Tuesday, April 27, 2010

An Open Letter to Denise Roy

    Dear Denise,

    Can I call you Denise? We’re both adults, and after reading My Monastery is a Minivan, I feel like we’re friends.

    My son is 3 months old. 15 weeks. It’s such a short amount of time - not a full season for any sport, not a full semester, only a 3rd of the amount of time it took me to make him. And yet in that time I realized several very disturbing things. First, I am psychotic. I’ve worked with a lot of young children over the course of the past 20 (egads!) years and the one thing that every mom has ever told me is: “it’s different when they’re yours. You’re more patient.” They. LIE. After twenty years of what I considered to be “helping to raise” children I thought I had the baby thing IN THE BAG. It took ten days to knock me off that horse. Second, I am not nearly as calm and composed as I’d like. I know there are hormones, but the tears, the frustration...it’s like puberty all over again only this time it’s being triggered by an infant. These two things left me feeling very out of my depth.

    So I started to look for some guidance. If you want to lead a more calm and balanced life there is a guide for that - many, actually. I started with mommy blogs (perfect window dressing but few willing to actually post that their child had them up all night for God-knows-why and what they really want is a martini) and moved on to montessori review (I’ve studied this as education and child care training, but not as a mother) and it’s still just as dry a read as it was when I was eighteen...I watched a documentary on the Dalai Lama (I follow him on facebook as well) and that was helpful and inspirational...but he’s not a mom. He doesn’t get it.

    And then, I’m in our local children’s bookstore just browsing and I see your book. On the shelf directly below “Once Upon a Potty” is the exact word I didn’t know was missing from my life: Momfulness. I picked it up and allowed it to fall open in my hands. This is something I often do with books - allowing the universe to guide me to recipes, essays, inspiration - and it opened to the Thich Nhat Hanh prayer*. Needless to say, I purchased it.

    But I read My Monastery is a Minivan first. I’m just starting on Momfulness, and I so far I’m glad I’m reading them in this order. I needed to know more about you as a mother before I started to learn from you. Although, really, I don’t think one needs to be a mother to enjoy your stories. One just has to have a mother. One just has to have a family.  On 35 separate occasions I was moved to tears, laughter, and deep contentment. I am inspired to be more present, to recognize that we are happy, to have more patience with myself and my son. Just hearing your experiences helps me find peace with mine.

    I do want to particularly address the story entitled “The Mother of Men.” For reasons too lengthy to go into here, I was (and am still, to a lesser extent) very apprehensive about raising a son. Everywhere else I looked were platitudes but you got to the heart of it: what men need is a rite of passage wherein the older men say “you are important and what you say is important.” I finished the book and immediately re-read that essay. In 13 years my husband (and our close male friends and relatives) will take our son into the Redwoods for a weekend and they will welcome him to manhood.

    Your 35 stories (and now your second book - so far, at least) has given me hope and reassurance that even though I’m not perfect, I don’t need to be. That as long as I practice compassion and mindfulness and respect - not just for my family but for myself as well, which is often harder - that it will all be ok.

    So really, I just wanted to say thank you.

Breathing in, I calm my body
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not a mom, but I'm certainly intrigued - especially this bit about going to the redwoods when he's 13 (a Bar Mitzvah of sorts?)

    Glad you're finding something useful/helpful to get through what I'm sure is one of the most amazing yet difficult experiences of your life - adjusting to motherhood.


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