While traveling home between two small Flint Hills towns Sunday evening, the car in front of me hit a deer. I saw it twist and turn as I swerved to miss it. I saw it twist and turn in pain. After stopping to make sure all of the humans involved were okay, Izzy and I continued homeward after a long drive from Oklahoma. I don’t know what happened to the deer, but its bewilderment and pain has followed me home.
It is so familiar.
Further down that dark road, I asked the universe to “please let it go quickly or have some comfort in its pain; don’t let it be alone.”
When you were young, a recurring nightmare was that something would happen to me and you – brilliant, sparky and innocent – would be the people to first find me. It’s not a far stretch to discern that my fears and familiarity with trauma and aloneness fed this. Like other growing, healthy parents, I always wanted you to be safe and to know without a doubt that you were loved and I’d show up.
As you grew, I kept trying to show up not to rescue or solve your problems, but to stand, kneel, weep, walk and celebrate with you – prayerfully at the time – as you developed your own strength of character and courage and decision-making. Sometimes that meant I showed up as planned and often that meant I showed up with the crash and cymbals of last minute plans.
Parenting – like living in any relationship, family and community – isn’t about preserving and deifying my convenience, but showing up. Sometimes that means a total unavoidable rework of a plan. Other times it is the genuinely sad reality of allowing natural consequences to occur as we add strength to our commitment to love, trust and believe in the people we live among.
Often, I wrestle(d) with what was parenting with love and logic and what was acting-to-stave-off-the-nightmare. We, our family, did our best. We do our best.
Yet still that dying deer haunts me. And every abandoned pup or cat. Each cast away child twisting and turning in bewilderment as they wrestle with their pain and the reality of their aloneness.
Aloneness. I get that.
Cinderella had her singing birds and beasts to help finish the work, the little Dutch boy had his community, and Hansel and Gretel moved forth together in the darkness. Even Ren had Stimpy.
Though the memory of that deer, that kiddo, the stranger along the highway continues to haunt me – asking me “what can you do to let them know they are not alone in this?” I recognize that this is not all black and white. Answers are not easy to discern. Each answer begs new questions.
I cannot sit with each one in throes of pain and death.
I cannot outrun my own doubts and fears.
I cannot always show up and avoid the wrath of my people.
I cannot always make it work.
But I love you deeply.
My belief in your character and courage and strength are what keep me stretching to make better choices as your mom and mum-in-law.
My belief in you, our family, and our ability to remember and restore its value while keeping healthy boundaries, working out our differences with civility and loving deeply is the only thing that keeps me going as we fly in different directions and disagree (like humans do.)
I love you deeply.
I know you are disappointed – disappointed in me, too.
I am disappointed, too.
But I trust us and I trust the process we keep learning to navigate.
In you, I’ve learned great derring-do.