Literary Reflections is pleased to present our featured writing prompt response from August. We asked, “Has motherhood altered your perceptions of your own place in the universe, of your parents, or of old passions? How has parenting added dimension, richness, and flavor to your life?”
Tiffany Herr writes:
I feel a little panicky. Is it possible my daughter is slipping away from me? Love is so acute that the tiniest seismic shift in it is noticeable. Tiny shifts mean ever widening cracks. Cracks that follow fault lines that have always existed. We call them healthy boundaries, independence, breathing space.
When she is playing away from me I worry I might be missing some little shift and she’ll be different when she comes back. I have become a listener, with my ear to the earth, hoping to anticipate when the fault lines begin shuddering open. The moment she was born, there was the tiniest crack between us. It was barely perceptible but I was aware of it. Aware that I had just begun the letting go and stunned by the understanding that it was never going to stop. I told myself I could handle it. I tried not to be heartbroken by the thought that she is not mine as much as she is her own. I promised to remember later, when she leaves home, that this was always the plan and that when that day came it would not be shocking or terrible, but graceful and expected. I told myself that letting go happens every single day, that it’s natural, but I also told myself to notice so it makes sense.
She is this whole person, entirely separate, with cuts and bruises all her own. I know every part of her by heart. I am trying to believe that it will not be so hard when I don’t have her to look at whenever I want to, when I won’t be the one who answers all her questions or gets the last hug of the day. So I practice now. She goes away and comes back. Goes away and comes back. I miss her when she is gone but I would never deny her these hours outside my reach. I wait for her to return and breathe in my space. I try to feel reassured that there is no seismic shock awaiting today or tomorrow, that there is time.
I go about my daily life. I fold her small clothes, paint rainbows on her wall, sweep crumbs from her cookies, put band aids on her knees, and put bubbles in her bath. Each day is a series of inward and outward breaths, ebbing and flowing. I try not to go wandering out of that rhythmic orbit into the deep space of my thoughts where this is not so. I try to stay present.
I think that I am all the time giving birth. Pushing her on and letting go. I hope, like the day I met her, it means that change can be rhythmic and natural. That for every outward spin there is another inward one. That shifts only mean change and not loss. That cracks are good and right as long as we can still reach across them and touch.
Tiffany Herr can be reached at herrtiffany(at)gmail(dot)com.