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What We Leave Behind
graduation and summer 023.jpg

The only thing we do on this planet that connects us past the time we are alive here is to leave children behind.  Yes, we can leave works of art and fiction; we can construct  buildings, pass laws, create organizations but eventually our imprint will disappear.  With children (and as long as humans exist on the planet, which lord knows might not be too long at this point), we can leave part of our genes, part of our behaviors, part of our effort here.  If you are a very lucky human without children and great accomplishment, you might be revered the world wide for your sonnets or philosophies or plays or notions.  We all know the names of those people right now.  But most of us, truly, have nothing but family.

People who don't have children shouldn't despair about this fact because often what we leave behind isn't that wonderful.  We have bad habits and large foreheads that likely should be wiped out of the human population.  But the truth is, the chain of humans is what there is for us.  From our cave beginnings, we've wanted to exist, to remain, to be, and we can do that through progeny.  Our mammalian brains keep us going, even when covered with the patina of higher brain function.

That biological connection doesn't necessarily explain why we love our children so much, though.  After a while, children become people we have to learn how to like (love is always there) because they will become the people they want to be, not the people we want them to be.  They will have their own desires and feelings and goals, and these will go counter perhaps to our wishes for them.  They will have habits we don't like and believe in ideas we pushed away long ago.  They will ask us to meet them as equals, and that is a new skill as we've always just thought of them as our children.

And then, well, we have to change.  We have to become people we haven't been before, people with adult children.  I realize that my mothering time is so fragile and tenuous now.  My role has stretched to the thinnest measure, a transparent thing, barely able to hold together.  I can support them emotionally, send them money, talk to them, encourage them, but that role that started when I found out I was pregnant and their very lives depended on what I ate and what I did or did not drink is over.

I know why people suddenly have midlife babies.  It's scary to go into this part because we can see that we are now preparing to leave, eventually.  This big people are the ones who matter now, not us.  They are the ones to have the future children, to keep the chain alive.  Not us.  frankly, we aren't needed any more--except if we can eek our one more baby!  Heaven forefend.

We live a lot longer now that our cave foreparents.  The women were lucky to live through the first baby--we give birth to creatures way too early.  So we have this life to live after the babies are men and women.

Anyway, I'm blathering about all this because my oldest is home.  As we walked around the Lafayette Reservoir, I was looking at him, seeing the man he was, feeling the woman I had become, someone who was connected to the world through this man before me.  Not his mother, really, in the active role of the word, but the person who left him here, the person who left part of herself here through him.  Here he was my connection, from which I must truly disconnect in so many ways.

Jessica

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Beautiful Sons

I enjoyed your student's comments about your gift to the class at UCL.A.

I don't have kids but since visiting to the schools, I look at the tiny little heads and appendages of children, my heart aches. I wonder about the problems we are leaving them.

Beautiful essay, Jessica.

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We leave behind more, and I

We leave behind more, and I realized that after writing this.  But it's all so ephemeral.  We leave patterns and wiggles and waves of ideas, but then they all just seem to float away.  As Anne Lamott wrote in her novel, "All New People," in "one hundred years, all new people."  No one who is here will be here.

Wow--am I being morbid?

Thank you for your compliment to my sons.

:)

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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I live vicariously

through my friends. Their children are college age and it's amazing to see these fully grown humans interact with their parents and with me. I had held them as week olds.

Life is pretty amazing.

Death is like a lawnmower.

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Children

What a wonderful job it appears you have done!

Your last comment really hits the mark; I read somewhere that "a parent's job is to work themselves out of a job". And what work it is. The most joyful, humorous, funny, frustrating, difficult, rage producing job a human can have. Never boring (unless you count the times you have had to play Candyland 50 times in the same hour). Then the sorrowful moments come, slow and gradual; each milestone (beginning school, becoming a teenager, graduating from high school and then college) brings the sobering knowledge that your job will soon be downsized.

Then when you walk with them as adults, you look at their bad habits, their inherited crocked nose, or their views we don't necessarily agree with, we see what we brought home hours after their birth- the most beautiful creature that walked the planet.