Monday, October 21, 2013

Letting Go

When I was younger, I never understood why my parents would be so worried about me if I was out with my friends, or coming home late at night.  Other parents, I thought, were not this "over-protective," and I felt frustrated, infantilized.

Well, now I think that they handled it well.  I was out with my friends, or with people they didn't know, driving on my own.  You are 2 1/2, and the people I leave you with are at daycare.  Or I leave you with your dad, who I know loves you and takes great care of you.

Today and tomorrow, you are spending the day with your Grammy Rogers, who loves you so very much and will also take great care of you:

And yet, I get this feeling deep in the pit of my stomach, like something is being ripped away from me. I now understand that, when you carry a baby around for nine months, you really do "connect" in a deep-seated way.  I also don't know what it's like to have a non-special-needs child, but taking you to therapy four times a week has really, I feel, cemented this bond between us.  It is just so very hard to "let go", even when I rationally know that these are people who love and care about you.

Don't worry--I'm working on this because I know it's healthy for you to develop independence, spend time with different people, etc.  I've been really trying to give you time alone with Daddy and, now, with Grammy, and I hope that you'll get some good alone time with Nagyi and Papa.

But it does make me realize how hard it is to let a child, any child, go.  And even if you don't have children, this holds true for every relationship we have in life.  The minute we have a bond with someone, we try and tie them even closer to us, thinking that the more we cling to them, the tighter the bond will be.

Paradoxically, trying to hold on so hard just makes things worse.  When we let go, people will come to us.  And, as the cliché says, loving is "letting go."  This morning, I thought about what that meant for God and His gift to us.  Whatever you believe, you have to admit that the story of Christianity is a beautiful story of selfless love.  I think about my love for you and then I think- "this is the kind of love God would have felt for His son."  Probably even moreso, since our love is always tainted with selfishness in some way.  So the fact that he sacrificed Jesus for us, that he "let go" enough to let His son die for us, is truly amazing.  I think about how I feel when Jules isn't with me for a few days, and then I think that God must truly have wept (or whatever the God version of weeping is) that day.

So I think Christianity has a lot to teach us about parenting.  While God did let go of Jesus for us, we are also His children, who he loves unconditionally.  And so (and this is the tough part to wrap my head around), he let go of His Son in order to redeem his sons and daughters.  And he let Him go so that he could fulfill his higher purpose.

Now don't get me wrong--I won't be sacrificing you any time soon, and this is a huge leap from giving you more alone time with other people.  But I do want you, too, to fulfill your "higher purpose," and I know I can't do that if I'm holding on to you too tightly.  So this year, as my spiritual discipline, I will work on "letting go," not despite my love for you, but because of it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


So today I want to go up a generation and write about your amazing grandmother, Nagyi (or mamama, as you call her).  Before any feelings get hurt, I want to emphasize that all of your grandparents are amazing, but this Thursday, your Nagyi is turning 70.  It's a huge milestone, and I wish she had you there to celebrate with her, as I know that would make her really happy.

Your grandmother is an incredibly strong woman who taught me everything I know about how to be a good, considerate person.  She has been through so much--when she was born in 1943, her family had to leave Transylvania because of Russian occupation.  Then, during communist rule in Hungary, her father, who was well educated, had to farm the land and, later, work on the railroads.

When she applied to college (as you will too someday!), she had to downplay her intelligence, and it actually hurt her case that she wasn't a communist.  Nonetheless, she finished college, earned the equivalent of a Masters degree, and taught high school French and Russian until she met my father and moved to the United States.

It wasn't easy for her to be in America, either.  Her teaching credentials didn't mean anything here in the states, and she would have had to re-do her degree.  Being European, she didn't drive, and she had to learn from my father (which, having also learned to drive from him, I can attest to being a somewhat traumatic experience).  She told me stories about being pregnant with me, home alone, and not knowing a single word of English.

Nonetheless, she learned English well and stayed home with us to make sure we had the best education possible.  I remember nights sitting and trying to figure out math homework.  I was always so impatient with math, my least favorite subject, but she always sat with me at that dining room table until I figured it out.  Later, she would quiz me in biology or read my English papers, always putting me, my brother, and our education first.

In the meantime, my father started having health issues, beginning with his lung cancer in 1986.  That was followed by a quintuple bypass and a number of other invasive surgeries.  My mom got a job at Caldor, the retail store where my father worked as a department manager, to pay our bills, and they continued to work long, hard hours (in a job where no one respected their intelligence).  Now, however, my mom also had the job of taking care of my father, which grew more and more taxing as he grew older.

And, of course, she took care of us, making sure that we had what we needed, me at Smith College, my brother, your uncle Julius, at Cornell University (not too shabby).  When my brother was in an accident, her and my dad drove up at night in order to check on him in the hospital.  When I left my violin at home, they came and brought it to me at Smith.  When, later on in life, I had a particularly bad year with my anxiety disorder, they came and stayed with me.  At one point, my mother even slept in my bed, holding my hand so that I could sleep.

My father's death in 2001 was incredibly hard on my mom, but she picked up, moved to an apartment, and then moved to Hungary to take care of her own parents.  Since then, she has traveled to the States, sublet in both Boulder and here in Charleston.  The last time she was here, she stayed on Folly Beach, where we took this picture:

Not only do you look a lot like her (!), but I hope you will be equally strong...and equally kind.  Your challenges might be different, but I know you will, unfortunately, face quite a few.  I hope you can think of her example and face them, as your Dédi would have said, with a smile on your face.  I hope you can fall down and get back up again.  Most of all, I hope that you will not be so overwhelmed with life's challenges that you forget to be kind.  When your grandpa had cancer, your Nagyi went door to door collecting money for the cancer society.  When someone needed food, she was always ready to bring it to them.  And, when I was in school, she would pick beautiful Jasmine flowers from our garden for me to bring to my teachers.

Always, she put other people before herself, so on Thursday, as she turns 70, I would like to put her first.  I would like for you to someday read this and understand the sacrifices she made so that I could have my education, have my job, meet your father, and eventually have you, the best gift anyone could ever ask for.  She is with me in spirit (and sometimes on the phone) when I have a rough day, when I do events for charities, when I try and help out people in need.  I know that I was a Daddy's Girl, but it is mostly my mom who made me the person I am.  Today, and every day, I celebrate that.

**I will be posting soon about the Buddy Walk, but I wanted to get this done before my mom's birthday!