February 25, 2011

Parents and Children

Mother and Child, by Auguste Rodin

Oh, if only our parents were born at the same moment we were, how much conflict and bitterness we would be spared. But parents and children can only go after each other—not with each other. And so an abyss lies between us, which, now and then, nothing but a little love can span.

Early Journals


  1. I couldn't agree more. If parents came with children there'd be no one to do the looking after and no one to renew our optimism through new life.

  2. As one who has spanned the abyss between my parents and me, and my daughter and me, in the hardest of our times (though not among the worst of human experience by any means), I smile at Rilke's qualifying "little" for the love that is required to span the gap. In my experience, it took a great deal of love -- persistent, deliberate, deep and unconditional.

  3. Oh, I weep here.

    There is a disconnect between parents and children, the construct of the relationship holding both parents and children apart.

    It is in my role as mother, that my children know me, but I am not a mother! I am a woman, a girl. I am a wanderer, a sky watcher, a chocolate eating gypsy. But they see me with a job. They see me do the dishes, tell them to put their feet on the floor, eat their vegetables. But I laugh and I am foolish. If I had it my way my hair would be messy. I would lay in bed. I would watch the sky through the smallest crack of window. But I have a role, a job. I am parent. They do not know me.

    And what do I know of them? I watch from afar. I do not crump my body against the wall and share my thoughts as they develop, as my body grows in places I know not of.

    I lay in bed cocooned around my son and I think, oh, living is so hard. Your room is dark. What do you think of? What do you fear? Where is your mind? Do you have parameters and what might they be? Oh, are you scared? Are you excited? Life is so awesomely exciting! What do you feel? I feel you here, your body, and you are growing, lengthening even now, your heart so determined beneath my hand. You are a mystery! You are potential! You might fail, yes, and I will hold you. You might succeed. Do you want to lay like this forever? Do you want me to rise and live the hard parts for you? Do you know how I ache for you in my throat, a new part of my throat born when you were born? But I'll come and get you for the good parts. I'll come and rouse you when it is time to succeed, time to laugh, time to love. But the secret is that it is all connected. I can't pull the good from the bad. I have to ache for you instead.

    But laying there with him in the dark, all that I say to him is I love you. I hope this is enough.

    There are chasms between us. The chasms are sore, I'm sure on both parts.

    I told my daughter that I was a young girl like her once. I had freckles and whitish hair, a small body. I liked messy. I had snot down my face. Oh, she said, Oh, we would have played together!

    Yes, love, I said, we would have.


  4. Erin, what a wonderful comment! As a kindergarten teacher, I find that my class is always captivated by stories I tell of my childhood, especially of times when I was around five years old.

  5. Yes, the abyss is unavoidable, by the very rules of nature, and therefore 'right'. It's good (and somehow comforting) to have this universal problem of generational, parent-child misunderstanding, conflict and heartache recognised by Rilke here. I'm sure so many of us identify with this. And love really is the only way to bridge this abyss, as I know from bittersweet experience.

  6. Erin! How beautiful. You depict so well the abyss that Rilke is speaking of and then go and engineer right before our eyes and own memories such a magnificent love-built bridge, an unsteady, fragile, narrow, rope bridge that sways precariously but somehow allows us to span the abyss.

  7. Erin, I agree--how utterly perfect. You completely captured what we all feel.

  8. Such beauty, Erin. Thank you. I talk of my inner "child" with my children, they wouldn't be so surprised that I walked their walk. Now their dad is another story...


"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Go ahead, bloom recklessly!