Here’s my latest post in the Florida Times-Union. It includes a little nostalgia about my own school picture day and it’s another reminder of the letting go involved in parenting.
This is such a bittersweet stage of parenting. If you are where I am or you’ve been here — you know. (Or if your mom ever disfigured you with a curling iron — you’ll get it too.) Love to you all and prayers for all our young people. ~ Lara
When I was a young girl school picture day was a big deal. I remember sitting on the corner of my mother’s bed with the metal grip of the curling iron searing a pert bounce into the ends of my typically straight hair. It all went well until she curled my bangs. Inevitably, one of us would move and the singe of a horizontal line burned into my pale skin.
Oh, but to be memorialized in the grade school yearbook with perfectly curled-under hair was worth a few days of forehead disfigurement that could easily be covered with a hedge of bangs. I always wished my mom was better at styling hair. Besides her inept ability to curl my hair without risking a plastic surgeon consultation, she could never do fancy braids or even a decent ponytail. She would just tell me to let my hair look natural — that natural was best.
Of course, I didn’t want to look natural. I wanted to look like the popular poster I saw of Farah Fawcett with a red one-piece bathing suit stretched across her body so tight that I felt certain if she raised her arms, it would slingshot right off her. She had frosted hair, sun-kissed skin, and a pearly smile. Her flyback haircut made her look like a beautiful bird with wings sprouting out of the sides of her head. And, she didn’t have burns on her forehead.
Natural to me was plain. It was a matte finish in a glossy world. I grew up in the boundless patterns of the 70s and the neon geometrics of the 80s. By the time high school came around, I wore blue eyeliner and frosted pink lipstick on picture day. I traded the curling iron for a perm and instead of curling my bangs under I teased them high using toxic amounts of Aqua Net hairspray.
I recently took my son to get the pinnacle of all school pictures – senior portraits. Those fancy pant photographs where you pose in a cap and gown or wear a tuxedo from the waist up. His usually slouchy posture straightened and it was nice to see his wide smile that I think even Farrah Fawcett would envy. Read more →
Fully embracing the mundanity of my middle-aged life, I watched a documentary about an octopus. I won’t get into the details because you too may be interested in octopi documentaries so I don’t want to spoil anything. Yet one of the most interesting things I learned is that after an octopus lays her eggs, she quits eating and wastes away. By the time the eggs hatch, she dies. It’s like a Disney movie where the mom always dies and there’s an orphan having a coming of age adventure with lots of catchy songs that get stuck in your head.
For days, I kept thinking of the octopus laying there protecting her clutch of eggs while succumbing to starvation. I don’t know the biological reason for this. I just know that parenting in the later years feels like a separation comparable to death. And I apologize if that feels too dramatic for either a documentary or a Disney movie, but parenting during these years of increasing independence requires me to let go of all the details I have spent almost 20 years shaping. Having the privilege of being a mother has been the great honor of my life. As any mother knows, it requires stretching in ways that at times felt impossible. My role now is not so much to stretch but to contract, to loosen the grip on one of my greatest treasures so that the lull of life’s tide can carry him in a new direction. It feels counter to every instinct in my body. Yet, I understand that this has been my job all along – to give everything I could for him not because he is mine but so that the world can someday be his. Read more →
I am in the “letting go” years of motherhood. I know Alzheimer’s disease is considered the long-goodbye, but having teenagers feels as much so. Except instead of forgetting precious memories, I am flooded with them: story times at the library, field trips to the zoo, class parties, countless baseball games, first dances, and ordinary moments that have aged into extraordinary memories.
It is often said of parenting that the days are long but the years are short. I would only add that the years get successively faster like a racing heart sprinting toward the finish line. The teenage years are propelled with a momentum that has little to do with parenting but is filled with our children’s pursuits. We no longer set the pace of their days. Instead, we race to keep up or merely watch their projection as they shoot off like a ball in a pinball machine: hither and yonder, to and fro, until they finally land in their beds at night. Still. Safe. Ours.
But the truth is they were never ours to keep. They were trusted to us by an ever-generous God for what suddenly feels like too little time. Somehow, he put us together knowing that we will each learn from the other. We are shown we could love more than seemed physically possible and that we can stretch beyond what we once considered strong to a surprisingly soft place of resilience. I can’t think of anything else that compares to the ways it has broken me, built me anew, and taught lessons that only love could teach.
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