All of a sudden, I wondered, Had I done it?
I turned to ask my husband but he was asleep. I considered waking him. It was an important question. Timely. Our youngest was about to graduate. But my husband had another early morning ahead of him–at the high school–which is where he will hand our youngest his diploma on the football field as he did our first born.
I had begun shaping my expectations during my own high school years, announced one with specificity, to my health teacher, and on this point, my best friend and I agreed, even while the adults in our lives shook their heads at our naivety, even as our classmates did.
But we’d done it, she and I. We had raised our children without it. Two boys each. Fine young men. The oldest, hers, in his thirties. The youngest, mine, 18.
The expectations grew over time.
What had begun as a girlhood pact–to withstrain from physically assaulting our children–had been extended by me as an antidote to my own childhood:
To No spanking, I added:
At first, I thought perfection possible. That illusion went on far too long. 4 and a half years as a mother–of one–without yelling once. Without losing my cool. Sustaining a loving connection through everything. If only failure would have freed me sooner from such constraint, I would have been a better mother; I would have been gentler on myself.
At first, I thought it possible to simultaneously rescue my other children–7 younger siblings–but on this account, I failed, not for lack of trying, but for trying too hard, so that instead of rescue, I may have pushed some heads deeper underwater, or worse yet, dragging them toward my shore instead of theirs.
But had I succeeded with the two that I brought into the world?
Had I delivered them from birth to adulthood without inflicting trauma?
Had I ended the legacies that I inherited so that my grandchildren might flourish in ways that I can only imagine?
And if so, how will I celebrate? How will I honor such commitment? Such courage. Such vulnerability. Such creativity. Such sacrifice. Such determination.
There are so many ways I failed. One can’t try so hard without leaking joy and ease and spaciousness.
But now the day-to-day is done.
And what have I done?
Have I, like I was instructed by my father when I was a girl, made the best contribution I could make to the world?
And isn’t this now theirs to decide?
“…What is it you plan to do
with your one wild & precious life?”
And isn’t it now mine again too?