Saturday, May 7, 2011

It's The Way That You Love Me

I set out this morning to write about each child.  But I've stopped after three.  Exhausted.  Teary-eyed.  The last two - my babies - I'll write about later in the week.  Writing about the first three dang near took everything I had.


I'm afraid I tend to love you somewhat hysterically.  I can't help it.  You were my first. The occasion called for a certain amount of hysteria in the absence of any calmer emotions. It was a long labor full of bad advice and old-fashioned doctoring that did nothing to boost my mothering instincts or confidence. When you were finally born, you took one look at me and screamed.  I took it personally. And I'm pretty sure you meant it that way.

The adrenaline rush never wore off.  I'd read a million baby books but you apparently hadn't.  You didn't do anything according to how the million baby books said you should do it.  And you were terribly unhappy with the help, so to speak, which was basically your big old inadequate pile of mommy nerves. But God, how I loved you!  I loved you to the point of hysteria.  Hysteria over everything you did or didn't do.  And always questioning....questioning.....until I finally let you teach me.  

I love you from more of a distance than I'm comfortable with.  You like your space - physically and emotionally.  I'm not sure you realize I'm doing this loving business from afar....I'm pretty sure you think I'm doing it in your face.   

I never know what is coming up around the corner...just when I get used to one thing, the next thing pops up.  You were my first baby, my first toddler, my first big kid, my first teenager.....  How can I know what to do and how to do it?  I've never done it before.  Neither have you.  And there's that whole thing about you not getting any of the memos about the Way Things Are Usually Done. 

I'm walking blind, running wild, desperately floundering....that's how I love you. 

I've loved every You I've been presented with.  The precocious toddler, the surly little girl, the intense pre-teen, the driven teenager, the beautiful young woman.  You were always defined by your bulletin board - Bob Dylan pics and lyrics....poetry....pins and bumper stickers.  And by your music - you little B-Side snob.  Always finding something new - something edgy....then backing off when the masses caught on. And by your books: You're reading This is All again.  And you're reading Extremely Loud Incredibly Close again.  You're reminiscing, aren't you?

And always - the tattered and torn Pride and Prejudice.  You've been carrying it around like a security blanket.  You're excited. But I think you're a bit nervous.  I always know what you're's one of the ways that I love you.

I'd like to say it'll get calmer, more peaceful, less intense....somehow.  But it won't.  You're leaving. And I'm supposed to keep breathing anyway. 

Hysteria just below the surface. 

Someday you'll do something huge; like maybe get married or have a child. And I'll be hysterical about it.  Or maybe you'll do neither and I'll be hysterical about that.  Or you'll study abroad, or go on a world tour, or win a Grammy.  And I'll be hysterical.

Someday soon, you'll be playing the piano for people who are Not Me....songs I haven't heard....I won't have memorized every little facial expression you make at this point or that...every little mannerism of the wrist or shoulders....for the songs you're playing now - this is familiar territory for me. Watching you play - I know what to expect. Now.  But someday soon - I'll show up to hear you play something...unfamiliar....and I'll be like everybody else.  I'll be an Audience Member, watching you on the stage of your life...of your world....not paying attention to the rules...and I'll be unsure of what's coming next...not even knowing when the song is over.  Is it time to clap? I won't know.  But I'm your biggest fan.

This bittersweet time of anticipating the hugest change....this Going Off To College's making me love you with a fierceness I haven't felt since you were a newborn screaming in my arms and not wanting to be held.....and me squeezing more tightly because I simply didn't know what else to do....Only this time I can't squeeze more tightly.  This time I have to let go. It's counterintuitive. It's making me crazy.  And yet - I'm so thrilled. And excited. And happy.

That's the way I love you.  In a way that doesn't make sense. With a desperate, fierce, hysterical love. It's the way I'll always love you. And you love me quietly. Undemonstratively. Intelligently.  Respectfully. Patiently.  Slowing down every so often so I can catch up.  You say things, every now and then, that let me know you approve of how this has all played out.  You're content with the way you've been raised. The way you've been loved. 

And that's the way that you love me.


I love you with a carefree heart and a silly smile.  I've never been able to stop smiling around you.  You crack a joke - I laugh - you say I'm easy to impress.  But the truth is, nothing's been easy for us.  So we both deserve to laugh. Also? You're pretty funny.

You were an easy birth.  You were of normal weight, no jaundice, no complications.  No Screaming.  Grins, giggles, and chubby cheeks. Everything was By the Book with you.  And....I waited for the other shoe to drop.  Because I'm kind of wired that way.  But it all seemed really did! Until it was time to talk. And you wouldn't.  Until it was time to follow simple directions.  And you couldn't.  But you communicated with me very well....through sound effects and sign language and charades.  And I understood every word. Perfectly.

