It’s the damn Tarzan song that makes my eyes finally fill up. You know the one, “You’ll be in my heart,” with the line that gets me every time: “just look over your shoulder.” Oh man. I remember the first time that song made me cry. I was newly separated and in the midst of planning Julia’s bat mitzvah. I was playing countless songs in an effort to find the right ones for her slide show, a catalogue and testament to her 13 years of life. I remember beginning to bawl and being grateful for my tears. I hadn’t cried in a very long time, having shut off emotion in some silly effort to protect my heart.
Anyhow, I digress.
I was running on a trail in the foothills of Boulder, and thinking of my daughters, as well as something my dearest friend had said about being frightened for her son when he traveled to China, but doing her best not to let on.
When the song randomly shuffled as I ran, it hit me right smack in the heart; the moment we become mothers, we are immersed in the challenge of letting go and hiding our fear.
When Hannah, my oldest, was born, I had two recurring nightmares; one was in the weeks after I brought her home from the hospital. I would be out shopping, or go away for the weekend in my dream and suddenly remember I had a baby who I had forgotten at home. I would rush home, heart exploding in my chest, frantic to find her safe.
Another dream involved danger of some sort, and even though she was in the room next door, I could not get to her. This dream always woke me with a dry sob stuck in my aching throat.
I am not the only mother with a history of night terrors after giving birth. We have never been so utterly responsible for another human being and the magnitude of this connection is not something you learn about in birthing class. Life is not in our control, and I believe this is never felt more agonizingly than after we give birth.
And yet, to live, to really live, we need to bury these fears. We need to not let our minds go to that place, unless we want to raise human beings too terrified to leave the house. We do our best to release our hold on worry and anxiety. We must for the sake of our children.
Life is full of uncertainty, and no matter how much we try to control it; it will always find a way to surprise the living daylights out of us. You know the saying, “God laughs when we make plans.” Believing we have control is nothing more than an illusion.
Letting go, and ‘letting live’ is kind of the parenting philosophy I try to live by. I believe my daughters deserve a life of exploration and experience as unclouded by my views and judgment as possible. In this way, they will become who they are meant to be, not whom I think they should be. I do not believe that my daughters will become the women they are so capable of becoming if I do everything for them and try to manipulate their existence from college choice to boyfriend choice to career choice and so on. I guide them; I try not to direct them.
Those that do not know me well at all asked me, “but what about your children,” when hearing of my plan to move 2000 miles away and build a new life in Boulder, Colorado. Though my confidence stumbled at the inherent judgment, “you can’t possibly be a good mother,” it recovered when I looked in the fearful eyes of those that asked. Over time I learned that choosing my own way in this life would often invite such comments, but I quickly learned those people were not worth my time or energy because we marched to the tunes of a different drummer and though we might be sitting across from one another at a cafe, we inhabited different planets.
Very little of what I do is done without thinking of my children. It would be impossible for them to not be a part of the equation. I hope that having my daughters see me embark on a new life just might set them free to truly live their own.
But make no mistake. It is the hardest thing I do as a mother. Like mothers everywhere, I push my fear down, I swallow my worry and like when they were infants and everything seemed to be full of peril, I keep moving forward despite my fear. I get out of their way, but this does not mean I get out of their life.
In all the things I will leave behind someday, my daughters, those most beautiful, poised-to-bloom young women, are my greatest gift to this universe. They do not belong to me after all; they have only been loaned to me.
And they will be in my heart always. All they have to do is look over their shoulder.
Just look over your shoulder
I’ll be there