In my mind is the movie of my children’s lives—and it doesn’t look like
the lives they lead. The people my children are becoming and the lives
they lead are infinitely more interesting than what I envision for them.
I recognize that they have begun to escape my strictures, and for this,
I am glad and worried. In the movie in my head, the lives I envision
for them are safe, certain, predictable; they are lives for me. And yet I
want them to live more boldly and courageously than I did. I have never
told them this; I have never urged risk. I do not say what I wish I had
done differently. This sort of withholding of the imperfect self, Ginzburg
points out, does not help our children.
If I could be stronger and better myself, I would. And since I am not,
how to guide my children to that place? On Mother’s Day, the chickens
were eight weeks old. My daughter sent flowers, my son called, and my
horse tried to bite me, so I slapped her neck.
In late May, the children came home briefly, and I introduced them to
the chickens. I loved the chickens. I loved their tiny stupid heads and
their growing wattles and combs. I gave them treats: red cabbage, parsley, freeze-dried crickets. They pecked my feet; stupidly, they pecked
their own feet; they came to sit on my knees and stare into my eyes.
They raised their skinny chicken necks up, and I stroked their feathers.
The children seemed baffled by my affection for the birds. “Wow, Mom,”
said the kids.
The children ate a few meals, did some laundry, and hung out for a
couple days, and then they were gone again. My daughter drove to Utah
to begin guiding, to row down rivers with her injured shoulder. She’d
said yes to the Grand Canyon trip and planned to return to school in
August. My son shipped everything home from his New York college
apartment and headed out to Los Angeles to seek his fortune until some
unidentified point in the future. “I’m just going to crash on people’s
couches for a while and see what happens,” he said. I felt myself on the
shore while they paddled out on the uncertain waters of their lives, more
What I finally said to them was this: “This is your one glorious life.
Find what you love and go do that. We will always be here for you.”
(Was that so hard?)
(Did I believe it?)
Not at first.