Like most great parenting stories, this one begins with an overflowing toilet. If you have even one child, for long enough, inevitably they will cause at least one of your toilets to overflow. Probably more than once in their young lives. It could be diapers, Legos, or maybe Duplos (worse…bigger) or just too much toilet paper … like ½ a roll before flushing. This recent toilet fail was made much more egregious by my unwillingness to hang around after I’d filled the bowl with boiling water and flushed once.
That usually works…always…except this time. We were all sitting on the couch together, enjoying an episode of The Great British Baking Show when I noticed the faint sound of trickling water coming from the hall.
“Hmm…the hallway never sounds like running water,” I mused to myself, “what could it… OH SHIT!”
I was correct, shit was everywhere. An hour, four towels and one hallway runner rug later everything was back to normal. The conversation about flushing often if you need to happened… twice. I tried not to generate any shame. Maybe I succeeded. We’ll all find out in therapy a decade from now… or sooner if puberty doesn’t go well.
Speaking of puberty, we also discovered that young people who might be growing hair in new places should not chew gum in the bathtub. This happened in the other bathroom, not the exploding toilet bathroom. I heard a desperate call for help. No, you should not attempt to pull gum out of your hair, especially THAT hair, but instead you should carefully, gently cut it out. By the way, if you’re looking that up in your parenting handbook, the section on “gum in hair” applies to all hair attached to the body. And no, I did not let her take a giant stuffed doughnut to school to make sitting more comfortable after her first gum removal attempt. Cruel, I know.
Once she completed the surgery and we came to an understanding about how many feet from the toilet the trash can is and why the empty toilet paper rolls can’t seem to make that 24 inch journey, we had a reasonably amicable good night. As I turned the corner to my bedroom I discovered one of our cats rounding out the evening by horking up a fur ball in the middle of my bed. I managed to hustle her out the window before she completed her addition of that especially gooey exclamation mark to the end of my day. Don’t worry, it’s a single story house and I was careful. It was fitting though; the perfect end to a shitty day.
That’s the amazing thing, even with these multiple mini-disasters my day wasn’t that bad. I’ve found an equanimity, even as this school year rushes upon us, swallowing our little family whole. This year is not like years past. I’m not as tired as I was. I’m running again — my achilles tear is mostly healed. Tadg is learning to drive, which means he makes the long haul into Trues school twice a week with me in the passenger seat. He’s a pretty good driver, so I can actually relax thirty minutes to Trues school and then another twenty five to his school.
I get to watch the high desert autumn unfold, a big sky spectacle of exquisite light, color, and endless trees. We don’t really have cloudy days, but rather mornings shaken by tumbling volcanic gray giants, twisting themselves into mist as the dawn suddenly electrifies them with auburn light. Some afternoons the Three Sisters mountains (for which our town is named), graciously allow the penned up storm horses perched along their ridgeline to surge down into the valley, strafing forests and meadows with hard, cold Cascadian rain. All of this desert majesty rolls by while my daughter and our new dog Dandelion discuss how wonderful the other one is. Not a bad way to spend the morning.
Truly is changing in other ways besides just physical, she’s been pushing back more. She’s discovered a miraculous dial in her brain that somehow turns Dads voice down until it is barely audible. I was really surprised and upset when she first started using it. Typically we live inside each other’s heads rent free 24/7. No more. Nope, she can just whisk me out the door, close it and turn that lock. Probably one of the healthiest things to do at her age. The non-existent parenting manual I keep imagining does mention that adolescence comes with puberty. Definitely a sign of maturity. I’ll learn to live with it, soon I hope.
Its harder to think of my daughter growing up and leaving home than my son. He’s always been a wild mustang, kicking against the fences that pen him in. He will eventually propel himself out into the world whether I help him or not. I don’t know if Truly will do the same, but she will definitely cast off anything that feels limiting to her. Her temperament will not allow her to wear anything, clothes or ideas, that are ill fitting. I don’t know how well the world will receive that. She’s already bigger in her heart than most adults I know and yet still as vulnerable as a very young child. She’s not a wild mustang, she’s a herd of wild mustangs heading someplace, anyplace. She doesn’t even know where she’s going, yet.
I wish there was a word in English for the pain that comes from watching your children grow up without their Mother. Loving Motherless children is a special kind of hurt. Tadg is older, he has been able to hold himself these last few years for the most part. He’s probably crankier than he would be if Terry were still alive, but he’s a reasonably good example of a mostly sane teenager. I wonder what traps wait for him as an adult, not having had a Mothers support and affection for the last part of childhood. I hope I’m around to offer what I can as he weathers those challenges.
Truly has had to roam, finding purchase in the soil as she can. There is a magnificence in the way she makes her path. She is at once completely raw and deeply centered, rolling hard over mesa’s and plains without a path to follow. If only the world weren’t so good at building fences and hemming young girls in, I might feel better about her future.
If only the world loved my daughter the way I do.
We got to spend the weekend with a dear friend who I’ve seen romantically on and off for years. We never seem to know how we fit together, only that we like to try and figure that out. Truly loves her, and wishes she were her Mom. It’s a delicate and painful dance for all of us. We know Truly gains so much just from spending a little time with her, but that time also reminds her of her big loss, of Mother loss. It is a hard lesson, to love so much, and to have to say goodbye. Sometimes I want to keep her home every day, bake cookies and feed Guinea Pigs, not letting anyone into our lives. But we must always gallop out onto the mesa’s, life demands it.
A light like hers needs to shine, needs to wrap itself around the world just to feel like it’s beginning to fulfill its promise.
We could all use a little light like that now.
Blessings to you and yours during this time of great change.