Courage - FamilyEducation

Courage

January 30,2012
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

Saturday was a rocky sort of day, in ways we hadn't seen in awhile, and so had been lulled into complacency. It started out rocky for different reasons, but peaked when later that afternoon, for a frightening twenty minutes I couldn't find L. in our Target store--not because he had absent-mindedly wandered away but--and this is the terrifying part--he walked away from me in a fit of anger while I was checking out, and disappeared into the yawning behemoth that is any Target store. One minute he was in line behing me kicking me in the shins, and the next he was gone. It is one thing, I quickly realized, to lose your child for a few minutes by accident (been there--no fun), and quite another to have them lose you--on purpose. Because you can't just pick up your 11-year old and carry him out of the store, the way you could when he was three, or even six. Because the older they get, the angrier you get when they pull a stunt like that, and the anger is scary, too. Because I know that one day, when L. is old enough, he could just walk away, and there's nothing we could do about it.

But we're not there yet; he's not allowed to just walk away and disappear.

And he's not allowed to imagine I wouldn't miss him, or not care.

***************

When I did get out for walk later that evening, I thought hard in a feeling-sorry-for-myself way about how every so often as a parent you have one of those days where it just all feels pretty thankless. Luckily, those days don't come around too much anymore. I remember more of them when the kids were younger, and when each day seemed a blur of diaper changes and backaches, and endless rocking-to-sleep, and non-stop nursing, and spit-up on my work shirts, and being so tired I could barely see, let alone think. In those baby days, I had pushed my own needs so far away I could hardly squint and see them anymore. But something happens as your kids get older: you find you are able to carve out small corners of time for yourself. Your kids get even older (and you do, too--suddenly you're 42) and you realize that it feels good to be good to yourself, to remember what it's like to take a long walk at night, and fill your eyes up with the fingernail moon, and the dark tree limbs snatching at an even blacker sky.

And then I came home and read the latest entry from this courageous-beyond-words woman's blog (it's more than a blog, really--it's a piece of her heart and soul, pulsing and throbbing with life), and I felt ashamed for allowing my day to be so derailed, and for forgetting that while any given day may be made up of a dozen or more thankless, frustrating, I-can't-do-this-anymore moments, at the end the sum of them all doesn't amount to nearly as much as the gratitude I feel for what I do have, every single bit of it.