Necessary Losses

July 3, 2017

I don’t know how mothers do it so gracefully, whenever I think about it makes me a bit mournful.

I’ve been a close part of my eldest niece and nephew’s lives for a large part of their early years. I saw them both the day they were born, carried them when they wept, fed them when they were hungry, played with them, laughed with them and comforted them when they cried. I tried to teach them good values and be a listening ear.

Now, they’re teenagers. My nephew stands about two inches above me, my niece plasters on makeup like a pro. They are, in many ways, different people. People I don’t know as much about as I once did. Their problems are no longer about learning the value of sharing toys. I feel more concerned for them now than I did when they could barely feed themselves. Are they getting a decent education? Is my niece being harassed by the boys when she walks down the street or the halls of her high school —like I was? Is my nephew kind to girls his age? Is it wise of him to pursue football? Will he really benefit from studying overseas? Is my niece trying her best in school? Is she getting involved in the nonsense gossip and girl clicks? Are they positive influences on their friends? Are their friend’s decent people?

And on and on. Maybe it’s because of those questions and the deep involvement in them that allow mothers to not experience the pain of loss —or maybe they do but never share it with us? Since the time of our birth all we do is grow and become increasingly independent until we eventually leave them. We start our lives dependent on their very bodies, then we’re born and completely dependent on their care. Soon we learn to crawl so they don’t have to carry us every place we’d like to go. Then we learn to walk, they cheer us on until we no longer need their help to move about, we don’t have the limitations of crawling and or the confinement of our initial immobility. We also stop needing their bodies for nutrition. Once their bodies were our sole source of nutrition. Then they start to feed us bits of soft food along with breastmilk until eventual they remove us (or we remove ourselves) and allow us to fully enjoy the range of tastes known to mankind. They still feed us, no longer with their bodies but with the preparation of their hands. Chopping things and mixing things, stirring and using fire —which they warn us not to touch. She might hit us if we try to come close, we’re confused that mother —our source of all that is good, would hit us, we don’t realize that only someone who doesn’t care would let us touch the fire.

Soon we’ll get dressed by ourselves, we’ll even argue with mother about which clothes we’d like to wear. She’ll guide our choices without being too imposing. Once in a while she’ll give in and let us wear those old bunny ears that were only for the school play. As we grow we become even more independent. Somehow mother gracefully guides us without constantly weeping over memories of the small innocent wide-eyed baby that is no longer. Sometimes the tension will grow between who we want to be and who they believe we ought to be. We grow angry because we think,”who is she to tell me anything, this is my life!” We forget that once there was no she and us, there was only one. She gave us her all and we consumed the nutrients in her body like leeches, giving back nothing in return.

How does it not tear mothers apart that the once inseparable bond will never be again? How do you deal with the fact that the small baby that once smiled at your very presence now sometimes scowls or frowns? If you were self-absorbed, as most of the world is, you wouldn’t let us grow, you wouldn’t teach us to be independent, you would force us into servitude until we paid back every ounce of your exhaustion, every pain in you’re pushing, every “pick me up” you obliged to —but you don’t. You let us grow and go and hold us in your every prayer hoping God will stay close to us even if you can’t. Do you ever miss that all dependent baby you rocked in your arms? Or do you simply realize it was a necessary loss?

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