Thursday, February 25, 2010

This woman's work.

Maybe it’s the snow.

Maybe it’s the relentless snow. And although it’s pretty and sort of fascinating in a way; and although things like a gorgeous and perfect winter snow help confirm my belief in God, this latest bit feels sad to me somehow.

Maybe my annual “it’s the new year and time to brood about my life” feeling has arrived a little later than usual this year. Typically, I spend the better part of January retracing my life and trying to figure out where certain aspects of it seem to have gone so far astray. Not every part – just some. But some – at least when it comes to life - is quite enough.

And as if I needed this, I came across something else gorgeous and perfect tonight, Kate Bush’s lovely and haunting song, “This Woman’s Work.” I heard it for the first time many years ago and connected it to a romantic relationship. Maybe that’s right; maybe it’s where you are in life the first time you hear it; maybe it’s what you make of it every time you hear it.

But tonight, in my snowy melancholy, I connected it to my sons. (They’re the part of my life that went exactly right.) They’re not perfect and neither is their mother, but together, it feels like we make each other better.

So what is it with the song?

I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.

I should be crying, but I just can't let it show.
I should be hoping, but I can't stop thinking of all the things I should've said, that I never said.
All the things we should've done, that we never did.
All the things I should've given, but I didn't.

Oh, darling, make it go, make it go away.


Give me these moments back.
Give them back to me.
Give me that little kiss.
Give me your hand.

Of all the things we should've said, that were never said.
All the things we should've done, that we never did.
All the things that you needed from me. All the things that you wanted for me.
All the things that I should've given, but I didn't.

Oh, darling, make it go away.
Just make it go away now.


The boys are all out of the house, even if only as college students, not independent adults. As they make their way into lives of their own, away from the home we had together, I do feel like crying but don’t want to let it show. When I try to stop thinking of all the things I should’ve said that I never said and all the things we should’ve done that we never did. And mostly, I think of all the things I should’ve given but I didn’t.

And then I think: give them back. Give me one more chance and I’ll do better. Give me your tiny little boy hand again and a tiny little kiss on my cheek.

Honestly, I don’t begrudge time and its inevitable march into tomorrow. I really don’t. But I do think about the things the boys needed from me. Like the nights they needed me to listen. Or ask. Or be available just in case they wanted a moment of clarity or truth. But maybe I was too tired to listen. Maybe I was too distracted and entirely absorbed in something that I can’t even remember today.

They all count as the things I should’ve given but didn’t. And in a moment of wishful thinking, I want to say, “Make it go away.” Just make those bad choices and missteps go away now.

I was (am?) one of those mothers who sat in awe of other women who were organized, efficient, accommodating, available, and familiar with every single aspect of their children’s lives. They knew every teacher, every coach, every club, team, and youth group. They knew about summer programs, camps, and art lessons. They turned in permission slips on time and never once got a call from the school nurse asking for health records that were five months overdue.

But all of that’s history. I knew who I was and who I wasn’t. I was never going to be the mom who “knew.” It came as surprise, though. My organization and efficiency elsewhere in life barely translated to motherhood. Was this not meant to be? In my worst moments, I think: no wonder the boys turned out okay. I interfered as little as possible.

So why am I stuck in this “give these moments back” mode? Nothing would change. I don’t think I would do anything any better or different. But maybe I’d try to hang onto that little hand just a little tighter. And make sure I leaned down for those kisses a little more often. That would count for something, right?

It’s here, very faintly in the background, but it’s here. That inevitable and relentless whisper that says, “Let go. Go ahead. Let them go.” Kate Bush knows. Here’s another bit of the song:

Pray God you can cope.
I stand outside this woman's work,
This woman's world.


I do sort of stand outside now, watching my sons grow and move and be – away from me. And do pray God they can cope. And that they know that while there may have been some words left unsaid, and some things left undone, we all came through with a little life in us, (and ahead of us); with a lot strength left in us, too.

10 comments:

Pamela Varkony said...

Renee, there's probably not a mother alive who hasn't felt this way but I doubt any one has expressed it more beautifully. Lovely post.

renee said...

Thanks so much, Pam. Just one of those nights, I guess.

Do you know the song? It's gorgeous.

Megan said...

Aunt Renee - beautiful sentiments and I LOVE this song. I don't know the Kate Bush version, but I remember it from 'She's Having a Baby' with Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern. I went out and bought the soundtrack for the movie because of it. Will definitely have to listen to Kate Bush!

renee said...

Hi Megan -

Thanks for your comment! I may be wrong but I think the Kate Bush version was the one used in the movie. I agree - the soundtrack is worth that song alone. (Plus 'Apron Strings' which I also love.)
Thanks again -

Meredith said...

I love this article.

I just recently had the conversation with another Mom friend about 'interfering as little as possible' in our child's lives. The two of us believed it is the most healthy way to be for both parent and child - you hit the nail right on the head with this topic! I think it is inevitable to always look back and reflect when your kids were little - they grow too quickly.

Anonymous said...

Oh Renee, I am still letting go of Goodnight Moon moments as Super Mario DS moves in. You capture the nostalgia perfectly and poetically. What a gift to share. Now I have to find that song.

renee said...

Thank you, Meredith! As Pam said as well, moms everywhere have some verison of this constantly playing in our heads, right?

Micromanaging childhood and children has to be one way to make sure they're dependent and barely able to form a decision on their own. That can't be the right choice.

But you're right - we'll never not question ourselves. Twenty years goes by unbelievably quickly.

Thanks again for your comment.

renee said...

Anon, I hope you find the song and enjoy it. It's truly beautiful.

And love the Super Mario days! It's tough to give up those story books, though. I hear you. But it seems like just yesterday we investing in "color gameboys" - and games for them and pokemon.

Then again, everyone in college seems to have a game system so maybe that's one thing that won't fade quite as quickly. ;)

GoHskrs said...

Renee, I just found your blog via the Daily Caller, and your entry about what you could have done differently really got to this dad. Mine are 9, 6, and 1 this month, and I'm already ruminating on things I should have done differently.

Thanks for giving me a mid-childhood checkpoint -- and a lot to think about!

renee said...

Welcome GoHskrs! Thanks for finding your way here and for your comments on the post.

Clearly this isn't a Mom-only thing - and it sounds so hackneyed and predictable to talk about how quickly time passes but it's so true. I'm sure you already know that with your own children.

As a friend of mine once told me, savor the tumult! It disappears too quickly.

Thanks again for your comment.