family, parallel all the while to difficult encounters along the way. Love your thoughts.