I sent you to school - because that's what we do here, after all.  We cross a line where the parents are no longer qualified to teach simple things like counting, letters, shapes, and colors. There's some sort of mystery to this educational process....we must send them away so someone more qualified in counting to ten can do it with a lot of kids all at once.  So I sent you.  With a sinking heart.  And your smiles became rarer, your grins went away, your happiness retreated to a place deep inside you.  You could not read or write.  You could not count to 100.  You didn't cooperate with the multi-level commands, demands, instructions and directions.  And I loved you sadly.  I loved you guiltily.  I loved you protectively.  And I yanked your ass out of that school. 

We never gave up, did we?  You are anything but lazy - the hardest little worker.  When I would begin to doubt that we'd ever get there, you'd close your book and say, "Maybe tomorrow. Right Mom?"  I'm not a patient person - it isn't in my stratosphere of virtues...but you taught me to love you patiently.  Waiting. Always waiting.  You taught me to enjoy the sights along the way....the hours spent reading aloud to you because you couldn't read for yourself - the most precious hours of my life.  Sometimes I'm sad that you won't let me do it anymore.  I've loved you through books...the adventures we've shared. 

I love you more selflessly than I've loved the others.  How could I not give a lot to someone who gives everything of himself?  I've loved you peacefully - for you are the peacemaker in our house.  You're the Calm Factor.  The Cooling Element. The Therapeutic Puppy.  You diffuse situations with a joke or a facial expression.  I love you with gratefulness.  I love you with a tenderness that almost breaks my heart.

I love you happily - and humorously - because the two of us?  Are funny people, even though not everybody thinks so.  We appreciate that about each other. I cherish the car rides, where you tell me nonstop jokes.  I love that you laugh at mine. I love it when you talk like Richard Nixon and call me a damn hippy. Or a stinkin' liberal. Because that's the way you love me.

I love it when you're laughing so hard at whatever it is you're saying that the rest of us can't understand you.

I love that you like me. 

You're getting your learner's permit soon - you'll be driving. And I'm nervous, but not hysterical.  Hysterical is reserved for Ellie. 

I love you with....reckless abandon. 

I've loved you through the school days and the playgrounds and the minefields of expectations....the ones you navigated with a grin. I'll always cheer you on. I'll never turn my back on you. I'll always believe in you at least as much as you believe in yourself - and that is a lot.  I promise to be the loudest one laughing in the room.  Because that's the way I love you.

And I love the way you love your brother. Always knowing the right thing to say or do....when I'm all out of ideas.


I love you...differently.  I love you desperately.  And I love you energetically....for loving you could never be a spectator sport or a passive activity.  Sometimes I worry that if I lower the intensity, you'll disappear.  Sometimes my love for you is draining, but often it is invigorating.

You were so tiny when you were born.  The nurse blamed me.  "Did you eat while you were pregnant?" she asked.  Of course I had! But maybe not enough.... And that was the first of many times I would feel responsible and guilty for things that are beyond my control where you're concerned. 

Of course, you WERE tiny (5 lbs 13 oz) but we now know it was normal for you.  You are hard and lean....nothing soft on you.  You look exactly like my Uncle Gene.  You are a double gift carrying my mother's smile.  You're the only one who looks like my family, even though, oddly enough, that means you look nothing like me - ha! Since I'm famously known for looking nothing like my family. 

You were the one who finally brought out my inner attachment mom.  How could I put you down, as small as you were?  How could I stop nursing you, as small as you were?  How could I let you sleep alone, when you were so tiny? I loved you protectively.  And I was always frightened.  Of what?  I couldn't say.  I just held you closer.

But eventually you wouldn't stand for it any longer.  And you assumed your role of middle child before the other two had even arrived. I was always searching for you....with this unshaken feeling that you'd slip between the cracks.  And you were always in my blind spot, beneath my radar, just outside of my peripheral vision.  "Where is Jules?" I would ask.  "Right here," you'd say quietly. 

But I never felt as if I'd found you. 

You often didn't respond when I talked to you.  You often pushed my buttons.  You seemed to have no boundaries. 

You couldn't hear. 

"Why didn't you bring him in sooner?" the doctor said.  "Maybe we could have saved his hearing in this ear."  The second time I accepted blame. 

I love you with a terrifying desperation.  With you, we looked over the brink - stared down into that unfathomable darkness of loss - and then stepped away from the edge.  "Come back in six months and we'll do another MRI.  For now, we'll just watch the brain tumor.

I didn't think I could live my life in six-month increments. Turns out I could.  And now I live it in yearly increments.  Pretending to look forward to our yearly trip to Los Angeles.

