Monday, December 17, 2007

How Parenthood Changed Me

I think most people know that life will be different after children arrive. And it is. In a whole host of ways that you would surely expect. What I did not see coming was the reshaping of a very basic and universal fear.....death. I no longer worry about it in terms of what happens TO ME when I'm gone. Now it's more about what happens to THEM if I'm no longer here.

What's more, it recently dawned on me that my children will one day pass on (shudder). Hopefully, it will be after a long, fulfilling, love-filled life. One day, my baby Ethan will be a grandfather, maybe even a great-grandfather. And McKenna. What type of elderly lady will she be? Will those dimples of hers be her trade mark despite the inevitable wrinkles and lines? How will my children remember me when they reach their twilight? Will they know even then that they were loved beyond words? Will McKenna reminisce with her big brother and ask him if he remembers all those years ago when their mommy would rock them to sleep and tell them that she loved them "to the moon, to the stars and back again"?

Sometimes I watch elderly people and wonder what they were like as children. When my mother-in-law laughs, I see a cheerful, strawberry blond girl-- circa 1933. She twirls in the small backyard of her family's modest Chicago home on a humid summer afternoon. She dreams of what her life will be like someday. And she dismisses this passing thought as her milkman father greets his little girl at the end of a hard day. He pats her on her head, straightens her bow, and asks what mother's got in store for dinner. She skips behind her Daddy as they enter the house. The year 2007 is as knowable to this social, happy child as the planet Mars.

In an instant, I'm in the here and now. I remind myself how precious and fragile life is. And fleeting. I tuck my fears away and rejoin the moment--whatever that moment may be. Later, when left with my thoughts in the remnants of a chaotic day, I think of how different I am from a short six years ago. And on occasion, very rarely, the weight of that change saddens me. But I suspect that it also makes me a far more reflective, grounded parent.

The enormity of raising children becomes apparent in small, simple revelations that are difficult to convey to those who have not experienced the endeavor. And some may wonder why anyone would willingly put themselves through all of the heartache, the fear, the worry. They may wonder is it worth it?


Post Script: We lost our beloved Millie in March, 2008 after a protracted, difficult illness. She was the quintessential mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, and friend. She will always be my inspiration.


Anonymous said...

This post brought tears to my eyes. As a mom to two small (3 and 18 months) kids, I think about this all the time. One's own mortality becomes frightening not because of the fear of death, but the fear of what one's death will mean to these small people whose world is built around you. And yes, reflecting on this makes me all the more aware how precious each moment is, and how grateful I am for each day.

Heidi Hess Saxton said...

I became Catholic in 1994 ... a mother (by adoption) in 2005. I'm not sure which had a more profound effect on my spiritual life. Probably a tie.

The first showed me where to get the grace. The second showed me why I NEEDED it. (Hence the title of my blog: "Mommy Monsters.")

Thanks for sharing this. It made my day. God bless you!