Tomorrow I am flying to Austin, Texas to parent my son.
These days, my time is spent so much in the present. I wake up early with my neary-two-year-old daughter. I make breakfast, clean up spills, change diapers, negotiate nap times. I plan classes and help eighteen-year-olds navigate the challenges of going away to college. I teach the tedious art of semicolon usage. And I work tirelessly at improving myself, whether it’s improving my mental or physical health, finding time to sleep, finding time to read. Even finding joy.
But never do I get to parent my boy.
In fact, it is devastating to admit that while Caemon’s name is always on the tip of my tongue, there are many days that go by when I don’t sit with my memories of him, days that go by when I am so busy I am numbed to the depths of my loss.
This is natural, of course. Time heals, they say. I am not sure I have healed any more than one heals from an amputation. Yes, the initial wound is gone, covered in scar tissue, but the limb is still missing. The boy is still missing. My boy. My son.
How does one care for a piece of oneself that has ceased to be? How does one mother a child no longer on this earth?
It is our nature as mothers to want to continue parenting. When Caemon died, I went back to teaching, and suddenly my students were my surrogate children. But it was never the same. Still, I went on yearning to mother until my daughter came, and then I learned that I was aching to mother two children, but not any two. My two. My boy. My girl. My kids. (Oh, how good it feels to write that in the plural.)
I find my way to two-child parenting when I can. I have learned that I can share my son with my daughter. She says his name so beautifully. She begs to look at his photo books, delights in watching his videos. I will involve her in his legacy as much as she is inclined, but there comes a time when a mom wants to give her attention to just one child at a time. And this is why I find myself flying to Texas.
On Sunday, I will shave my head with the 46 Mommas—my tribe of cancer moms, too many of whom have also lost children. I will cry. I will think constantly of my son. I will leave my little girl with her other mom so that I can do this wholly and without worrying her gentle heart. I will watch Caemon’s videos and play his music and listen to his voice and talk about him day and night. I will say his name over and over without apology.
Next year, I’ll fly to another city, and I’ll do the same. I will keep raising money in his name, keep raising awareness and using his beautiful smile to draw people in. It’s what I have left. It’s one real way I can parent my son.
Should you want to donate to my shave fund, which funnels to Caemon’s Hero Fund for JMML research, please follow the link below:
5 thoughts on “parenting from afar”
Safe travels….holding your heart, as well as the 46 other moms, in my thoughts and prayers.
I was at the Oakland Zoo this past weekend for my granddaughters 4th birthday…sat with the crocodiles for quite awhile; thought about your beautiful boy and how blessed I am watching my sweet peanut M&M enjoy one of her favorite animals. She was sitting on the ledge next to the glass looking at a very still crocodile, she says, “this is the biggest crocodile in the world” . She then turns to me and says,” I just want to hold my breath and jump in and give him a hug, look he is smiling at me”.
Enjoy this time parenting your sweet son…I’ll be thinking about you, as always…Leslie
Thank you for this, Leslie. How lovely that she enjoyed the crocs so much. We will be taking our daughter to the Oakland Zoo around her birthday for the first time. We’ll picnic at her brother’s bench, and she’ll get her first up-close glimpse of all these animals she loves.
The zoo changes every time I go. They have a new tram that goes to the top of the hill behind the zoo…the views are incredible and there is a café at the top. Enjoy and Happy Birthday to your sweet daughter. Leslie
Heartbreakingly beautiful as always. That kid inspires me so. As do you.
Charge on warrior Mama, charge on.
Beautiful, powerful words. I don’t know that we ever stop wanting to mother them, even as we mother the rest of the world.