I love you with a strength I didn't know I had.  And with gratefulness I didn't know I could feel. You've taught me to take nothing for granted.  You've taught me that life is a gift. 

You love me differently, too.  We talk. About Things. 

Star Trek, turtles, snakes, the universe, Star Wars, the weather, marine life....always Things.  Mostly you talk and I listen.  And in between is silence.  I love you in silence.  It is comfortable with you in a way it isn't with others.  I feel your love for me in the silence; riding in the car on the way to the orthodontist....resting between topics....companionable silence. 

"How are you feeling today?" I'll ask.  "Do you know the relationship between Boba Fett and Darth Vador?" you'll reply. Sometimes your answers indicate anxiety or depression or extreme happiness.  Sometimes you just really want to talk about Boba Fett and Darth Vador.

"No," said the doctor. "His hearing impairment shouldn't interfere with his ability to socialize to that're dealing with something else."  We learned about The Spectrum. The third time I accepted guilt.

The way I love you is foreign to me.  I am a girl of strong emotions, of intense feelings....a demonstrative sort of girl.  And yet, I love you by bringing up topics like time travel.  By being interested....all the time....and by never passing up an opportunity to connect with you.  Because sometimes you reach out for me - and I have to be ready to grab you up.  Right then.  Because I'm always afraid you'll slip away. 

You bless me with hugs - you've figured out they make me happy.  And so you'll be halfway across the room, walking away....and then spin suddenly on your heel to come back and give me a punfunctory hug.  Because that's the way you love me.  With an endearing thoughtfulness....a premeditated show of affection....a calculated demonstration.  I've never been so intentionally loved, before.  I don't think many people are intentionally loved.  Love is something that "happens" to us.  But I'm not sure that is the case with you.  You are loving me because you want to.  You make a choice to love me.  You make a choice to show it in a way you hope I'll appreciate. Nobody's ever loved me like this. How could I ever have lived without you?

It's the way that you love me - Full-Intentioned. Whole-hearted. With everything you have. And I promise, I'll never let go.  I'll never be too tired or too old to hold on tightly.

My first three - you make me believe that anything is possible.  Every single day.  I love you all insanely.


  1. Oh God, where do I start on this one? I could see how you couldn't make it five descriptions on this post. If I were a hippy liberal, I'd be tearing up right about now.
    That was just beautiful. Who knew you had it in you? Just kidding, I know you're big softy. Man-up! But truly, I felt the love come right though all of that.
    You're a good Mom. And you don't even need your Followers to tell you that. The love, caring, pain and heartache tells you that you are.
    Your Friend, m.
    Happy Mother's Day.
    p.s. My Word Verification is "Butpee" m.

  2. Truly lovely. I don't have any words to tell you how wonderful this was.

  3. I'm sobbing all over my keyboard. So precious. Thank you for sharing.

  4. You are a brave woman, to allow yourself to be vulnerable with your readers. You've articulated the crazy mama love that has kept the human race going. Thank you.

    And Happy Mother's Day to you.

  5. this should have come with a warning.
    but, i'm slightly better due to mark's word verification word thingy.

  6. Perfect! Your best ever...really. I only have one, so I'm stuck at the first stage of loving.

  7. Just beautiful. I hope I'm able to put my love for my kids into words this well some day. I have trouble verbalizing my love for them already and one is only 15 months and the other won't be born for another month :-)

  8. Same here, I'm hoping to but pretty sure I will never be able to write about the love I feel for my children (two and it will never be more). I was doing great reading this post until I reached Joel and then the tears imposed themselves - happy mother's day! And I thought I was finally going to know about the detox-results! By the way thanks for the Sheen-details, I was very proud that I knew his first name before you told me! And I guess I'm pretty insane too, so yes, maybe my qualifying you as a winner is rather Sheenish...
    hug from far away, Jade (just because I love your posts!)

  9. Ethan and I talk, too--About Things. Ships, Star Trek, Star Wars, planes, historical events. Only people if they are historical in nature. He doesn't ask about what's coming up, what's for dinner, how are your rehearsals going, Mom? So there really isn't a Mother's Day in my house. And in between there is silence, but not uncomfortably so. I never consciously thought before about how we talk; it's just how we are. I'm not sure whether I would change that if I could; sometimes yes, sometimes no. Thank you for things to think about.

  10. Sorry, I could only make it through one today! (the lovely Ellen) I am saving the others for the next time I need a good cry (maybe some laughs too).

    I'm not dealing with this teenage, leaving soon business. Maybe in a few decades I'll look back and say, whew! I handled that OK. I might be ready to think about it by then.

  11. Today I read Joel. Can't talk right now.

  12. Three posts in one require three comments, right? I love the green Buddha! You got me again on Jules. I can see how beautiful and different your relationship is with each child.