Here now.

By now you have probably read this amazing piece, which is spreading virally: Notes From a Dragon Mom. If you haven't, please click over to read it now. It's written by the mother of a child who is dying.

The line that hit me the hardest is this:

"And there’s this: parents who, particularly in this country, are expected to be superhuman, to raise children who outpace all their peers, don’t want to see what we see. The long truth about their children, about themselves: that none of it is forever."

That is, I think, what is the what.

 

I am planning a small, simple birthday party for my grandmother, who has Alzheimer's. We are getting together in the common room of her facility for coffee and cake. It will be a beautiful cake. I asked my friend, who has the best bakery in Toledo, to do something delicate and flowery and old-fashioned. Something ladylike. And we've invited her friends, and my children will be there, and we'll give her presents.

It is not so much, but it's what she will like. She's not my same grandmother anymore. She knows who I am (although she sometimes thinks I'm her daughter, not her granddaughter) and she loves me, but she's not the same. She used to be curious and sarcastic. Now she is tentative and quiet. She still hugs me tightly.

None of it is forever.

 

I decided to make something of myself. I moved, and I work a lot, and I'm in a demanding grad school program that is forcing me to learn about net present values and VUT formulas and cost systems. When I decided that I wasn't just a mom, just a divorcee, just someone who'd failed, I stepped off the cliff. Stepping off was terrifying, but essentially effortless. Everything that's come after has been more hard work than I've ever done before. More hard work than I thought I could do.

I am doing it for myself. But I am also doing it for my children. A little bit because I like to give them material security after never having it (they didn't realize, but I did). But mostly because I want them to see that you can choose your own course. You can be good at something. You can go from thinking you suck to knowing you are worth being wooed.

I can't make my children happy. I can't make myself happy. I can only keep trying to be useful, and to show my children that they can be useful. Why are we here, if not to help each other? This business school curriculum is making me examine the idea of value. Is it something to be increased at all costs for the shareholders? That, I would argue, is not value, any more than doing everything right for your children, everything that increases their brain power and health and ability to fall asleep at the right time in the right place, is worth all that effort.

None of it is forever.

 

One of the ideas we've been working on in my program is that value is something to be created for all to enjoy, that value is for all the stakeholders, not just the shareholders. (This does not preclude making a profit, any more than science and faith preclude each other.) Work is good. Creating things is good. We build because we're human, and we can.

In the same way, we parent because we can. And we do it as we go, with love. No business plan–a mission statement instead. Success is not measured by what our children become, but by who we let them be now and by who we let ourselves be now. We hold on loosely to create the ties that bind.

None of it is forever. Except love.

66 thoughts on “Here now.”

  1. After a morning where nothing was going right (think poop… lots of baby poop…), this post and Notes From A Dragon Mom put things in perspective. Thanks.

  2. I have never forgotten visiting the Waterford Crystal factory, and seeing their company’s mission statement on the wall. Expecting American gobbletygook, I loved reading instead something like “To delight our customers with objects of beauty.” Now, of course, it’s been changed and corporatized, but I loved the spin on the meaningless drivel: We make pretty things we hope you will love. It was great and made sense. And the best moms I know, including Dragon Mom, and you, are able to do the same.

  3. I’ve been worrying lately about other people’s opinions (so many!). that none of this is forever and that i want my boy to be LOVED are excellent points to remember.

  4. Wow. Thanks Moxie. “Success is not measured by what our children become, but by who we let them be now and by who we let ourselves be now.” — This is life-changing.

  5. Moxie – I *love* this quote from your post: “Success is not measured by what our children become, but by who we let them be now and by who we let ourselves be now.” Every parent should read this statement each morning before tackling the day… thanks!

  6. I’d read the dragon mom’s stuff previously (on Salon, maybe?) – I can barely bear to read it. It gets me in the tender places. I’m so sorry for that family.It is a good, hard reminder to be where I am with my toddler instead of racing ahead, reading preschool reviews. Just be where you are.
    It’s so difficult to do!

  7. Reading this made me think more deeply about why we parent. We tend, as the Dragon mom points out, to think always in the future – our children are going to become something, and it is our job to shepherd them to that place, to adulthood. But what if they don’t? And if we know they won’t? Why do we do it? What do we “get” out of it? What is transformative and beautiful and important about it? We think and talk so little about love, as a society; we value love so little – I mean, love for its own sake. But those of us who have faced unimaginable loss (in whatever form) know what a gift it is, just to have a chance to love someone no matter how briefly.

  8. I always think of what my husband said before our son was born, in response to me (sorta) freaking out about “how do we handle X??” He would simply say “We will just love him like crazy.” So true. I try to keep it mind when (sorta) freaking out about X.

  9. Thank you for posting.I’m heartbroken and inspired by this. Her gift, her message through tragedy is so moving…living in the now.
    There is no way to express how incredibly important this message really is. What a world it would be if we would all consider living in the NOW with our children, our parents and ourselves.
    Living in the Present, staying in the NOW is actually what infuses you. It’s where you get the energy you feel you’re lacking.
    Being in the NOW is where the true treasures in life are. Please don’t miss them…they don’t come back.
    Nothing lasts forever, such painful and perfect words.
    Thanks again for posting this.

