On Love

Today was my son’s babysitter’s last day, and we were all sad. She’ll be going to school in San Francisco and her life will be up there. It’s not as if she’s even gone very far, but it feels like a big deal to lose her. She’s watched my son since he was 2, so for the last two years. A lot happened in those two years. She knew him from when he was barely talking, not even potty trained, to this little boy that plots and plans and talks so much now. In her card to him she called him funny, which I take to be the highest compliment. He IS funny with his parades and the way he laughs to himself. His jokes are great—he even makes me laugh, which I find surprising. A toddler can make me laugh? I feel proud as a parent that he has such a great sense of humor, and want to take credit for this, though I don’t think I can take credit for this.

But it’s so heartbreaking to think that their relationship will stop right there, at least not in the incarnation that we know it as now. I guess the thing that I still have difficulty dealing with and the thing that I will never “get over” is the way that people leave my life, the way I leave people’s lives, the way relationships end. Through death or through changes or just a break of the relationship, but it is so hopelessly sad. Don’t I wish I could just hold onto all these relationships I have had over the years, just cling to them, in some kind of unhealthy way, just seal them off in a biodome, just so…what, so that I can have proof that someone cared about me once upon a time.

I have a close friend who tells me that she loves me. It is weird because while I tell my husband and son that I love them all the time, I very, very rarely tell other family and friends that I love them, though I do. Of course I do. So I tell this friend that I love her too, even though I have other friends I have known much longer who I do not tell that I love them. But it was thinking about it very logically that I suddenly realized that I’ve known this friend for almost ten years now. (As if that period of time passing suddenly makes it legit, as if it’s crossed some kind of valid threshold.) We met in a Personal Autobiography class at City College and were in a writing group together for, I think, two years. So, yes, of course I love her, but my mind just doesn’t easily go there. For whatever reason. Because love can take on so many different forms and feelings and colors and ideas and it’s hard to define or think about. And also people can leave and then it’s like what do you do with these feelings.

I have also been thinking about being a parent to my son and how in those first few years I was crippled with a feeling of inadequacy. I would see my husband bouncing around with my son and being so FUN and just feel like I was a terrible parent in comparison. The exhausted grouchy one who didn’t want to be there. Thankfully, there are a lot of adults in my son’s life who pulled through when I couldn’t. He has us plus two sets of grandparents who love him and spend time with him. I used to think of it as some kind of ranking of who were the better caretakers, and now, I really don’t care. I space out. I kind of think, let someone else play with him in their own way. Maybe the problem with new parents is that there is this need for control in the beginning. No screen time, no HFCS, no this or that, rules rules rules. I’ve lessened on that a bit, and I let the ones who take care of him go by their rules. Because it all balances out in the end, it all evens out to love and care and that FEELING that someone loves you more than the rules. Maybe this is misguided in some way, but I don’t think it is. Because I have noticed that everyone plays with him in a different way, in their OWN way, and I like it. Everyone brings something else to the table, and it all adds up to something good.

So when I think of women who feel like they have to be super moms, at least I know that I don’t buy into that crap. I will never be that kind of mom. I’ll probably just be “good enough” most of the time. But that’s ok because there are plenty of other people who can take up the slack when I can’t. And that’s the biggest lesson on being a parent that I did not realize until now.

There has been so much leaving and loss in my son’s life recently. His babysitter left, his uncle moved to Seattle, a neighbor in our building passed away, his dad is away on a business trip for the week and that was a particularly tough goodbye, he’s leaving his preschool for another one closer to where we will be in a few months. And so on. It just goes on. I want to tell him, this is the way the rest of your life will look like. People will come and go of their own choosing and of not, but they will sometimes leave. Life is a series of loss, we cannot hold on too tightly for our life to look a certain way, and we must make room for people to leave and we must make room for new people to come into our lives. We cannot be so closed off that we cannot see that from this loss, beautiful new things will come. I can think of many times when I thought the worst thing happened to me, but it turned out to be the best thing.

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