"I am sorry to say that Peter was not very well during the evening. His mother put him to bed, and made some camomile tea-and she gave a dose of it to Peter!
One tablespoonful to be taken at bedtime.
But Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail had bread and milk and blackberries for supper."
-Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
Fictional mothers are rock stars. Peter Rabbit's Mom, for instance, can solve everything with camomile tea. Granted, Peter lost yet another jacket and with Mr Rabbit already baked into a pie by Mrs. McGregor it is all she can do to keep the family clothed, fed and housed.
Then there is Little Bear's Mother. She cooks, sews, tells stories, never gets angry and generally kicks ass. Little Bear is well-adjusted, kind and high achieving. And they are all drawn by Maurice Sendak. Sometimes I wish I was drawn by Maurice Sendak.
Perfection in parenting is all around us. In the doctor's lounge, it is manifested by tales of science fair victories by future nobel prize winners. At sporting events, it is a gaggle of future olympians, bringing honor and glory to us all, with parental button-popping serving as a serious threat for eyes being put out all over the place. Which is why I ALWAYS wear protective glasses to children's sporting events. On Facebook, which I personally am quite fond of, it is happy, shiny people with happy, shiny children and happy, shiny dogs. Guilty as charged.
I spend my days with people. Which seems like a stupidly obvious statement because unless you live on an island that is yet undiscovered or unless you are one of those Humboldt hermits, you too probably spend your day with people. But I am an introvert and I am telling you I spend my day WITH PEOPLE. Like up close and personal, getting right to the intense stuff because generally there is no time to waste in end of life care and/or geriatrics. And here is what I can tell you about the state of people: they suffer.
I think Maurice Sendak might've been trying to get at that concept with Where the Wild Things Are.
I am, in general, not in favor of suffering.
But without suffering, there is no sense of relief. Like the pleasure of gulping water when thirsty, of an ache that subsides, of a heart break that slowly becomes nostalgia, then a portal to something bright and precious that has been crystallized by time and the searing heat of tears and intolerable grief.
I was running today (this is a blog about running, after all). It was in the woods, and it was with dogs. They and I meandered. They gained on me on the uphills (dogs seem completely oblivious to the hell of incline), and fell behind when I went down. I have been in a deep state of grief in recent days, but today I laughed twice. Not just a giggle but an unexpected eruption of hilarity. First time was at the car wash. I was out doing housecalls and my car was so dirty I could barely see out my window, so I went into the automated carwash. I was listening to Beethoven's Choral Fantasy during this and it was so in sync with the massive red brushes and dramatic shower of water on my car that it was actually kind of idiotically spectacular. I could totally see it as a scene in an avant garde film. I hereby claim this so don't try to use it in your next avant garde film. Second time was while running. I was running down hill after what seemed like endless climbing and I kind of lost control. I mean, I just started bicycling my legs faster and faster and essentially let go and I was flying. I was suddenly 7 years old again. The dogs were in my dust, It was a blast, and I just burst into laughter.
Grief. It is a funny thing. It engulfs you and you feel trapped inside of it, unable to breathe. Then it releases you and you fly up into the light and gulp the post-rain pine scented air only to fall back down, wracked with the ruinous violence of sadness. Like breathing, there is not a choice.
Parenting is to know that suffering is worthwhile. You cannot have the smell of your child's sweet head without the hurt of loss. You cannot control how the world, the genetics, the impulsive decisions of young people and the immaturity that believes suffering is only something other people should do informs the path your beloved child takes.
When grief lets you go for a bit, you fly up into the light. You revel in Beethoven and run with abandon down a path in a redwood forest. You release some of your lightness and send it with a kiss to where the wild things are.