My son Al

June 28th, 1995 was a Wednesday.  My contractions had started before the sun came up and at the hospital the midwives were waiting to help me through labor.  Albert Louis Schuitema was born that afternoon.  His eyes were so dark they were almost black.  Looking into them, I fell into a universe soft with love.   It was difficult looking away.  He seemed like a sage, an old soul still between worlds.  I felt awe and wonder as I took him in.  His tiny arms and hands spasmed as his nerves adjusted to the transition from the womb to the birthing room.  Time seemed to slow as Albert greeted his grandparents, cousins and aunt.  When he was given back to me, he fell asleep in my arms.

It seems incomprehensible that he is going to be nineteen tomorrow.  He is away with friends as I vacillate in time, caught in moments that span almost two decades.  He would tease me about my tears if he were here.  It is so hard to let him go.  Sweet, considerate, loving and warm – that is my son, Al.  He is no longer the precocious little boy in his red vinyl boots and his Power Ranger costume.  Lately when he leaves, I rush to hug him, hoping to convey how much I love him.  He patiently hugs me back, smiles and turns to go, already inhabiting the future.

Letting go of my daughter.

Mindfulness is a practice of staying in the present moment with your experience, regardless of what it is.  Pain, joy, anger, peace; whatever comes up.  My daughter recently went through a stage of wanting to be close to me frequently, to spend time alone together, and show her affection openly.  There were times when it was irritating to other family members who wanted my attention, but I loved it.  I adore my boys, and having sons is an experience precious in its own way.  Feeling that bond with my daughter was priceless though.

Now, in what seems like a matter of moments, she has become moody, distant, and wants little (if anything) to do with me.  We used to text “I love you SOOO much” back and forth to each other; smiley faces, and hearts flew across the wireless network between us.  These days I consider myself lucky if she says, “me too” when I say “I love you.”  This child (who is my youngest), was the last to give up our nighttime ritual of  “kissing hand” (copied from the renowned children’s book), and blew me kisses from her bed as I went through her doorway at night, then when I reached the landing, and again when I was all the way downstairs (with me blowing kisses back).  In a single night she disavowed all of it.  She lets me kiss her on the forehead at night now, and give her a hug that she doesn’t return.  The pain of this rejection has been very hard to stay with in a mindful way.

The other morning my daughter was using her now all too common clipped answers to my questions, and I felt anger rise up in me like an earthquake.  My husband was in the kitchen at the time, and as he watched helplessly, I walked away (hearing him whisper, “please tell your Mom you’re sorry”) and retorted, “that’s okay, if she wants to spend all her time hating people that’s her choice.”  Immediately, I felt myself transported back in time to a moment where I told my mother (at close to the same age) “you don’t really love me.”  When my father heard this, he ripped me apart with his words, and his anger reduced me to microscopic size for saying something so hurtful to my Mom, who I knew loved me more than her own life.  Ouch!  A sense of deep shame washed over me, and an indescribable helplessness.  I had purposely hurt my child, after vowing I’d be different from my own parents, and there was no way to take it back.  Shaking, I walked over to her, took her hands in mine and said “I’m so sorry.”  “I felt hurt because of the way you were treating me, and I purposely said something to hurt you back.  It was childish, and small, and I wish with all my heart that I could take back the words, but I can’t.  I know you don’t spend your time hating people.  You are a loving and devoted friend, and have such a kind heart.  What I did was wrong, and there is no way to make it up to you.  I’m so very sorry.”  (tears were in my eyes now, and in my husband’s)  Looking at the floor, my daughter replied, “it’s no big deal Mom.”  “Look at me sweetheart,” I pleaded, and when those huge, sky-blue eyes met mine, I could see the wall I’d created between us.  “It IS a big deal.  I’m an adult, and I acted like a 2-year-old.  I’m so very sorry, and I will try to make it up to you somehow.”  “Whatever,” she replied, “I didn’t even really hear what you said,” and she dropped my hands.

This is what mindfulness can help you avoid.  Pema Chodron once said, (and I’m paraphrasing) “A moment of anger can destroy years spent building trust.”  I know the truth of that from BOTH sides now.  I can only pray that if I keep practicing I can prevent this from happening again.  Letting go of my daughter feels like having my fingernails slowly ripped off, one by one.  At the same time I’m so proud of her and the young woman she is becoming.  She’s developing a great relationship with my husband, her Step-Dad, after years of him feeling the rejection I do now, all while staying calm about it around her.  Parenting, like growing older, is not for the faint of heart.  It is one of the most difficult journeys we make in life.  I’m still ashamed, remorseful, and contrite, but I hope that perhaps some wisdom may have come from this that will help me keep my mouth shut when this happens in the future.  I wish the same for every one of us.  Namaste’.