I’ve been poking through my archives today, leafing through old posts and reading quotations that I want to post again. These are all by Catherine Newman, who is without a doubt one of my favorite writers – her book Waiting for Birdy is fantastic, and I miss the blog she used to write for babycenter. Hers is one of the voices I hear in my head, one of the perspectives I hold most dear.
“In the deep of night, I am inclined towards heartbreak. I lie awake the muscle in my chest beating like a metronome, ticking away the rhythm of life’s passing, while outside the cicadas answer with their own clicking, also like a metronome, like a bike shifting gears, like a person in Greek mythology doomed to clip their toenails forever. I regret every time I’ve spoken sharply to the children, every time I’ve answered curiosity with distractedness, met need with impatience, countered gentle trust with self-importance. In the night, these occasions spook around me like the ghosts of Bad Behavior Past, hauntingly distorted.
I’m not being hard on myself, not exactly. I don’t expect perfection. I know that I have appreciated this journey; inhaled the children’s hair and smiles, crouched down to listen, lay down to comfort. Every day I have gathered handfuls of my own gratitude and flung them skyward, exalted; I have knelt down in gratitude to press my humble face to its grit. But oh, I have taken so much for granted.”
“Another person is like a geode lined with hidden glittering.”
“And I’m remembering an email my friend Brian wrote me a couple of years ago, about his sons: “There WILL be a day when they don’t want to be carried up the stairs … But the idea that the last time will go unmarked and slip away without being cherished just made me so sad.”
I’m trying to hold this in mind when Ben wants me to put his socks on or carry him in from the car when he’s actually still awake or stay with him and Birdy while they fall asleep at night. I feel the familiar ripping-away impulse — the same impulse you might have if, say, a baby had been stapled to your bosom — and sometimes I act on it, whispering, “I’ll check on you guys in a few minutes,” and unwinding the arms that are boa-constrictored around my neck, loosening the very claws of love from the hem of my shirt, trotting out before the poor lonely bed-goers can make their emphatic case for my company. But sometimes I just lie there. Let there not be a last time, I think — a last time that slips away without being cherished.”
“I don’t know what to say about this — the way I incline towards sadness, latch on to it as it floats past, ride up into its currents. But it keeps me grounded somehow, however paradoxical that may sound…Looking into the face of loss is like a bell of mindfulness for me. This very heart that pounds sometimes with anxiety — this heart is beating! These very noisy children who make me want to fill my ears with rubber cement — they are vibrantly alive! This very full-to-bursting life — well, it’s life, life itself. “
“Sure, there are recurring themes: anxiety and impatience; my chaotic efforts at peace or the way I lumber after gratitude.”
“I am still confused sometimes about what it means to be a parent — how much you advise, how much you leave alone. They are yours but also their own. They reflect me and surpass me. I am their trusted shepherd, and it is a privilege to have them in my flock. Love and grief, holding hands and skipping down the lane of my crazy heart. When my eyes fill with tears in the car, it’s joy, yes, but I don’t think it counts. It’s way too bittersweet.”