The Difficult Grit of Raising Boys

Parenting isn’t easy business. There are weeks when I cruise along and life is smooth. There are other weeks when I’m drowning in the stress of it all. I wonder at times, is it only me? Why does this feel so difficult? Am I ill-equipped to raise three boys?

It was during one of the hard moments when I wrote the poem below. I was at my wit’s end. It was a moment of doubting my capacity to do what needs doing. None of my strategies were working. My boys were each grappling with different end of school year transitions and the accompanying unease. Daily life was full. The sibling rivalries were kicking. Separation anxiety was rearing its head. Mother’s patience was waning. Every day seemed to usher in a new fight and new difficult moments. Meanwhile, the summer heat had arrived and school was out. Energies were high and my boys’ motion was ceaseless. I found myself daily contemplating the difficult grit of raising boys. And so, this poem was born.

It’s a window into one dimension of my experience raising boys ages 3,5 and 7. Of course they are kind and sensitive and full of sweetness. They are full of imagination and energy. They defy any attempt at categorizing or containing. They also confound me daily with their intense energies and a need to bump physically against their surroundings (and one another). They wrestle. They take a baseball bat to my roses one minute (!?!?) and carefully save a spider the next. They tend the garden the next moment and then make a game of throwing pinecones or rocks at each other’s heads. One moment they are contemplatively sculpting creations out of play dough and the next they are dismantling said creations, stomping on them and throwing chunks up in the air.

On and on this goes. It’s a seamless and fast dance to keep up. When do I pick my battles with them? How do I hold together the structure needed to foster safety and clear boundaries? How do I let them run a bit free and wild while also ensuring they are decent and kind? On some days, I’m interfering all day long. “Don’t do this! Don’t do that! No! Stop!” I keep thinking: there must be a different way. But what is it?

The journey of parenting keeps me on my toes. When one thing isn’t working, its indeed time for another.

—-

Ninjas!
Warriors!
Purveyors of sharks.
Devouring reason,
You trample on life’s delicate,
Well-mannered
Moments.

You spin chaos,
You unfurl conflict.
Wielding everything as a weapon,
You destroy.

 Your ocean of energy defies all attempt of containment.

This is the difficult grit of raising boys:
I want you to be free and wild,
But I also need you to be decent and kind.

I want you to live into the best of being a fierce protector,
defender of what is right.
I want you to use and feel your full body, while also understanding limits essential for a life of well-being and peace.
When I’m at a loss as your mother, I want the arms big enough to embrace it all.

In moments of chaos we head to the hills.
Under the sky is the space needed for all of us to breathe.
There is no problem here.

Its only that the world too often enjoys boxes and walls and so much structure –
with little boy souls needing curling and hurling and bending and unfurling,
a mirror to nature’s perfect playground where wild energies can truly run free.

How Can A Little Being Influence So Much?

How can a little being influence so much?
Perhaps two and three year olds are the great unravelers –
Where all effort to maintain order is undone in the same moment of doing.
Little hands pull it apart right after bigger hands try to “fix” or “accomplish.”
Pick something up and find it then taken out.
Wash then dirty.
Roll it up and then unrolled.

Curiosity indeed lends itself to chaos…
There is no sense to be made, only surrender.
Water spills, life cracks.

Of course it is funny, too.
Wanderings in circles,
Energy unfurls.
And I am utterly, unabashedly besotted.

Red Rock Trail, Boulder, Colorado

If We Move In Too Many Directions

The love of children breaks the heart

and can crack it open to a million joyful miracles,

while also simultaneously leaving us

pulverized,

pulled in a million directions,

panting and exhausted

disheveled –

a shadow of a former self.

 

Here (in this tired place)

there is no Big Love –

just sloppy, chaotic, choppy love

smeared by crumbs and dirty socks

and utterly submerged in a divine,

huge

mess.

 

Meanwhile, the skin scrapes off again but no bandaid works.

Routine rules all moon phases

and the mother still picks up the pieces:

broken parts of toys, uneaten meals, and over-run schedules

absorbing the echo of too many sounds competing

for attention and time all at once.

Clamoring for air and rest, but when not finding it in sane places

she washes up on a shore of compost and left over muck from lifetimes

of unloved work.

 

 

You see, if we move in too many directions

(and especially without love)

there is no center at home –

and the whole society suffers:

Crying with madness for hearth and heart

but too often only finding the unhappy Mother

spread thin to the bone.

 

That is the difference this time: to be a woman relishing the gifts of freedom

but not being undone by it.

That must be the difference this time: to find the center,

to find love for and in the work,

to find rest in sane places,

coming back again and again as our own newly born versions of ourselves.

Poetry Is Made for the Open, Available Heart

Don’t even think about it. 

