On Mothering: From Solo Parent to Family

I miss Jonah. That's all there is to it. A yearning, visceral, achy sort of missing.

His absence takes up as much space as his presence when he is here.

When he is gone, the quietness feels loud, the space feels huge, the moments feel still. Yesterday on the phone when I asked him what his nose-horn says, there was a pause (and I could imagine him pinching his nose) and then he said, "I miss my Umma very badly, I miss my Umma very badly."

While remembering Jonah and missing him, I found these pictures. They exemplify his insatiable curiosity and capacity to live with beautiful intensity (hilarious how with Jonah, living intensely always includes huge messes!).

From Solo Parent... For 5 years, Jonah has only ever known a household with one parent. Me. He has never seen modeled within this household what it means for a mother and father or other parent figure to collaborate, love, and parent together. We built a rhythm of life, just the two of us. The depth of his dependency and need was, at times, terrifying. As he grew, the depth of my love and need to keep him safe was equally terrifying. As the years passed, I wondered when he would begin to notice his friends' families and start asking questions. He never did. What I realized over time is that kids are phenomenally malleable. Beautifully, amazingly, incredibly so.

After starting life as a sub-3lb premie, fighting his way through 49 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, and being shuttled from home to home his entire life, I am amazed at the grounded, empathic, joyful child Jonah is and continues to become.

It's funny how the moments of life blur into nonexistence, and looking back, it's easier to encapsulate life into kid-chunks (Jonah's infancy, the year he became mobile (!!!life, forever changed!!!), his start in preschool, his change to Kindergarten).

(I have to remind myself sometimes to remember and encapsulate my life in grown-up-chunks too (topic for a future post!)

Yet in the moments of living, the details are what matter: what was said in the moment; the reciprocity of a touch, a word, a gesture; the wind on one's face; the backdrop of smells and sounds.

I often think about how so many memories created now, he won't even remember. Over time, I started to believe more and more fervently that memories lost become instead an irrevocable part of one's being, intangible but palpable. They are invisible but evident in the thousands of choices my child makes and the actions he chooses to take every. single. day.

I know now that the quality of my responses in tiny moments matters far more than I ever think they do in the moments they are happening. The collective of those responses and choices IS parenting. It's why parenting is so damn hard. Mothers (and other caregivers) shape a child's way of being in the world, most particularly and importantly, in relation to other human beings. What an incredibly daunting task.

There have been times when the sheer responsibility of shaping and teaching this beautiful child overwhelms me. What I've learned over time as well, is that within many moments of being mindful and patient, I fail. I fail in small ways and huge ways. While I might once have anguished over those moments, I have learned to give myself permission to fail and permission to let them go.

I know that the collective goodness of my mothering still drives his direction and mine. Now that Jonah is old enough to express his thoughts in speaking and bring to life his imagination in drawing, I see tangible manifestations of my influence on him. I tell myself and know in my heart that if I can imagine holding the collective of my choices, responses, and actions in relation to Jonah, it would look--overall--grounded and harmonious. I try not to focus on the little bits of disharmony.

I step back.

...to Family. Lately this house has been full of love. I have been a parent alone. It was a rewarding yet lonely task.

Until now.

Dug is now part of this family. He has seamlessly become part of the fabric of my life and Jonah's, and Jonah is living, observing and emulating what it means to be selfless, to be honest, to have integrity. I am watching daily a love story unfold between man and child. Me, I am living it.

The nested shape I just posted used to make me feel like the ovoid was floating slowly up and away.

Now when I look at it, it appears to be settling into place.