Sunday, November 14, 2010

Of Cloudless Climes And Starry Skies.../Meet In Her Aspect And Her Eyes

{The place I am in this morning is choked up. My daughter will be halfway to eighteen tomorrow. This piece below was written May 17, 2006 - almost five years ago - during a dark and very, very difficult time. A lot has changed since then and there are no words to say how grateful I am for that. My daughter has weathered so many seasons of me cutting my newbie mother teeth at her expense.  I am posting some old pieces I've written every now and then to keep them all in one place. And also to celebrate some beautiful changes.}

My therapist  (I have one, and I highly recommend them, they are like seeing-eye dogs for the mother-blind) told me recently that I don't need to hide.

I heard her words and felt the tandem epiphany that I am both hiding and trying to hide my beautiful daughter, too. I felt the heart sucker-punch realizing that I try to veil her strengths. They embarrass me. She can suck the quiet out of a room and fill it up with colour. She's strong. Hair down her back and legs like a little stallion. She has green eyes that see right through you and a mouth that can tell you how. She's a four year old version of Sophocles. The writer of great tragedies. Only a darn sight prettier.

My daughter isn't dramatic, we call it expressive and passionate. She isn't emotional, we call it sensitive. Which is actually a load of smelly bull because I call it roaring pediatric PMS. And God knows it has come early to our house, and two of a feather should very much not flock together, let me tell you. Doors a slammin', hormones a jammin'. Not good. Not pretty. Four is kicking my butt. 

My daughter went with me to the pediatrician when she was about nineteen months old. I told him I was struggling because she was so expressive at such an early age and I didn't quite know how to handle it. "Oh," he said, "you'll have to teach her words for her emotions." She turned her soulful eyes and big poofy lips at him and said, "That makes me frustrated when you talk like that about me and then I feel overwhelmed." Ahhh. Definitely not a child to talk down to. Still isn't.

She came out watching and she still does. Big eyes. Hides her tears. And a mind like a whipper-snapper. She could be a supreme court justice, you see, except for the travesty that I am screwing her up. Royally. I lay awake at night thinking more about that horror almost as much as the possibility of nuclear war with Iran.

Which should tell you something about her and my similarities.

She cries for children without mommies and daddies when I just want her to go to bed before I help her join that category. She adores Shirley Temple and has made it her own routine to pray knelt at her bedside (no small feat on a bunk bed ladder) to send her very own MGM prayers upward. The concept of unrequited love is completely foreign to her.

My bedtime prayers for my own little offspring consist of: Please don't let them be like me.

And then I realized they aren't like me. They haven't had enough time. I'm like them.

In the most wonderful way possible, I'm like they are now. They are still mostly unsullied. Mostly un-scarred. And the thing is I think she is beautiful. Oh my heavens she radiates. What is it Byron says, "...she walks in beauty like the night... ." That is my daughter. Breathtaking like the stars. Wise. Quick. Annoying. Yes, annoying to me. Because I am scared. Scared of her intensity. Her knife-sharpeningly keen insight that comes without the knowledge of the turmoil it can cause. That was me as a child. I felt like a little exposer. I just felt things. And because of that I always felt a little bit wrong. And very alone.

That is her, too. Her intuition should be branded as a beauty product and sold to Britney Spears. She walks into a room and it's like she sniffs. Sniffs the air for secrets. The emotions unbarred and the hearts unheld. And then she moves toward them. It takes my breath away and chokes me up, even as I write, for the pain that awaits her. Because people hate that. Hate the exposure. Hate the hand that rocks the cradle. With her I still call it a gift. Intuition. Perceptive. Loving. Caring. Keen. A wise soul with the tenderest of hearts.

I see a hill, I long to climb it. She sees the hill and she's half way up it. I'm the one yelling in the background about scraped knees and a bad example for her younger friends.

I'm afraid of the pain she'll face. That she does already. She hugs her neighbour friends and tells them she loves them and they back away. She's intense. I cringe. She makes them uncomfortable. Or me uncomfortable. Because I've lost that fearless honesty. I don't see the lover. I see the rejection. The hurt.

I've been trying to find the teachable moments.

Baby, God gave you a soft heart but sometimes because of that we have strong words because we feel so deep. Mama wants to help you have a strong heart and soft words. True, but what am I? Bambi's mother? And God help me. What am I doing? Trying to cover her up? Stop me before it's too late. I am parenting - it's ugly - out of pain. Out of who I am, not who I was. Yes, there needs to be the taming of the typhoon at times. But I've been taming the shrew. And she's not in my daughter. And she's not in me, either. She's in my hurt.

