Monday, July 12, 2010

At the Cottage

Last Sunday, just as the heat wave started, we were invited for a wonderful idyllic day at a friend’s cottage on a lake in Quebec. The three girls—Jessie, Julie, and Lizzy—giggled and swam and lounged and sang high school musical karaoke songs that drowned out the motor boats and the woodpeckers. Siblings variously hid and rolled their eyes, or went out tubing. Moms sat on the deck sharing stories, Dad’s down on the dock sharing whatever they share as kids, dogs, and spouses nattered and scattered and then generally left them alone.

It was such a wonderful relaxing time, as the girls were left to their own devices and found common ground in giggles and country music star dreams. Jessie and Julie have known each other since almost birth, and have an on-again-off-again relationship where they sometimes test each other’s bossiness and then come together in their passion for music and concert dreams. They are, each of them different in their basic nature (Jessie is a messy kind of thinker and creator, Julie is more measured and detail-oriented, following plans through to their completion), but share a common love of music, rock star/country star crushes, and of course that extra chromosome. Lizzy is someone we are just coming to know through Julie, and is a shy young woman of 17 with a spark of mischievousness in her deep brown eyes that hints at the joy, passion, and humour that erupts when you get to know her better.

So the girls dibbled and dabbled and giggled and laughed and wandered in and out of the cottage on their own rhythm. Content to be with each other and not to have to work to hard to just be. That is the simple pleasure, I think, in spending time with other people who move at your pace and share some of your passions. And the simple pleasure, as a parent, of letting go and letting your child just be who they are and knowing that it works. That at 20, its okay to be in love with the Jonas Brothers and to plan to go on tour with them. That it’s okay, because others share this passion with you and so totally understand it. Not the case so often, with Jessie’s 20-something so-called typical peers.

It’s the balance I think—between belonging to different communities that do not yet completely intersect—that makes Jessie’s life rich. And it’s a balance that is difficult to find as she matures and transitions into adulthood, and grapples with independence and the degree of support required for her to make her own decisions and go out into the world and find the communities that make space for her to contribute.

I do struggle with this, often and in a very fractured way. Always questioning my values and motives and abilities—as a mom, as a person, as an advocate. I am impatient—with Jessie, with myself, with society. And tired too. But sitting down and drinking coffee (yes, even in the heat Claire knows to put coffee on for me) with the Moms is a balm of sorts. And an inspiration.

Because all the love in the world that I have for Jessie does not always translate into action imbued with lovingkindness. In fact, if you happen to pass by our house in the morning and find the windows open, you might overhear what could only be likened to Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Spades shouting “OFF WITH HER HEAD!”

But spending time with these Moms inspires me to try harder, to let go and be patient. To go with the rhythm and flow of my daughter’s generous and creative spirit. Because what I see in them, and witness in their interactions with their daughters and mine, is an acceptance and joy in their being. And what I love about gathering together, is the way we can create a space to breathe. Where the common attributes of our daughters—persistence, inflexibility, humour, and a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ in their social skills—play themselves out in unique ways that are recognizable as both familiar ground and very distinct personhood.

We do, each of us, as parents, wrestle with our own daemons and try to guide our children into adulthood in a world that is still not quite open to them. We move back and forth between battering down the barriers and retreating to a comfortable place where we can all just be people. And sometimes its nice not be told by strangers how patient you are, even if it is meant as a compliment, because the flip side of the compliment is that your child is just so stubborn and trying that it would take a saint to raise them. We are none of us saints; we are all of us, just Moms.

NOTE: permission to use photos granted by Moms, and directly by Julie who Facebooked me with: Hey Nancy how's it going i heard from my mom that your trying to put a picture of Jessie and Lizzy and me on your blog are you joking me good grief okay fine you can put that picture of the girls on your blog if you feel like it okay Julie


Anonymous said...

I LOVE that you include (and amplify) all the grrrrls voices.


Daniela Goldstone said...

I'm continuing to enjoy and look forward to your posts, as I find we have so much in common in our battle between letting go and trying to guide (and sometimes force) Daniela to move forward. She, like Jessie, also wavers between being stubbornly independent and clinging to me to be her voice.

Tina Goldstone

Owen Doubelu said...

Ha Ha Ha... Emily is doing bunny ears behind Elizabeth's head!

Nan said...

Yup! Good eye! There are ways to get back at sisters who make you listen to karaoke .. no?

Anonymous said...

Just a great post! And so needed. You write and give me clarity. :)