My boy with the golden heart! The one constant throughout these 18 years has been your incredible good nature. And though Kant might not value utmost one naturally inclined to goodness, I suspect he’d never met the likes of you to be confounded daily by the mysterious beauty of such a disposition. I continue to be amazed by your unflinching sense of justice and good will. Through the years the stark divide separating right from wrong has given way to the more grey, but never overwhelmed or overturned, for you all remains as delightfully colourful. I admire and envy this in you, Thoma mou! May all your days find your disposition unchecked.
A wonderful young man of intelligence, strength, and yes, all the markings of a spirited 18-year old seeking adventure, checking your limits (and sometimes ours!!! 😉 ), still looking, searching for that which will stir you into an awakening of sorts. For though more adept to this world than our Kalianna and myself, you too are as viscerally and intellectually intense; the banal, the everyday, the plain and regular, will not suffice. You shall settle not for the ordinary. Don’t! Don’t settle my son! You deserve the extraordinary.
December 18th, 1999 you were born and changed my life forever! From This Moment became our song. Happy birthday Thoma mou! (κσσμμ) Και στα 150!
From this moment, as long as I live
I will love you, I promise you this
There is nothing, I wouldn’t give
From this moment on
I have made no secret of how motherhood has given valour to those hegemonic values which with mutant offspring have shaped my orientation in life. No relationship has impressed such a keen sense of responsibility within that ever-so fragile context of love. I probably started out as a Kantian of sorts, and with dips and pulls into the aretic tradition, have made my way to a more existential-type predilection. Perhaps not unlike most mothers overburdened by a hyperbolic acceptance of psycho-sensitive paradigms, I was initially confounded by the depths and intense love I felt for my first born (and then as if anew, for my second born, Kalianna) which only made the sense of awe and wonder regarding my role as his mother all the more daunting! I could do irreparable damage despite the best intentions! OMG!!!! Breast-feeding? Yes!!! 10 points for doing that for 9 months! Sleeping through the night!?No number of hail Marys can compensate for the number of times exhausted and desperate Thomas would be welcomed to sleep in cozy comfort with mommy! Talking, engaging, reading to him/with him? Too much and he’ll never learn to be alone! Too little and stifle any chance for cultivating a love of learning! Crap! How much is too much? Did I spend too much time with my kids? My (ex) husband certainly thought I did! (he’s an ex after all!!! 😉 Actually, in truth he’s a wonderful father to those two!) He’d call my children “τα αυτοκολλητάκια μου” (loosely translates: my little stickers) to suggest how clingy he thought our relationship to be! Friends? School? Shy was he! So much strategizing to cultivate social skills, and self-confidence! And yet he never seemed to lack in self-esteem, but as teachers would say of him from as early as preschool, “Thomas is ultra-sensitive to his surroundings!” It wasn’t that he was hyper-sensitive, but very viscerally in tune with his surroundings, especially other people. Who knows, maybe this is what so early on in his development can explain his remarkable sense of justice and fair-play. His concern for the underdog, and the unfair, discriminatory treatment of others did not go unnoticed. Thomas has always been described as “a good kid”. For me, he was “the boy with a golden heart”. But what were we to say to him when the world, life experiences, didn’t quite match up with his moral ideals? Shrug our shoulders and say: “Suck it up kid, this is the real world!” or “The good guys finish last!” or “Be your own person and you shall shine!” or “Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing; you just be a good kid!” As he matured and these quandaries grew in complexity, life experiences seemed to take over and he became less and less inclined to discuss things as we’d been accustom to. Indeed, only Twitter seemed to match his intolerance of a word count exceeding 140 characters! OMG! We’ve failed him! But despite, or maybe in spite, of this and so much more, Thomas now 18 (well almost), is still in so many ways that shy, hyper-sensitive, caring, good and (from what we are told by professionals) exceptionally intelligent little boy! But he’s not just that either! His shyness, initially addressed as an “issue”, made him aware of the conditions of the human psyche that has in so many ways been the benchpress for some hard-won battles for the socially awkward and marginalized. Did sleeping in my bed, apparently that HUGE, unspeakable, no, no, warp his development? Did he become dependent? A mommy’s boy? Lacking in confidence? Nope! Actually, his versatility and strength has never ceased to amaze me! No, I mean it! Amazed me! Just when I thought he’d crumbled, he always seemed to become a little bit stronger, and little more confident. Indeed, Thomas is especially socially adept, and eager to get out there a claim a place in this world, and he doesn’t seem to want or enjoy it when it is too easily won! My existential entrapping? Perhaps?
So what of all of this, Pirocacos? The Landmark: Thomas got into university! This seems somehow a rite of passage. In an obvious way, it is his! The accomplishment speaks to a course of maturity where the last year demanded the cultivation of temperance, fortitude, and agility, and all in submission to or for a future quite uncertain, and one which he only vaguely even desired! This landmark, however, is my own! A time of reckoning symbolically tied up in his. It’s not so much that my work is done! Motherhood is for a life-time, and it is so in a way that no other relationship is. I think the words of Kahlil Gibran speak more loudly to me now than ever:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
(The Prophet, Children)
Such is to learn to love without expectation and without possession. For though parental narcissism seems to play a pivotal role in those first moments where we look to recognize ourselves in his teeny smile, demeanour, and idiosyncrasies that make him a little more my own, a little more endearing, a little more loved, it is unreconcilable with unconditional love and acceptance. For it is in learning to admire Thomas for the manner in which he uniquely delved into the awkward moments of life, frustrated efforts, and various crises of character and trauma sometimes caused by me, that I have ever so slowly (ya, I ain’t that smart! Meh…) learned to love authentically. It means to love with risk, risk of loss: for indeed our children must take some giant steps that may leave them existentially adrift from us. It means loving when he, in stark defiance, really is his own person, bearing no markings that speak of home. It means hoping that he look beyond you, for a sense of grounding, and meaningful fulfillment. It means to love from a distance when he no longer needs you.
Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Motherhood: the single most fulfilling and accomplished part of my life. I will make no apologies to feminists for how beholden I am to my children – Thomas & Kalianna – who have made me richer by far. There is no time in my life as precious as those days from early infancy spent with you two. Still today women find themselves, perhaps in some ways more so than before, in that impossible position where they must choose between a career, great love, financial independence and motherhood. Often the factical will not bend to compromise, and it is as dramatic as choosing either/or and not both/and! Hands down I have always, despite painful loss, unhesitatingly chosen these two treasures. As I have said elsewhere: my children are feisty, strong-willed, and spirited, but they are also distinctively amazing young adults who each in their own way have evolved into caring, passionately driven by fortitude to fulfill their aretic virtues. I am blessed. But there are others who have been wonderful, committed, loving and supportive mothers and things have nonetheless gone tragically wrong. Gibran’s words speak mightily to all parents: our children are not our children! We are beings-alongside our children and in early life care-givers but never are we, nor should we aspire to be, care-takers. Alas they must forge their way through life on their own ultimate initiative and all we can do is pray that they will not run afar from their own happiness (eudaimonia).