I could barely recognize the sound of my own shaky voice in the pharmacy, asking a man stocking shelves where the at home drug tests were located. As a mother, I thought to myself, “how did I get here?” I know how: I gave my child enough space to make his own mistakes.
I read “Blue Nights” by Joan Didion in a particularly tense period of time while parenting my oldest son. I had never been able to aptly express how I felt in this incredibly complex, so- ugly-it’s-painfully-beautiful phase of motherhood. She intended to write about children, about “the ways in which we depend on our children to depend on us, the ways in which we encourage them to remain children, ways in which they are more unknown to us than they do to their most casual acquaintances; the ways we remain equally opaque to them,” but that her actual writing turned out to be about the fear we have over the lives of our children, because “when we talk about mortality, we are talking about our children.”
This child I have birthed and loved and nurtured at my breast is now angry with me. He speaks to a girl at night on the phone in hushed tones and thinks I can’t hear him in the bedroom beneath mine. She will never know him as I do. I will never know him as she does. He doesn’t always want to talk to me or answer my questions, but he asks me to watch him surf. He asks, “what should I wear for picture day?” I answer him honestly and he chooses something else. We will be okay, and he will always be my child, but the nights feel blue and it doesn’t feel like home when he isn’t here.