I'm not passing on wisdom. I'm passing on pain. Fear. She's gorgeous. And the wisdom I will pass on is when I see her in me.

I grew up on the 'strong willed child' jargon. It's seen as something very bad, thank you very much please don't focus on my family, that strong-willed child needs to be broken. My daughter is a lioness. A queen. A wild horse. She doesn't need a breaking. She needs a whisperer. We chose her name because it was one of the first women in the Old Testament who inherited right along with her brothers. One of Job's daughters, after he made it through those awful years. My sweet-smelling fragrance. My Cinnamon. Her middle name means brave. My sweet brave woman-child.

I realize the mother-daughter relationship is truly like no other. It can be more complicated than romance and more dangerous, too. Because I can influence her towards the her I don't want her to be instead of the unique, lovely individual I have before me. And I could miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I have to look in the mirror I've been given. Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the fairest of them all? If I don't listen to the "you are" whispered to myself, don't hold on to it when I hear it, then I will forever parent her that way. From a sickening deficit rather than a release to shine. And like the crumbs on the forest trail I will lead her to destruction, not to her true love. Oh, I want to be her whisperer.

No, better yet.

I want to hear her whisper. Hear her roar. 

She walks in beauty, like the night
 ~ Lord Byron 

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress
Or softly lightens o'er her face,
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek and o'er the brow
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent.


Jennifer Jo said...

Misha, This is sooo gorgeous. I love it. You paint a very colorful, intricate picture with words.

I appreciate hearing another mother struggling---respectfully, carefully, honestly. I need to hear this---it helps me to reevaluate and understand my own struggles...of which there are many...while still appreciating the child who is causing me such angst. (And yes, I actually have a couple of them.)

L.L. Barkat said...

That Byron poem is a favorite.

This piece is so beautiful. Full-up with her and you.

Phoenix-Karenee said...

This brought me to tears because I suffer the same fear to the point of pushing my children away into what I don't want them to be because what they are is so dangerously painful to be. But God has me also, and as I learn to suspend upon his grace it becomes easier to release them into that same place. I find myself telling them life might hurt and things might look different than they really are, but that no matter what the reality they must pursue begins and ends in God's presence and in his complete ability to compensate for evil and bring good out of nothing. In the end, that is my only hope as well. Better to share it early so they may hold it closer than I have done.

Kim said...

Thanks for this Misha. I never had girls, but 3 sons. I'm still trying to figure out how to be the Dad that God wants me to be and the oldest is 10+18!!...Bless you and your daughter!

emily wierenga said...

oh misha... oh, girl, this is so, so full of mother heart. i lie awake and worry about my boy too and he, only one... i cry, for all my fears, and i pray liquid and beg God keep him safe yet God isn't a safe God and i want my boy to know his savior fully...

it is hard. i'm so glad i can walk this path with you, beautiful sister. xo

Rita said...

Dear Misha ... I salute you! May you K have the most wonderful relationship that will last until you very old and using a zimmer frame! :)

Misha Leigh. said...

Rita - That would be my dearest hope. : ) Thank you! love and love and kusjes.

Tilly said...

Love this. Love the rawness. Love the depth. Love the words. They seem like tear drops splattered on a page. How do you so vividly paint such an exquisite picture of your emotions and longings?

Fairlightday said...

Oh Misha, Is it so bad that I still struggle with this very fight when O. is already 7??? Have you dealt with it? Are you better? Does it get better? I sat in church Sunday and cried, it had been a long week and 2 really hard days, and I realized (again) that it's mostly me. Not her. Change my heart, Lord. Teach me. Mold me so that I can not break her. And yes, I'm overwhelmed with the feeling that I'm royally screwing this up. Made a mess, a big mess. This child is so much bigger than I can hold, contain, shape. Most days I feel like I'm trying to hold one of those large flaming gas planets. It burn my hands and slips out between my fingers, but I must hold on to keep it on course and to not fly off in into the outer reaches of the galaxy. What to do? What to do? Praying, praying, praying for wisdom, and love, more love, and understanding.

surfjams said...

Misha, this is so beautiful! I am just catching up after weeks of not being able to read you, and this is so inspiring. Doesn't make me feel much better about MY parenting, but as you know, I have one of those fiery passionate little beings in my house, and I'm lost. And I worry, oh I worry, about all my mistakes and how they have already affected him. Thanks for your words, thanks for inspiring us all, and putting such beautiful, such true words to what I am feeling, helping me see things on a brighter side.
And sorry we missed K's bday! I've been out of the loop because of work, no good excuse, just reality :(