Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Finding the Glue

A mom I know was blindsided this week. Her oldest child confessed to some risky behavior, something than could have been devastating but, hopefully will not prove to be. It was a shock to her system, so much so that all she could do in that terrible, sudden moment of knowing was laugh hysterically, fighting back the urge to throw up.

When these things happen to us, when our world is suddenly and irreversibly skewed, when we learn something we can never not know or forget no matter how much we'd like to, it can shatter us. When I was younger and not yet a mom, when faced with such reality altering news, I could react with all the drama the moment required. Pack up his things. Change the locks. Scream. Fall onto the floor and cry that life is unfair. Take to my bed for three days, emerging only as I began to feel my splintered self coming back together.

Talking to my friend last night we mourned the loss of these time honored responses to loss and pain and shock.

What's missing from the parenting books is this: when you take on the responsibilities of a parent, you can no longer afford to throw yourself down on the floor and weep until you're hoarse, for there are meals to cook and homework to be checked. Children still need you to usher things forward from supper to bedtime no matter what has befallen you in the course of a day, no matter how broken you may feel.

I am in no way suggesting that parenting is an automaton's work and when I am sad or hurt, I don't hide my feelings from The Kid. I do not however throw myself at the chasm of loss and heartache with as much gusto as I did when I was younger. I do what my friend did this week. Feed a child, or children, bathe them put them to bed, kiss them goodnight, take a deep breath and start picking up the pieces, finding the glue. That's what you do when you are a parent.


  1. Oh my yes, do I ever remember those reactions...of course, being a drama queen, I haven't QUITE been able to give it up, but you're absolutely right--as much as I want to wail against the world, I still have to cut up the strawberries for lunch the next day. I guess this means we're grownups?

  2. I'd like to lock 'em all out sometimes, esp. the cats, but, you're right, times have changed. I don't want to be a chicken, or a duck, or a grown-up, but that's life, huh?

  3. I think the other thing that changes when we become parents is perspective.