My favorite thing to do with my children as a parent, is read them stories. Those moments felt like perfect motherhood. They were throwbacks to rocking them to sleep, to simply enjoying their presence without any other purpose. Reading aloud, I could do nothing else but be present to them. They all know my favorite saying, “Whoever multi-tasks does two things poorly.” They also know mom perpetually multi-tasks. It means a lot of what I do…is not quite fully what it should be. So I really hope one day they say is, there was something about those moments of reading together they treasure. These will be the moments when I was being Mom enough to forget to be anything else.
Every once in a while when you’re raising lots of teens, it feels like the part where you relate to each other as a parent to a child, is missing, gone, forever forgotten or rewritten by the teen divorced from some of the joy you as a parent thought you gave. It’s why I don’t blog about my adolescents…because I know my own adolescence put the awk in awkward and the mope in mopey, and was generally, well not something story worthy. It was messy, clumsy, clueless and stupid. The modern age doesn’t allow for much of that. So I only blog about what I treasure, so that what I know happened, won’t be lost.
Last night, after thrashing around as a parent, trying to get things done, one of my teens asked if I would come and read to them a story. My heart fluttered and I said yes. After the request, we had a few problems…burnt cookies, missing work that took a long time to not finish, and things got testy. We ended the evening abruptly, and I went to rant to my very patient husband about the frustrations of the day. I’d set my teeth, I wasn’t going to read, I’d had enough. I took a bath and read to myself, the day and the book refused to either let me escape or forget. “You have to go upstairs.” I felt the push from the Holy Spirit and knew, as late as it was, I needed to climb the stairs. I didn’t have the book we’d planned, but I took my computer and googled the author she wanted, Edgar Allen Poe. She was still up.
“Want the story?”
“I guess.” she said, the irritation and hope, all of everything of the evening and more in her voice.
Sitting next to her bed, I started to read.
“I don’t want the Tell Tale Heart.”
So I googled again.
“Or the Cask of …”
Google again. What story would be the right one? What would tap on her heart and mine? Tapping.
I read “The Raven,” to her and we talked about various ways one could understand or guess what would happen, or why it happened, and I said prayers to my two teens, something I hadn’t done with them at bedtime in years. It made me yearn to read to them more often, and wonder why I hadn’t. I knew why. At some point, I stopped being simply present, and was functional. We apologized for earlier time, and all that mess of earlier fell away as only something less than love must do when love rushes into the space.
Coming down stairs, I thought about one of the eariest memories of her life, when she cried in her room. I was seven months pregnant with the sister who now shares the room. At three in the morning, her summoms resulted in an hour of work. I stripped and made the bed and changed her and rocked for a few minutes. Placing her back in the crib, I’d gone half way down to our room when over the monitor I heard, “She left me again.”
My husband and I both cracked up, but what could I do? I walked back up the stairs, because her heart needed the more. Loving a teen is learning to walk up the stairs when it’s not necessary. Their hearts need the more. Like reading stories to kids who can already read. I sat there thinking, all love is sacrifice, both when it is necessary and when it is not, and most especially, when it is not. My tell tale heart tells me, for the love of God, whenever they ask, and even when they don’t, the answer can never be, “Nevermore.”