Sunday, September 5, 2010

Beautiful Ambivalence


I have always been amazed at the power of words. They truly have the power to build up or tear down -- to bless, or to curse. Changing even one word in a phrase or sentence can completely alter its meaning. I just love exploring the English language.

Learning the definition of a new word and inserting it into the cannon of my vocabulary makes my day. And, for some reason, memorizing and retaining vocabulary has always come easy for me. I think it has something to do with the amount and variety of reading I did as a child. We did not own a television until I was nine. And I'm convinced that not having one was a catalyst to immerse myself in new lands, dreamed worlds and childhood wonders.

As a direct result of all that voracious reading, I intuitively understood the general meaning of larger vocabulary words because I could deduce it from their context. While I couldn't give you the Webster's definition, I could give you an approximate definition.

My love of wordsmithery (yeah, I made that up) has led to some ribbing from friends and family members when I use certain words that aren't in your typical circulation. I don't consciously try to use "big words," I just use them (that makes me sound even more arrogant...grrr!).

Case in point....in one of my high school English classes, we were required to learn 100 vocabulary words. I actually enjoyed carrying around my index cards and quizzing myself. For some reason, my memory works well with associations and recalling vocabulary, phone numbers and stories from long ago. (One of my party tricks is reciting off random friends' phone numbers. No "speed dial" settings needed for me. Most of the time, I don't even look up my contacts in my cell phone. I just start dialing from memory...yeah, I know...I'm a freak.)

Anyhow, back to high school English. One of the words we had to learn was ambivalence. This word is seriously one of the Ebenezers of my life. This words has stayed with me all of these almost 20 years.

am·biv·a·lence
[am-biv-uh-luhns]
–noun

1. uncertainty or fluctuation, esp. when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.
Another thing that the people closest to me know is that I tend to be a black and white type of person. It's right or it's wrong. It's one thing or it's another. But, the older I get, the more I see this concept of ambivalence in my life. You see, it's easier when things seem to be clear-cut and there's no wavering.

But more often than not, I find myself pulled in two --and usually fully valid-- directions. And never has this been so prevalent than it's been for me as a parent.

I've gone through so many stages, and have even gone back and repeated them with subsequent pregnancies and children (four in total). As parents, we work so hard (especially with our first babies) to get them to crawl, sit up, walk and talk and all of a sudden, our little baby is a little person who loves to smack at our face and say, "No!" We instinctively know we need to lead and shape them to be fully-functional able-bodied independent people who will make good choices and successfully navigate the world.

So, why does the first day of school knock us flat? The week before we might have been internally rejoicing over some much-needed "mommy time," but the reality of the little baby that we held on our chest only seconds old, turning and waving to us as he or she walks into their class unaided completely takes our breath away.

It's ambivalence.

I can be relieved that I have a little less responsibility for a few hours a week, yet also grieve for the "babyness" of my little guy at the same exact time.

And that's the kicker for me. It's almost as if my heart is pulling apart in two different directions.

I have so much more of this feeling ahead of me. Now that we have finished having children (and have done something surgically about it), I've cried as I've let go of some "lasts." My last nursing session with my last baby boy destroyed me for days. I had planned for it. He was 12 months old. I was planning to leave for a friend's wedding out of town a few weeks later. I wanted him to be weaned and easy for my husband to care for. But, I still felt sad about it. My husband laughed at me when I groaned out my miserable feelings three days after I nursed for what would be the last time. But even now I feel the tears come to my eyes when I re-live that moment. And, maybe only a mom can understand what that feels like.

To let go...and want to let go, but then not wanting to...all at the same time.

Now when Camden outgrows his baby toys, his baby shoes, his baby everything...there's no more putting it away for the next baby. It gets packed up and taken to the Salvation Army or to another friend's house. And, the clutter buster part of me rejoices...but the sentimental mom part of me cringes.

When my 3-year-old tells me, "Mom, I want to snuggle you on the bed." Of course, I put down my dishrag and let him take me to "momma's bed" and snuggle me (which really means he wants a cuddle and then he wants to bounce on the bed and jump over me 10 million times.). I hold tightly to his little body and try not to think of him at age 15 and being not so enthused about being spooned by his mother (okay, and maybe rightly so).

Ambivalence.

The crib is going to come down for the final time in the next 6 months or so...and it will be put up in the garage for my children's children. After all, both my sister and I called it home for our early years. All four of my babies were laid there as well. It's been a precious, receptacle of my children's growth and milestones. Yet, I'm also looking forward to bunk bed and freeing up some much-needed room in the boy's bedroom.

Ambivalence.

They can't stay little forever. I know this. Yet, my heart fights against it. It's strange. It's a war in my head and in my heart. I want it, but I don't, but I do.

I long for a time when my days don't revolve around bodily fluids and excrement. I can't imagine being able to offload some of my household chores to children who will actually help and do the task well, rather than "helping me," which really means that I will need to do it over again.

But in the same breath, I want to take all these mental snapshots of them at this stage -- in this place and time -- and never let those go.

Ambivalence.

It gets me every time. And, I have a feeling, it's going to be around for a long time to come.

5 comments:

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Great insight, nice work.

Lori said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I cannot empathize with you (and I won't say that I wish I could), on the mommy part of this. But as I have watched my friends' (other mama's) hearts "pull apart in two different directions" I am touched by the love ... the deep, deep love. It's way more than an infatuation over how cute your kid is. This love is that longing to want the best for your children, to see them grow up and live in ways YOU have guided them... to raise them to be prepared for the big world and then lovingly send them out to make you proud. As a friend of a ton of amazing mamas, and as a proud Auntie, I have learned how much my parents loved me. Thank you for opening my eyes!

Amy said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

UGH you put it exactly how I feel.
Nice job.

Amy said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

My word verification for that last comment was "cling"
Ironic.

Stephanie said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I have been struggling with the same thing lately...I cry a lot these days for things/time I will never get back. My aunt told me that if I keep trying to live in the past I will miss what's going on now, but it's hard. I also have the added fear that my boys will grow up and end up spending all their time with their wives family as so many times that happens. I could go on about this forever, but let me just say I know how you feel. And now that I'm sitting here crying myself, I'm going to go and give my boys a big hug!