Saturday, January 27, 2007

Family


What started out as just a snag had been pulled at, one small tug at a time, until the whole situation became hopelessly unraveled. I couldn’t tell you what the argument was about or how it had escalated to such dramatic proportions, but I can describe in detail the look of malice on his face and the sickening sensation of failure that left me nauseous. Mothering an oldest child is like riding a roller coaster for the very first time; the unknown intensifies your entire experience. That stomach dropping rush of barreling through the highs and the lows, euphoria mixed with terror, can never quite be duplicated again. No one in this world can tear at my heart like Elijah.

On that particular Friday morning two enormous hazel eyes stared me down with contempt. The boundary between mother and son had been smudged by the hurt we were each heaping upon the other with every word exchanged. All of us have limits and buttons to be pushed. None are more qualified to find them both, than those who know us best. My son has a fierce sense of justice. When he feels he has been judged unfairly, he will not back down – even in the face of stern consequences. “You do not understand!” he repeated, over and over again, drowning out my attempted explanations. I knew, in the back of my mind, that I should cut it off right then and there, that we should separate and regroup. But I wanted respect and an acknowledgment of wrongdoing. I was obsessed with dominating his defiant spirit.

When he ran to his bedroom and started up with the slamming of his dresser drawers, I knew exactly what he was doing and to my shame, I didn’t care. Emerging seconds later with a fully loaded backpack, he announced to me his plans of running away. “I’m leaving this place, and I’m never coming back!” My six-year-old, my baby boy, stood trembling before me, cheeks red and wet from fury mixed with sadness. A part of me was tempted to let him go, but as he reached for the doorknob I lowered my voice and the boom on this out of control situation. “Elijah, you will go to your room, put down that backpack and sit with me on this couch, do you understand?” Too tired to resist, he followed my orders, and now I felt the tears start to well.

“We are a family,” I finally managed to mutter once both of us were seated, eye-to-eye. “For better or worse, God put us together, forever. We can feel angry, annoyed, and disheartened, but leaving is never an option! Love means sticking together, even when we don’t feel like it. Love is hard work and requires an awful lot of ‘I’m sorrys’ and forgiveness. You can be mad at me and I can be mad at you but we never give up, you got it?” As I held my boy, I apologized for my part in the argument, for exasperating him instead of maintaining my composure. We agreed that threats of abandonment would not be tolerated. Over a year later, that moment on our couch in Chicago remains significant to both of us. “Remember mom,” Elijah will ask out of nowhere, “when I wanted to run away?” “I certainly do sweetheart. I certainly do.”

Why is it that we are born into families, that we live in packs instead of emerging from out of under rocks on our own? The intimacy of creating, carrying, and birthing a child cannot possibly be a superfluous component of evolution. No matter how hard we try to dissect the organic nature of reproduction, to reinvent love and commitment, hollowness will always outlast infatuation if our devotion is not anchored in the divine. Monogamy, along with self-denial, makes little sense outside the context of a Trinitarian perspective. There’s not much motivation to work at love or to stick with those who know too well our weaknesses and imperfections, without a higher calling. “Does God only live in church?” Benjamin asked me last Sunday during liturgy. “We can find Him in everything, if we look,” I answered. “He is here, He is outside, He is in our house and in our family.” And I wondered then, when I had last attempted to find Him there, myself.

Sometimes I can’t quite grasp the backwards notion of God concerned with me. How is it possible that He has not permanently been turned off by my stupid behavior? But if I search no further than even two feet away, I can find hope in my love for Troy, Elijah, Priscilla, Benjamin, and Mary. My pack united for better or worse, was brought together for the purpose of salvation. For here, before me, are unlimited opportunities to experience the nonsensical fulfillment of giving without expecting anything in return. I learn, in the most practical of ways, that true love, divine love, does not leave, does not give up, and does not give in. Family keeps us humble, keeps us praying, and keeps us from drifting into the soul-numbing abyss of self-indulgence.

More than once, I have stared dumbfounded into the positive end of a pregnancy test. “I really don’t think I have the strength to do this again,” I said to Troy, to God, and to anyone else who made eye contact. Yet even in that, I found Love, providing just enough daily bread to keep me from dying of hunger, to keep me in remembrance of His presence in my life. On a daily basis I am overwhelmed by the eternal responsibility of raising children, but when they are sleeping, all curled in their beds as still as the night itself, I kiss each in turn, from youngest to oldest, thankful to tears for such beauty.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am just another "Sabourin" here. I have the last name "Sabourin" in my Google alerts and most of the time it seems like it may be you or "Dany Sabourin" who is a hockey player in Canada who show up in my "alerts." I read this entry which speaks volumes to your wonderful family.

Mimi said...

Sigh.

I wish parenting were easier, I had a really rough parenting weekend myself. Lord have Mercy.

Hugs

Dove Knits said...

Molly, this is beautiful. I love your story of Elijah. Thank you, also, for posting the picture of you and the family -- I can't believe how big the kids got.

Take care,

-Tanya

Kairi Isse said...

Hello, Molly! I absolutely love your blog. I am an Orthodox mother myself, and struggling with my eldest (who is six at the time) and two weeks away from giving birth to our fourth, who, Lord knows, was very unexpected. I share the dismay at looking at the positive pregnancy test and struggling to believe that anything good can come out of this! You are right, we cannot do this without the help of the Lord nor would it make any sense to do it without Him!
God bless you and your family!
Kairi