  10. You know the third act of “Our Town” in which Emily, despite warnings from her new neighbors, decides to take advantage of the mortality loophole and relive one day on earth, but realizes that re-experiencing even the most banal day is too much to bear? Since becoming a parent, I can’t even think about that act, let alone read or watch it, without losing my shit. (Like now, for instance. There was more I wanted to write but I’m too worked up.)

  11. Wow, thank you for sharing. And thanks again Sharon, for your words, too. (Which reminds me, I need to go and pick up your book, now that BabyT is 2 and making me work hard on cultivating patience.)I grew up in a culture that was very much about looking to the future, and making EVERY decision about the future. As an adult I’ve had to learn how to live in the now, and it hasn’t been easy.
    This is one thing I struggle with every day and am hoping I can teach BabyT. It is SO important, to be happy and present with the ones you love.

  12. ARC, you’re welcome.You won’t need to teach Baby T anything about living in the now.
    Baby T LIVES in the now and can teach YOU all about it.
    Children ages 0-5 have no “heavy” pressure on them. They have no job, no need to make money, no judgements from others to face. Even when they are upset, it’s because something has happened in the NOW. Everything they focus on is happening right here ~ right now. They have no concept of the next moment, because it hasn’t arrived yet.
    I issued a challenge to my Facebook page about living in the now. http://www.facebook.com/sharon.proactiveparenting
    It might interest you? It couldn’t hurt.

  13. ARC, you’re welcome.You won’t need to teach Baby T anything about living in the now.
    Baby T LIVES in the now and can teach YOU all about it.
    Children ages 0-5 have no “heavy” pressure on them. They have no job, no need to make money, no judgements from others to face. Even when they are upset, it’s because something has happened in the NOW. Everything they focus on is happening right here ~ right now. They have no concept of the next moment, because it hasn’t arrived yet.
    I issued a challenge to my Facebook page about living in the now. http://www.facebook.com/sharon.proactiveparenting
    It might interest you? It couldn’t hurt.

  14. What an amazing, terrible, humbling story. Stories like this always make me resolve to be more patient with my little guy–all those things that drive me nuts really aren’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.

  15. Thank you. I’ve had to travel for work a lot and be away from my girls and it all just hit me like a ton of bricks two days ago, as I was preparing to leave yet again for the airport. Despite everything, despite all the challenges, I would have given ANYTHING just to cancel my trip and cuddle with them all week. And then while on the plane (sandwiched between two strangers) I listened to this episode of This American Life and silently wept much of the time: (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/317/unconditional-love ) There is nothing like the love you feel for your children, and my heart just breaks thinking about the day the author will have to say goodbye. Living in the moment is so critical, it’s really all we have. You can’t go back and re-live any of it.

  16. One of my closest friends is 37 weeks pregnant with a baby who has a chromosomal defect, making life impossible after her birth.She is a Dragon Mother to the rolling, roiling bundle of life inside her.I am awed every day by her bravery and faithfulness to her child. But I am brought to my knees regularly at the thought of that baby’s birth and the silent slipping that will pull her away from us as we scramble to hold her, smell her, photograph her, and drink her in. I am terrified of the husks her parents may become in her aftermath. I am reverent at the honor of being included in a moment that is so close to both sides of the veil.
    …and I am filled with rage, and venom, and vitriol, and helpless horror at the thought that people I love are about to be tipped into an abyss of pain most of us fear all our lives. I miss a baby who hasn’t been born yet — we’re grieving someone who isn’t even dead.

  17. The most beautiful verse in the bible:(love)always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
    I Corinthians 13:7-8

  18. Moxie, thank you, this post put words to something I’ve felt but haven’t been able to express since my children came into my life. My husband taught me to trust the future; my children are teaching me to trust the present. Even as I’m more aware than ever of how brief and uncertain it all is.@MrsHaley – It must take such courage to stand with your friend and hold her as she peers into that abyss. You express it so heartbreakingly and beautifully…. I wish you both strength, and love, as you face inexpressible sadness.

  19. @MrsHaley, Ditto to what @Parisienn Mais Presque said. My thoughts are with you in this incredibly difficult and life-changing time. I hope that you and your friend find all of the strength and peace you need in the coming days.

  20. @MrsHaley, Ditto to what @Parisienn Mais Presque said as well.Your words are so eloquent, your pain is palpable enough for all of us to feel what is unfolding.
    I hope there’s someone to hold you and replenish you as you extend all that you are for her and her family.
    Much love and support to you both.

  21. Thank you thank you thank you. This story has hit me hard as we just got a diagnosis of autism for my daughter. Her future has crumbled around me, but it has taught me to live in the now, because the future is uncertain, and all that remains constant is our love for her.

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  23. Moxie, you are amazing. I read your blog because I’m a mother, but I read it because of you.This one is a bubble from a well with deep sad places. You are making yourself very useful to me. God bless you

  24. It’s 3:25 a.m. and I am awake, worrying about a test that my baby boy is having tomorrow. He’s already had heart surgery twice, and I’m afraid that we could be headed for #3. I really, really needed this tonight. Because whatever happens, I will be there for him, I will love him, and we will get through this somehow. Thank you so much, Moxie.

  25. Great post, thank you. Just wanted to say that I have been more aware lately that when i’m pushing for the future, for myself or for my kid, that sometimes i’m not being especially kind or present with those i would like to have a future with. really beautiful article- thanks again.

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