"tell me little bird: is today the day?"

Today I read a bit of Miles Levin’s story (his blog is, in my opinion, worth registering at carepages.com and reading; after logging in do a search for “LevinStory”). I am sorry to have only heard about this young man on the day after he died. I am glad to have found his website and I wish I’d been reading earlier.

This entry struck me today, penned by Miles’ mother two weeks before his death:

I read an article once in Mothering Magazine many years ago when I was studying to be a mother. It made a huge impact on me, shaping my platform for mothering. It identified four key ingredients in an effective mother/child relationship [ … ] They are: PROTECTION; NOURISHMENT; STIMULATION; AND CHERISHMENT. I could write about each one more fully as I have meditated and reflected on each quality. Each, one no more than another, is essential – in equal measure – to the development of a child into his/her full potential. Each is a requirement of the parent, though some come more easily to each one of us, in order to provide the safety and encouragement, the roots and the wings, that allow the child to develop into a person of responsibility, extension, and self love.

No one has asked me what my view of parenting is, but I’m telling you. I hope that young parents who are reading this site will take to heart the critical role that parents play in raising children who are at once filled with self respect and respect for others: a tricky balance.

I read this while feeling deeply moved after having followed a few months of the successive entries of the mother, father, sister, and that of the brother / son / boy / man himself in this story. And I thought, Is that all? Almost laughing to myself with relief because I do these things, and I relish them, every day.

The thing is, I second-guess myself as a wife, mother, and person – every day. Each one of those identities (and many more: daughter, sister, American, friend, lover… the list is complex and varied) comes with it’s own pitfalls and successes – each self-noun I write here I have wrestled with in both public and private struggles. Motherhood is, however, very much with me since my children are at an age they cannot care for themselves or even be left unsupervised for any length of time. It is not only an identity it is my full-time job. This job is the cornerstone of our family right now.

Reading Nancy Levin’s words had a special meaning for me today. Lately I’ve been feeling so odd that most of my day is spent laundering, cleaning, cooking – Cooking! No one tells you that the more you bake bread from scratch and create home-cooked meals the faster these foods just disappear. There are no half-eaten casseroles in my fridge; food is rarely thrown out but eaten voraciously; I cook and it’s more more more cooking – washing hands, laying out clothes, brushing teeth, clipping nails, holding and cuddling and instructing and educating. I devote most of my day to those things and there are some imaginary voices (and some real) I hear who tell me these concerns are so small, so provincial. Where is my brain? Where is my proof of life? Where is my contribution to society? Why do I care about making pizza sauce from scratch? Why do I think so much about the clothes on my children’s bodies or the state of their bedrooms? Why do I have my hands in dough again and why are my successes getting the dutch oven going before our bike ride to the library?

But I also know there is nothing more important in life than relationships and kindness; nothing more important than striving to be a spiritual and loving person who gives and re-gives to those around me; to my family, to my friends, to the community, to the planet, to the world’s people. I know that if my last day on earth was spent baking bread, walking with my children to the hardware store, and talking with my husband on our bike ride together I would not regret this last day.

So today I am taking Nancy Levin’s words to heart today and remembering to protect, nourish, stimulate and cherish each of my children. I hope you can and will do the same for your loved ones in your life.

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