My fourth Mother’s Day- second without you. On the Widowed Parent group on Facebook, someone writes, “Teeny children don’t have money. And so dads have a great deal to do with Mother’s day going off without a hitch.” True. Three year olds can’t really do breakfast in bed yet either. But mine helped me pick out pretty new earrings from Anthropologie yesterday, wrapped them with an excess of tape- tied a ribbon herself and woke me up at 7 am running in with her present. I acted surprised. This is how it is, and I’m fine with it. At least this year she got the significance of the holiday.
On reflecting, I am mostly grateful for the gift of my child. I think so much about how quickly this whole childhood thing goes. Since time exploded into something less than linear once you died- it’s like I already see her grown at the same time that I stroke her three year old hair. I think about how in raising and loving a child, your goal is to raise them to leave you- from the day the cord is literally cut- the one that flowed my sustenance into the tiny creature with the fluttering heartbeat, to the first roll, crawl, step- to the day when you suddenly realize you can’t remember the last time you carried her in your arms and you’re not sure if you could anymore. All of this means, things are going well- according to the plan- a pretty bittersweet one if you ask me- esp. so since the growing away will one day leave me by myself- just one- not the two that are typically left.
Since you left, I’ve felt the tremendous weight of caring for her alone. She became more your child in a strange way without you here because I am always conscious that she is composed of bits of you. I am always hearing your voice quietly in my head telling me if I should do something differently- “Don’t leave those balloons out- what if she gets it tied around her neck!” “I don’t think you should tickle her so much- even though she’s laughing- I don’t think she likes it.” “Stop singing Broadway style- don’t let her get her nails painted that bright color- it’s tacky…” and on and on. Mostly what I hear are the critiques- but sometimes I see a smile from you when she and I are interacting the way we do- laughing together or going down the slide together at the playground on a pretty day- sometimes I feel your approval. (All of this- of course, in my own mind.) She is my daughter, but I can’t help feeling like a guardian much of the time- entrusted by you to care for the little girl you adored more than anyone else.
All along on this journey I’ve seen so many comparisons between childbirth/raising a child- and grieving but sometimes the analogy diverges. Interestingly enough, while I’m trying desperately to find myself in these ashes- my goal as a mother- isn’t to help her find herself- but not to lose herself and if she does, to help her find her way back to the sensitive, dancing, rhyming girl she is in her essence. So the most important thing I do is try to pay attention.
Happy Mother’s Day.