Creativity Magazine

On Trembling, On Parenting

Posted on the 11 February 2013 by Wendyrw619 @WendyRaeW
Ruby & Romeo

Ruby & Romeo

Thirteen years ago, I had been in labor for twenty-three hours, and though I didn’t know it then, I still had eight hours to go.  But I did know, as I lay there that dark morning of February 11, 2000, that I was crossing a threshold, that life would never be the same.  I knew that I was in my last few hours of what would become “before” because when those hours were over—however many there were destined to be—I would be a mother.  And from then on, I always would be.

I have a similar feeling this morning as I write in the dark hours of February 11, 2013.  Soon—at 1:06 p.m., Pacific Standard Time—I will become the mother of a teenager.  And, there is no going back.  There is no going back to her first car ride or her first steps or her first day of kindergarten.  There is no going back to the first time she laid eyes on her baby sister or said “Mama” so clearly it couldn’t be mistaken for anything else.

No.  Ruby Coy Radmacher-Willis will turn thirteen years old in a few hours.  And that will be that.  There will be other firsts that somehow seem more terrifying—the first time she gets behind the wheel of a car, the first time she takes a trip on her own, the first day of college.  Those all feel like firsts of leaving.  And in the same way that I labored and trembled through the night thirteen years ago, so it goes this morning.  I tremble as I think about the world I am slowly releasing her into.

I know this is an age-old refrain—the world always seems more perilous and fraught to the parent of a teenager than it does to the teenager herself.  Certainly, it must require more caution and care that it did when that parent was stepping over the threshold to teenagerhood.  It seems as if the challenges are more numerous, more complex.  It seems as if the cliffs are steeper and the dragons are fiercer.  And maybe they are.

But somehow having the company of all those mothers before me—and even the ones to come—helps take the edge off.  And just like I have packed hundreds of little brown sack lunches with “Ruby” written on both sides, I want to pack her a little backpack to take into her teen years.  I think I’ll include Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice because the women are strong and wily, and the dresses are beautiful.  But, I’ll also include Orlando because I want her to know that even the clear lines aren’t really all that clear, the ones between time and place and even gender.  And, I want her to know that the imagination is a force to be reckoned with.

I will tuck in a note or paw print from her dog, Maddie, because the love of an animal is a powerful thing.  It will remind her to love—and accept love—unconditionally, to always greet her pack members warmly, to be kind to those smaller or weaker or less steady on their feet.

I will include a good recipe for spaghetti sauce and a solid pot.  With those in hands, she can always feed whoever comes by and make them feel welcome.  I’ll send a photograph of her Great Grandma Edna and her six sisters to show Ruby the faces of good cooking and warm hospitality.  It’ll also remind her that I don’t have to pack everything in her knapsack because she has whole tribe of other people who love her and are also sending provisions—her daddy, her grandparents, her adoring little sister, a passle of cousins and step-siblings, and friends.

I’ll stick in a field guide to the plants and animals of the Pacific Northwest.  I want her to know the names of her fellow travelers, human and otherwise.  I’ll make sure she has a thick pair of socks because it’s always easier to kind when your feet are warm.

I’ll send her a good lip gloss and hanky with lace edges.   I don’t need to send a dictionary because she’s already an impeccable speller, but I will tuck in a red leather-bound journal to remind her to be curious and take notes.

And for sure I’ll include what I’ve often sent along in her lunches, a note from me that says:  “I sure love you, girl.  See you tonight—Mama.”

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