Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Raising a City While Raising a Teen

I've belonged to wonderful listservs online, full of women of joy and, well, women of misery, too. Nearly always, the joyful women are the ones who've created a life outside, and apart from, their adult children. The women of misery? They're the ones who cannot let themselves believe that raising children was only a portion of their life--not the whole thing.

Long ago, I sat on our couch in our yellow California house while watching a 6-year-old Naomi singing softly to ten or more stuffed lions and cats and dogs spread all over the living room carpet. I remember hearing a voice inside my head whisper, "Look up from your book... see Naomi as she is and memorize her... for she will not always be six. Someday she'll be far away, grown-up... so memorize her just as she is in this moment so you will have something to keep."

Always, there was that knowing inside me. A knowing that mothering a child is a transient thing... fleeting... and so very hard to hold still for more than two minutes. I consciously attempted to slow Naomi's childhood down--tried to savor moments around the house and while I sunned myself outside on the porch and as we sat across tables in the ice cream parlor we loved in Nevada and--...

But as I sit here, the mother of a daughter who will be 27 this month, more than ever, I'm amazed how quickly it all flew--no matter how much I tried to slow it... no matter that I was a stay-at-home mom and nearly always here when she was. No matter what--it was like one tall hour-glass which would not be turned to start over--and I could not stop the sand from gushing through. Though, oh, how I tried.

But that voice--that knowing--it also told me, while Naomi was in high school, to start building something of my own, something which now --with my imaginative eyes--I see rather like a city. Block by block, during Naomi's high school years, I built a sort of city. A room of my own, but more-- a life apart from mothering. A place where I could go and be my creative best... a place to meet and make friends and feed this relationship with my husband... a land where I could be what I could not be as a young mom because my energy went other places while I mothered a tiny child.

So, like I said, the city began block by block while Naomi attended her classes first at the high school and then over at the college. And when the time came for her to make the long journey, the permanent one to her own home, well, there was my city all built, block by block, ready for me to move into permanently, too.

And if not for following the great Builder's orders block by block... if not for obeying His timing... there would have been no city-- only a prairie-like silence -- instead of the fun and celebrations I'm having in that city now.

The happiest parents I know? The ones who allow their adult children to live their own lives and breathe and act and make decisions as adults.

The most miserable parents I know? The ones who grasp and pull and treat their adult kids like old children in a sort of time-warp.

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