Why Is This Happy Moment So Sad? Ahhh…The Great Sorrow of Motherhood

This morning my daughter and I had the best time ever, a sentiment shared and articulated by both of us. Before I continue, let me rewind a bit. Recently, I began to recognize that we as a family are entering into a new stage. Jack will be eight in December, and Allegra just turned four. Yes, they are both still young children, but babies no longer. The other evening Jack, who is generally within arm’s reach, took my husband’s iphone and shut himself into his room. When I peeked in to check up on him, he looked rather perturbed and informed me that he was listening to music and would appreciate his privacy. Hold up now. Weren’t you just a baby like two minutes ago??? Even my daughter, who is still a little preschooler, is becoming more and more independent. And all of this is good. I know. I know. I know. Yet, as the tic of the clock gets louder and louder and time seems to move faster and faster, I can’t help but feel, well, sad.

So, my husband Giorgio has tweaked his schedule so that every Thursday morning he can go out to breakfast with Jack and do some type of special activity with him. This gives me some rare time to spend with just Allegra. So today Allegra and I decided to grab some munchkins, eat them in the car and go for a bike ride.

As all parents know, even the best laid plans can result in disaster with children. Spontaneous meltdowns, fights, disappointments, can occur at the most unpredictable times. Yet today, none of those things happened. I walked beside my little one as she rode her bike and we chatted and chatted and chatted about everything. Then we decided to head over to the park since we had some more time before we had to meet Jack and my husband back at home. My daughter and I were just happy, so happy in fact, that I became sad. The park was nearly empty, the sky was gray, the air was cool; it was the perfect scenario. We ran up slides, rode the see saw, climbed monkey bars, swung on the swings. And despite all of my joy, I felt a pang in my heart. It seems like just yesterday that I was playing at the park with my Jack, my Jack who now refuses to go to parks, who now shuts himself up in his room to listen to his music. My time with Jack as a baby and toddler and preschooler went by so fast. As I looked at my daughter’s smiling face I thought, my God, we won’t be doing this for much longer. So, even though we should have headed home, we stayed a bit longer and played and laughed and talked.

On the ride home Allegra said to me, “Mommy, I didn’t want to leave. You didn’t want to leave. We had the best time ever. But it had to end.” Yes, it had to end. And this is the great sorrow of motherhood. Time marches on, our little ones grow, yet we, us mothers, remain the same. We still have the same great love for our little ones who we once cradled in our arms, and pressed our cheeks against their fuzzy little heads, and picked up and swung in the air, and our little ones grow and become independent, and, as all mothers wish for their children, find their own loves and make their own families so that they too can someday cradle their little ones in their arms and feel fuzzy heads against their cheeks. And so it goes, mothers holding babies, watching them grow, saying good bye, all the while feeling incredible love and joy and sorrow and loss.

Why Am I Doing This?

So, this is my maiden voyage into the blogosphere. For years, I have contemplated blogging, but, since I have been so busy raising my little people, I felt that I could not justify committing the time to such a pursuit.  I mean writing, especially about myself and my ideas, seemed too self-indulgent, too narcissistic.  Now, I in no way believe that this is a healthy way think. Do we need to justify everything we do?  Of course not.  Are we not entitled to engage in pursuits that give us pleasure and fulfillment? Of course we are.  It’s just that at the time, I was not so enlightened, at least when it came to viewing myself.   Then two things happened. I had an epiphany during a conversation with my husband, and, at about the same time, I picked up a book I had owned for years and never looked at and finally decided to read the first chapter.

The aforementioned conversation with my husband was not unlike the conversations he and I have almost every day.  Don’t expect it to be anything mind-blowing .  I can’t even recall exactly what we were talking about.  All I remember is that he and I were sharing what we both believed were some pretty good ideas when I thought to myself, “Too bad we probably won’t remember any of this in a few days.  These great ideas will disappear as if they were never thought, never uttered.” I know. This is not a terribly deep or intellectual thought, and yet, for me, it was very profound.  It came to me. This is why I want to write. I want to preserve my ideas.  Whether they be smart or silly or simply a reflection of where I am at a certain period in my life, I want to make them real, to give them some weight, some validity, to write them down.  In fifty years, if my mind starts to go, I want some proof of my intellectual and emotional existence.  I don’t want to be left with a withered body and the memories that others have of the me that once was. 

Shortly after I had my mini epiphany about why I should write, a teacher friend of mine came to the house for a visit.  We were sitting in my living room when she spotted The Art of Teaching Writing by Lucy McCormick Calkins stacked up in one of my many book piles.  She asked if she could take a look at it, flipped through the pages and left it on my coffee table.  Now I have owned this book for years.  I purchased it over a decade ago when I was in graduate school, and for some reason, never found the time to read it.  That evening I read the first chapter and was struck.  In it Calkins states

…as human beings, we write to communicate, plan, petition, remember, announce, list, imagine…but above all, we write to hold our lives in our hands and make something of them.  There is no plot line in the bewildering complexity of our lives but that which we make for ourselves.  Writing allows us to turn the chaos into something beautiful, to frame selected moments, to uncover and celebrate the organizing patterns of our existence.* (8)

That, my friends, said it all.  Through her writing, Calkins articulated my thoughts, and thus gave them substance and validity. 

 Reading those few lines written by Calkins inspired me to proceed.  To write.  To write to be heard in a world where so few truly listen.  I write to make my existence, my experience my thoughts real.  I write to freeze time and preserve the beautiful moments I share with my children.  I write to make meaning out of what sometimes appears meaningless and see the beauty in things that otherwise may go unnoticed or unappreciated.  I write because my time on this earth, all our time, is finite and I want to notice and enjoy and preserve all that I can while I am here. 

*Calkins, Lucy McCormick. The Art of Teaching Writing. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1994. Print.