To Dread and To Savor: Mothering in Real Time by Marcia Mount Shoop


Marcia Mount ShoopIt happened in the blink of an eye. So much of how we got here is blurry. I try to parse out the moments that came together to add up to this many years. I pause to absorb fragments, moments of the past.

Hunkering down to watch a spider waiting patiently on her web.  I can see his tiny hands balancing on his knees peaking out from his blue overall shorts.

Driving to baseball practice forty minutes from our house and realizing he doesn’t have his shoes twenty-five minutes into the drive.  I hate the sound of my voice yelling at him in the car.

The crisp clear day driving home from the hospital twenty-four hours into his life in the world. He only needed a light blanket over his car seat. I narrated the path the car was taking. “Here’s the park where we’ll walk. Here’s our street where your house is.” I could smell him and felt a growing sensation that he needed to nurse soon.  I cared about little else than him.

Reading Where the Red Fern Grows at night and agreeing to read one more chapter even though it was late. I can barely remember that comfortable proximity to each other’s bodies. Now he is a young man. The occasional hug is the extent of our bodily contact. All those years of carrying him, helping him put his socks and shoes on, having him sit on my lap at music class, holding him while he cried after a scooter mishap, rocking him to sleep, are over now.

Something is over.  Emotion is welling up in me. I am not quite able to release it, to completely feel it. It is too much. But the day is fast approaching when I know it will wash over me by necessity. I have a sense of foreboding about that day, even as I am thankful and gratified that such a day is approaching. There are many things that challenged us. Many things could have brought us to a very different juncture in the summer of 2018.  The thing I dread, therefore, is a thing I also am called to relish, to savor, to celebrate.

Sidney Sunset BeachIt is the strange walk this mother is on toward taking my first born to college in just a few days. He will be two thousand miles away from home.  He is ready to go.  In many ways, I am ready for him to go. Most parents can relate to the untenable place you get to when your child is ready to fly the nest—they need to go, they have outgrown the space, you have become a complete idiot in their eyes, and things like curfews and talking about the day together are an utter annoyance to them.

So it’s time for him to go, but there is deep grief in this monumental touchstone of the passage of time. He will always be my son, but this phase of our relationship is coming to a close.  I am grateful, I am distressed, I am relieved, I am heartsick, I am hopeful, I am sad, I am expectant. And I will need a couple of days to myself to mark this moment when a dream come true and a rude awakening converge to usher me into a new way of being connected and detached simultaneously to my son.

Motherhood is ambiguous, idiosyncratic, and cellular no matter the packaging.  Therein lies its promise, its heartbreak, and any hope it carries with it for true joy and good growth.

 

Marcia Mount Shoop is an author, theologian, and minister. She is the Pastor/Head of Staff at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC. Her newest book, released from Cascade Books in October 2015, is A Body Broken, A Body Betrayed: Race, Memory, and Eucharist in White-Dominant Churches, co-authored with Mary McClintock Fulkerson. Marcia is also the author of Let the Bones Dance: Embodiment and the Body of Christ (WJKP, 2010) and Touchdowns for Jesus and Other Signs of Apocalypse: Lifting the Veil on Big-Time Sports (Cascade, 2014).  Find out more at www.marciamountshoop.com

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Categories: Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General, Motherhood

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27 replies

  1. Powerful writing and deeply touching.

    I do hope your son will find his way back to his mother and the maternal values of love, generosity, and nurture of the vulnerable. In our culture, there are so many competing values, and young men are being told at every turn that they cannot and must not be like women, like the mothers and other nurturers without whom they would not be. I know this is changing, but we know, you and I, that things have not changed enough for young men. Good luck to him as he finds his way!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Carol. And I am grateful for the hopes for my son that you are putting out in the universe for him. I hold that same hope. He has always been a sweet soul–and I pray he will feel room for that to flourish in the world!
      Peace,
      Marcia

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      • I lost the baby boy I raised from the day he came home from the hospital until the day I went to college when he was 7 and a half. He bonded with a Mormon family to fill in the gap and the rest is history. I have spent too much of my adult life trying to save “lost boys” without much success, and I guess those stories are what made me so happy to see that egalitarian matriarchies teach boys to be as kind and loving (and of course as strong and capable) as their own mothers. Men do not have to become “men” if that means dominant or aggressive in any way. Men can simply become human, that is all any of us have to do, but it is soooo hard with the way we have defined gender as a culture. Tears in my eyes….and love to you and your son.

