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« Just pokey? | Main | Signs of spring »
Wednesday
May052010

Impossible

Photo by SF Knitter

If you are a mother, and probably even if you are not, you know the joy of finding the impossible moment when you can do just want you needed and wanted to do.  For me that is usually a long walk. 

The stars aligned today.  A good night’s sleep, waking on time, clean exercise clothes, a couple of hours when my child would be busy with someone other than myself, work completed, a silent cell phone, cooperating weather, even a few extra minutes to update my iPod (which was charged) with new music.  Impossible.

After delivering WJ to school I set off in the sunshine for a brisk walk along the waterfront.  Did I mention the weather?  Warm sun, cool breeze.  Impossible.

It was in the middle of this impossible moment when I spotted the springtime ducks swimming in the river.  There is just nothing like the fuzzy sweetness of a downy duckling swimming obediently behind its mother.  Multiplied by seven, I had to stop and watch.  And stopping I saw more.

Mama Duck was slightly frantic, more than slightly, as she ushered these seven young ones along the Hudson River.  “Relax!” I wanted to yell to her,  “Look around at this day!”

But it was I who looked around.  Behind her and the new babies rose up the skyscrapers of a metropolis.  Yards beyond her in the water, ferry boats zoomed commuters to work.  A giant barge chugged by.  Strange debris floated all about.  The strong current pulled out towards the sea.  The mother’s eyes darted in search of safety.  Her pace was too quick.  And the ducklings were pulled unexpectedly close, touching her and each other as they swam. 

Photo by Katherine "Cody" RobinsonIn that frantic mother duck, I saw myself.  I saw most of us.  I am bringing my child up right here right alongside of her.  Steel and concrete tower around us.  People and time zoom by and we dart along trying to keep the pace or keep out of the way.  I walk my child down streets that have known screaming and hatred and parked SUV’s that sometimes smoke and sometimes tick and sometimes are filled with destruction meant for the likes of me.  Cars crash, planes fall out of the sky, children vanish, the media bombards, abuse poisons.  Mama Duck and I, and probably you, face an impossible task.

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending a benefit concert for New City Kids Church, an amazing ministry in this area that is making an impossible impact on the lives of the children about whom we often forget.  Kids growing up right here, along with mine, along with the ducks.  Recording artist, Sara Groves, sang these lyrics that night.  They were on my iPod this morning thanks to those extra minutes and aligned stars:

"We are pressed on every side; Full of fear and troubled thoughts; For good reason we carried heavy hearts."

For good reason. 

Heavy heart and darting eyes.  I too search each moment for the safety I can find, places to huddle and hide.  And I pull my child close.  Maybe too close.  And I move fast.  Too fast.  For good reason.

I have good reason to think it impossible to offer freedom and independence to my child.  I have good reason to hold him too close.    

No? 

Do you wonder about this?

Do I have the hope and trust that I need right now to provide enough space for my child’s roots to grow without crowding?  Can his sprouting leaves catch the sunlight or does my shadow hover too close?  Will his trunk grow strong around its broken places or will it wither and bend as an overzealous gardener pokes and prods too much with misguided protection?

It seems impossible to me, and probably to Mama Duck too, but the time is coming when we will let the ducklings wander a little farther from us.  And soon even out of our sight.  And soon even off to make a way of their own.  Will the Mama Duck rejoice as they waddle away?  Will she swell with anticipation and pride?  Will I? 

I hope so.  Because there is good reason.  Sara Groves’ song continues:

"For good reason hope is in our hearts… For good reason this joy is in our hearts…"

Letting go begins at birth.  It begins before birth when everything happening to the child is tucked away and hidden and there is no way to know if all is well.

For good reason I hope.  I have joy.  I relax.  This child is not mine alone.  It is an impossible task for me but it is not impossible.

What seems impossible to you?

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Reader Comments (5)

Emily...you're back! I've been missing your profound insight on life and kids! Thanks for this great post.

I struggled with this issue when we were contemplating a move upstate. Some times I feel like my kids are exposed to so much here... which is one of the reasons I want to go and one of the big reasons I want to stay. I think living in a metropolitan area is a huge step in raising independent unsheltered children, no? Not to say there are not dangers everywhere... but here we share space with one another...we are not holed up in our houses... we have to get along. And that's what I love about it.

That being said...what seems impossible? Knowing when will be the right age for my kids to walk to school alone... I want to keep my ducklings close!

I really enjoyed this post. I was just talking to a friend this morning about this very topic. We were even wondering how we were going to feel when it comes time to make decisions about High School bc our kids could very well end up going to school in NYC. We were wondering how we might feel about them venturing into the city alone to attend school, even though that time is so many years from now. Raising kids in a city can be difficult and worrisome, but at the same time absolutely wonderful bc with the drawbacks come the absolutely amazing positives. Sometimes I can never ever imagine ever living anywhere else and other times it's like get me outta here! I'm guessing we all feel like that from time to time though. Excellent post.

May 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

I am that mama duck. I sure am.

great post - how wonderful that you had the time and solitude to relate and reflect on that mother duck.

Taking a walk is such a privilege and it completely clears my head. Thanks for the nice read.

July 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLauralee

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