Poetry isn’t made for the controlling mind. 

Poetry is made for the open, available heart – 

Empty but full, 

Ready but not waiting. 

Like a slow rolling thunder storm, 

the words come when ready. 

Sometimes slow, large drops. 

Others: torrents and a splash. 

Don’t even think about it. 

Be a conspirer instead – 

Communing with the loveliness of a deer 

or the bony curve of an ankle. 

Who knows where this or that goes? 

Follow to enter the sublime wonder of uncertain creation. 

Who knows where this line goes? 

Follow. 

Trust. 

Make your availability to inspiration known!

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Love Is Not Bound By Reality

Love is not bound by reality – 

But it is bound by infinity. 

Some moments it can be entered

and others it is like a slow, distant orbit: 

like planets around a sun – always warmed by a pervading grace 

but just distant enough to merit the mystery of the unknown. 

Love is not bound by reality – 

It is bigger than all that. 

Instead, it lives in quiet corners, 

surprising us with unexpected delights…

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A Mother’s Body

A Mother’s Body:

Shapeshifter

Giver of Life

Bone shifter.

Doorway to the next generation of family story-

her body a vessel,

she has become Whole:

Holy,

Irrevocably marked.

 

When it is all said and done,

death calling her to another form

she will see that ‘perfect’ doesn’t matter.

Not “perfect” hips but Birthing hips.

Not dainty light spritely

but feet and legs sunk deep in Earth,

heavy with responsibility:

weighted,

Big.

Vast with circle of Love.

Master of What?

Of fine tuning

careful listening

slow, steady attunement to another being.

Of recalibrating what bliss means-

with once singing joints now rickety,

tired and aching from carrying a little one –

but redefining ecstasy to encompass new reference points.

No, I am not presently a master of Yoga or the Intellect,

only having plumbed the depths of my own soul.

Master of this:

The Inner realm that is also the Outer:

reflection of divine light

also known as Love,

reverberating in all my cells

and in my slow beating heart-

quiet master of my own loving, aching soul’s journey

through time and space

Nothing more, nothing less.

Just Here, simple, in love in the face of small things.

I am not a master of words.

My particular realization concerns itself with Presence,

that act of grace filling body

coming together to form spine and stomach

and eyes flashing only glimpses of Divine reality within.

Ushering forth new life,

A mother becomes master of

Chopping wood

Carrying water

doing laundry

dishes

carrying

holding

feeding

loving

nurturing-

Some say ‘mundane’

I say beating heart

full of love

resting in simple dance of Being.

Nothing more.  Nothing less,

still refining,

Like the great crucible of life that is

The Womb.

Follower of No Separation

Right now I am a follower of 

“No Separation” 

This nor that, 

Here nor there

I weave between traditions and practices

like a mendicant in search of a holy light, 

which is always

already

Here.

No separation: seamless living with what arises,

going with a flow, 

acknowledging grace of present moment,

being in a state of love –

and not just in mind or heart

but full body

extending into an ether of oneness. 

No separation: quiet gaze understanding

common heart of wisdom

swimming beneath all disputes and orthodoxies.

Soft wind blowing leaves,

reminder of cycle of life

which transcends words.

No separation: the space Beyond and Before.

The space steeped in silence

like hot cup of tea:

burns but delicious – 

a drink to be savored, 

a Holy Gift:

just like human life with all its complex flavors

unfurling into 

One 

Great

Expression 

(some call God).

Remember This

Remember This

In the throws of transformation:

Sensual,

Sleepless,

Full –

Stretched in a million molecular directions,

I sit in the center of a sacred circle,

Hair tossing, wind and snow whipping,

waiting.

The question:

What would have you remain smaller,

More contracted

than you ultimately are?

Cultural convention-

Social personality-

Fear of sustaining full realization

of constant

Steady

Open

Heart?

“Recognize Love,” she says.

Feel and give beauty.

Find ground in naked, vulnerable openness

That is fearless, fierce.

Really, you are none other than

Fierce

Loving

Settledness,

Awake to beauty,

Fully at home.

Remember this:

You can stay open and free and in love

With everything

Arising

Now.

Moving Beyond This Holy Divide

Moving beyond this holy divide

is a space so unwordable, that even I,

who marks herself as free,

must come to know of those deep

unanswerables that live in the heart.

This shadowy ache of reach across mystery

only calls into awareness how limitless and full

Love Is.

And if to be fully expressed is to be free,

then I am a woman far from traversing beyond my own boundaries.

We stand on either side of a canyon

resting wordlessly

knowing the immense beauty of even the untravelled journey through time and space, between here and there,

between myself and where another being begins.

Just to look at you is a blessing –

a practice in recognizing my heart outside of my body.