“But I am telling only half the truth. Maybe only a quarter of it. The rest of the truth is that I was unable to bear loving my children so much. Loving left me weak, skinless. Ideally I would have liked Katherine and Margaret sewn to my armpits, secured to me. Or, better yet, kicking and turning in my stomach, where I could keep them safe forever.”
-Mary Cantwell, Manhattan, When I Was Young (1995)
I love this quote because it describes how I feel about being a mother, watching my own young children venture out, looking over their shoulder at me. I can’t always protect them from pain and heartache. It’s the letting go that is the hardest, allowing them to learn from mistakes, experience and live their own lives, watching them fall and cry and hurt. Because of this I feel exposed, vulnerable in ways I never imagined, but also stronger. I can take on anything, stand up to anyone, model for my children how to be resilient, courageous and independent. I have to teach them how to be kind, how to deal with danger, when to say no and more importantly, when to say yes.
I can’t put them back in my belly or be with them every waking moment, but I can do my best every day to make sure they are the best little people they can be. I can help them grow up feeling safe and nurtured and cared for. I can stand before them naked, stripped bare of everything and say here I am. You have all of me. We’ve shared the same blood, your soul touching mine for nine short months, and as your mother it is my duty to nourish your heart and mind the same way you nourish mine. I’ll keep you safe, then I’ll let you go, equipping you with only a small satchel, heavy with memories and my heart. Our love is pure, simple, intense and unmistakable. It can light up the night sky. Watch us shimmer and gleam, luminous together.