My teen daughter’s face and head are marred with jagged wounds. Some ooze, and some are clotted black with blood. Her own shaking hand is the culprit. She glares at me, all contempt.
In her eyes: What the hell are you going to do about it?
• • •
To those whose children cannot sip from the stream of their own lives;
To those who wake with constricted throats to What today for my child?;
To those whose will to keep their child safe is no match for their teen’s will to self-destruct; and
To those whose kids simply never come home again:
May we accept our terror just as it is. May we somehow find our own footing in the unknown. May we lean toward our own inner light, which preceded (and will outlast) our parenthood.
May we hold it all with even a tiny bit of tenderness, and thus begin to transform.
• • •
Self-compassion reminds us that suffering is an inexorable part of being human. And so in moments of paralysis, there is little more we can do than turn our faces toward the warmth of this truth. This is a shared path. The names and circumstances vary, but we are in the maelstrom together.
Mercifully, mercifully, our nervous systems are not built to endure this degree of suffering indefinitely. Pain washes through us, then recedes. Washes through, recedes.
Rubbed smooth by these rough bouts of terror, we eventually find our way to that place of surrender in which we know that our work is to LOVE and not DO. Some of us are just more hard-headed about it.
On days like this when dreams shock me awake, grace reminds me that I have options. I can choose to fill my belly with my own god-given breaths. To turn inward. To draw strength from knowing that right here next to me are other people who have loved children who are hurting.
I am not alone in my pain, and neither are you.
And with that, my inner fire burns off the fog, reminding me that there is more to me than my motherhood. I am as liberated as I choose to be. With this reassurance, I sprout the muscle I need to soften into staying near my daughter.
It gives me the wherewithal to be the immovable mother, holding space for a daughter who won’t even look at me.
And in this way, I keep loving her—clumsy as I am, and as much as I want to pretend that none of this is happening.
In all my stumbling through parenthood, I am still HERE. What else is there to do but drive my tap roots ever-deeper? Not much, other than to hold hope that time reveals to my child her own indestructible center. Meanwhile, I’ll keep returning to mine.