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      • Thank you, Carol, for sharing some of the pain and complexity that has shaped you. I am with you. Your wisdom is hard won. There is much more to say here, as you can imagine, given the world my son has had to navigate as the son of a football coach. There have been times when I felt like my heart was breaking into thousands of pieces. He goes into this next stage of life fully schooled in both feminist ways of being in the world and thinking and doing and the hyper-masculine ways of football. Not many young men carry both with them with such intensity. I pray that his heart will be looking for ways to be fully alive and well. Prayers for all the young men finding their way in these volatile times.
        Peace,
        Marcia

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  2. Thank you for putting words to emotions I wrestled with 7 years ago now. My son is now beginning to “find his way back,” as Carol said. He thanks me for putting up with him and being there as his mother. He is generous and loving and working on vulnerability. Hope this is encouragement as you navigate the path of connected and detached all at the same time. Blessings.

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    • Thank you for your support and encouragement. It does help to feel myself entering into the company of others who have walked this path as well. Blessings to you and your son in your own new stage of relationship.
      Peace,
      Marcia

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  3. Taking Casey to College for the first tiime was like a shot to the gut. The knot in my stomach didn’t loosen up for about a week. I remember the feeling of emptiness and being fulfilled at the same time. S very strange sensation. If I can offer one suggestion. Don’t wait until the dorm room parking to tell him all the words of wisdom or things you want to remind him to do or be careful about. He already knows or will figure it out. I suggest setting aside time before the actual journey ( a few days or a week ) to say what you need to say. Then when there is no time, everyone is emotional or their new roommate or teammate is calling you won’t feel like you didn’t get to say everything you needed to say. The ride back from Madison was 2.5 hours of total silence in the car. And for Sue Ellen and I who both like to talk the silence was deafening, but something we both needed. Sid will do great. You and John have done a great job raising him. Roots and Wings. They need them both. Be proud of the job you have done. Good luck on your journey. Bill Skeens

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    • Thank you, Bill. This is good advice. Thinking of you and Sue Ellen traveling in silence makes me tear up–I feel that. John and I are actually leaving to come back home at different times because I feel like I need more time there. Just time to myself to transition. Thank you for your love and encouragement! I am very grateful!
      Peace,
      Marcia

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  4. This is really poignant and beautifully written (my oldest son is about to turn 15).

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  5. To quote a favorite song of mine: It’s Bittersweet. More sweet than bitter, bitter than sweet.
    We leave for Atlanta today, she flies out tomorrow. Vacillating between joy and despair. Thanks for the reminder that we parents aren’t alone in this. If we’ve done our jobs, this is the way it’s supposed to go. XO

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  6. Beautiful as ever, Marcia. I am right there with you on this journey, as Lily leaves in 20 days. We have been so close for so long, that the ripping feeling has already begun. Of course, she’s a total pill right now. But an adult pill who still needs her mother and resents thar need a lot this summer. I joke that I’m ready to miss her. But I’m not.
    But she’s going, nonetheless. And she’s ready. And at this point, that’s what matters most.
    Much love, my friend!

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  7. Cherish those memories, Marcia, and as a writer, try to memorialize them with the written word. Now, I am old, and when my daughter asks me “Mom, when I was (fill in the age) did I do that (pointing to her own daughter’s development).” “Honey,” I say, ” I can’t remember.” Not remembering is bittersweet. The bad times have mostly disappeared along with the good. I am more focused on today, my daughters (now in their 40s) and my grandchildren and what is happening right now, right here. I do wish, though, that some of the memories were still there other than in bits and pieces (old photographs help). The girls grew up and somehow it almost feels as if I wasn’t even a part of it! But despite the fact that they both left and got on with their own lives, they still seemed to come back when they needed their mom. Now they both live within minutes from me and my later years are blessed with their continued presence in my life. The journey as a parent is fraught with fear, sadness, anger, and sometimes bitter tears, but also with joy, pride and love beyond compare. I know. I have taken that journey.

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    • Thank you, Janet. This made me tear up–the fading memories are something I can relate to so deeply. With all of our moves I feel like I left years of memories each place. And I have no access to them now. I am grieving that right now, too, since I want those memories to be with me as Sidney leaves. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Janet.
      Peace,
      Marcia

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  8. Tender Mercies.

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  9. Motherhood is terminal. I remember only too well how it was for me, how it is today when my son turns 50. The distance between us is not of my making but his. I think of Gibran and his words to the effect that our children do not belong to us, but are life’s longing for itself.

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  10. Tears of connection and recognition. Thank you!

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  11. Marcia,

    I am so grateful to have read this lovely piece about the bond between mother and child. It is unfamiliar territory for me on both sides of the story. Because of this,I am moved deeply by your relationship with Sydney and many other mothers who give boundless love. I pray,

    Liz

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  12. Thank you for this poignant and vulnerable sharing. I dread the idea of facing that someday. May every peace and wellness be yours.

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