Monday, June 6, 2016

To Remind Yourself to Breathe

Since Sunday, I've needed to find a place to take a breath, and it's been impossible. For 18 years now, I've been the mother of this child you see here. When I took this picture, he had been riding a bicycle on his own without the steadying hand of either me or his father for the whole of two feet. I ran alongside while my son shouted, “Did Dad let go? Is it me alone?!”

“It's you alone!" I called back while he concentrated straight ahead. "No one's hanging on!" And with that, he burst into a fresh force of adrenaline, the wind behind him as he pumped with the exhilaration of doing what he didn't think he could do.

I remember the moment, forgetting to breathe then because I always forget to move air in and out of my lungs when I'm watching my children to make sure that the air they need keeps moving in and out. We had let go, and I held my breath as he took off on his own.

Since Sunday, we've had a houseful of people who came to celebrate this boy's high school graduation. Our house is filled, and there is not a corner anywhere for me to sit and be with this season that has come to an end.

I need to pause with the enormity of this next step for the both of us. It leaves me needing more oxygen than our atmosphere offers. My son, the one who was handed to me by a labor and delivery nurse, is now being handed over by me, to the world. I know all the blessings that come with this, and I fully am aware of the good fortune to have a child, to have him reach adulthood, to have him be healthy and of sound mind. I know that.

But he will begin his own life now, with the steps that I witnessed him take on Sunday as he marched to Pomp and Circumstance. And I remember his first unsteadiness as he took to the bike by himself, believing what he could do because we believed he could. 

You know what would help me with today? A new language. One that isn't slowed by the clumsy work of taking that which leaves us breathless and us, trying to give it volume.

How do you express yourself when it's all trapped in your heart?

I try here, because I need to lift the words up and forward, to push them along so that I don't feel this weight that sits in my chest. I am thrilled for my son, excited at all that waits for any young person after high school. I remember how much of an adult I felt when at this very same stage. But the current that runs underneath my joy at seeing his eyes spark and his voice grow louder as he talks about school in September, is one that I try to shake away. It remains suspended, and I need room for these new feelings that I knew would be part of this transition for me.

I see him in this picture. I recall the smile on his face, with the two bottom teeth missing, as he peddled and the handlebars wobbled too far over to the right for my comfort. But he rode his bicycle on his own, and then, he was the breathless one right along with me when he saw what he was capable of.

For the last 12 years, I've driven my son to school. Today was the first day that I didn't. My role now is the one that was in the picture above--letting go.
I stand back as they call his name. My heart pounds. I still my arms that want to rush forward and walk up with him. I step to the side as he comes off the stage, smiling when he looks at me though my eyes are shiny. I feel his adrenaline from making his way.

I see him and my heart cries, “You're doing it! It's you!” And we've let go.
* * *


  1. That feeling you have . . . It doesn't go away. Hate to tell you this, but I can tell from your narrative that you are a mother like me. You strive to raise your children to be strong and independent, then a little part of yourself is crushed when you succeed. "Mother Love" is Infinity. I still want to hold their hands when we cross a street, so I pretend to need their support! Luckily my 37 and 39 year
    olds indulge me :)

  2. Louann, we are cut from the same cloth. Thank you.

  3. Congrats to him, and big hugs to you, Alexandra. I'm sure it's not easy to let them go (bikes or graduations).

  4. Oh Alexandra! Damn. I feel, by your writing, that I am standing next to you feeling your feelings. And, again, tears are in my eyes.

    But this paragraph - this is what sets you apart and above most writers:
    "I remember the moment, forgetting to breathe then because I forget to move air in and out when I'm watching my children to make sure that their air keeps moving in and out." !!!

  5. And what Louann wrote about wanting to hold their hands to cross the street and pretends to need their support instead? - is precious!



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