Landmarks!

 

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My son – Thomas

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.

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Mother’s Day

On Children
 Kahlil Gibran

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).

Locker-Room Sexism

Locker-room banter is not just about Trump – it’s men everywhere

Men excuse themselves of this (Trump-like behaviour: Read the article!!!) suggesting that it’s innocent man-talk (oh, God, man up then!) whilst others refuse to admit they do it. I once dated a man who would send emails to male friends with pics of females (several were mine!!!!) saying things like: Look what I’m going out with tonight! What are we: trophies!!!?? Well, yes, my dear! Of course, to her face he’d say things like: “All I see is you!”. The hilarity might be more genuinely felt, were it not so tragic! Thing is, he’s not the exception, but the rule. (I mean no offense to this man should he happen to be reading along and recognize himself in my words.) I’d argue that it is the ugly and/or insecure who adopt this narrative, but that would fail to acknowledge the obvious. In the cock-pit of the extended male ego, prime place is often given those who firmly demonstrate their masculinity via these, otherwise, deplorable narratives (OMG, the innuendo is just flowing today! 😉 ). Now most men know that in today’s day the chances of getting some requires that they at least play along, and adapt their narrative, or feminize it, if you will. I’d say that that is a matter of demonstrating respect, and in some ways, to a certain extent that holds true often enough, but mostly it speaks to the poeticized verse of that former acquaintance of mine; i.e. “All I see is you!”.

Women are suffering from starvation these days. Men lack the equipment – oh, my!! – I mean the intellectual and linguistic equipment to seduce a woman, to woo her, so that guy (ugly or not) who adopts such ploys (and not always with the intent of a Don Juan who has become a Mastery at the Game of seduction, but quite accidentally, perhaps seemingly genuinely to his mind) is gonna get him some. Okay, okay, if you ain’t got the gift of the gab, just take her out for dinner, spoil her, and at least pretend you’re paying focused attention to her! Thing is, women know this! Thing is, men in the locker room, also know this. There is a sub-narrative, that subtext that no one is ignorant of. Women know how men talk behind her back. She knows that once the brotherhood is in full swing (Sheesh! 😉 ), poetry takes a backseat to pleasantries of respect! And men know how men talk; they know that if anything they mean to compliment (not always the case,  of course) the physical attractiveness of said woman (after all he’s not going to send pictures of ugly women!!!) and women should get this. Indeed, some women do! They are forgiving; indeed, some are secretly flattered! And herein lies part of the problem. Women have become enablers of this narrative.

It’s disturbing to me that my teenage daughter and her friends have already learned that boys will go through a crowd of girls, complimenting each (they often start with the most worthy and slowly make their way through the pack), until one (or more) succumbs to his flirtations whims. This quickly circulates, and though some may indeed succumb, feeling ahead of the pack for this, others may be hurt and offended and quiver in a corner, and yet others may with indignation call it ( 😉 ) as she sees it (funny how the male organ can be used in such a derogatory fashion, no!? 🙂 ). But she’ll still moan about her breasts being too small, and perhaps plan ahead for future implants; and more often than not she will feel secretly jealous of those girls who got all the stock men are looking for! There are some that will try to rise totally above this, but few will be made of that stock that finds them immune, and their sense of self-esteem still in tact. And those few that do will certainly recognize in themselves that they stand outside of the narrative at this look-out point very much as an outsider. So, girls begin to see themselves, value themselves, through the eyes…not the adoring eyes…of her predator! She admires herself, for those qualities that attract, and deplores herself for those qualities that repulse. She sees herself, as Simone de Beauvoir said all those years ago, as The Other. This is internalized and by adulthood seamlessly becomes the protagonist narrative.

So are Trump’s indecent remarks, only indecent because they were publicly and unapologetically voiced? Does he only suffer from stupidity? Is he merely socially inept? Well, not merely!! Until girls learn not to enable these boys and acknowledge themselves as uniquely oriented beings who must negotiate their inter-sexual and inter-personal relations dynamically, boys will grow up to be these men. We’re almost all-too-attentive and mindful of sexism today, and though it is no small victory that our forerunners won for us women today, we really need to get behind the momentum of this process (that one was unintentionally, promise! 😉 ) and provide the means by which our girls can readdress (sometimes biologically described as an otherwise instinctive drive…but we are not instinct alone!!!) the urges of boys before it becomes part of the fabric of social life.

Over and out!

A Tribute to Mothers

I wrote these updates for my children’s birthdays. It seemed the appropriate opportunity to express the overwhelming joy these two wonderful people have brought to my life. Mothers (fathers too, but today I speak to mothers who experience parenthood in their own way) know the challenges brought on that go far beyond physical exhaustion, and self-doubt, to accommodating paradigms that seem to cater (still) to lingering patriarchal ideals and a certain degree of self-loathing from which we draw some atonement for betraying what we often experience as the new and liberating feminist paradigm that would have us renounce the more self-sacrificial mode of being-alondside-our-children. I mean even as educated career oriented and independent women we wanted to have children.  More often than not most of us found ourselves assuming the role of the primary care-taker (however much you share responsibilities, most of us still think that we are sharing these!). This usually meant making small and LARGE sacrifices along the way that invariably were at the cost of our professional (and hence financial) advancement. Intermingled with frustration, and despair – and now I speak to my own personal experience – my children helped me grow in ways that would have otherwise been remiss. So though I take pride in having raised two amazing children, as the dedications below suggest, today I am thankful for how I learned a special kind of patience, and open-mindedness with them. I came to viscerally indulge intellectual schemes of thinking I long defended but always short of the practical challenges and potential (and ultimately actual) materials costs and risks evoked along the way. Courage, determination, even faith amidst often times excruciating pangs of self-doubt, I think have made me a better, albeit more complex, person (perhaps those that know me now feel inclined to step in and yell: NO!!!! :)) Being a mother today is a complicated affair, but still oh, so worth it!

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