A few weeks after my son was born, Robinson’s fruit squash released this advert that made me weep every time it came on. The soundtrack was a one-hit-wonder, ‘give me just a little more time,’ and the advert sped through the childhood of a baby-to-teenager with two loving parents finally waving him off to live his own life. It was so poignant and I was attempting to get the latch right, struggling to nurse my newborn, and I was so grateful this little person was in my arms, alive, suckling, being. I was still a little shocked he was here, not just a mute bump anymore but a live baby, born into this life. I didn’t want to wave goodbye to him yet, even though this advert reminded me I would be doing just that sooner than I’d like.
I wonder if there is something inherently, structurally unsatisfactory about parenting. It is simultaneously too much allot of the time and yet paradoxically leaves me longing for more. A little more time, a little less growing up so soon, a few more lingering glances and hugs.
Someone asked me this week which element would I be out of earth, air, fire or water. I have been musing recently how much I hate the notion of eternity. I want to turn up for this life and to worry about a hypothetical heaven or hell feels sacrilegious to me. I told him I was earth, and I think that is true. My task has been to come down from the mountain, to turn up in this body, in this particular life, to escape from my head, to be grounded. I think of myself as someone who enjoys ordinary, mammalian life these days. I do not crave ascension into heaven. I want to wallow in my limited capacities, they’re what make life worth living in all of their bittersweet textures.
One of these limited capacities is not being able to bear too much of the present. I do not want the pleasures of the present to be perpetuated because am not god and I can’t tolerate eternity. I need my very particular past and I need what-is-passing-now to step into the present for a mere moment. I can do it sometimes, like when I’m hanging out the damp washing and I ache with how gorgeous and warm and sensuous the experience is, all the sheets flapping in the wind. Or sometimes when I am tuning into my breath and aching muscles in my morning yoga.
But I’m certainly not capable of appreciating what actually is without those other two ways of experiencing time- I guess the project of psychoanalysis has been giving me a history – and I also need the grief of good- things- coming- to -an -end, the grief of knowing my three-year-old’s body won’t be so deliciously moulded to mine in a few years. On the train today, a businessman looked up from his laptop and said wistfully, ‘mine are too old to cuddle like that anymore- they’re all grown up.’ I wanted to contradict him, tell him my boy would always come to me for cuddles, I wanted to wave the Eternity card at him. I felt the seductive pull of preserving what I find precious, of imagining that what is actually fleeting could be perpetuated. But I know it won’t feel the same when his tiny body doesn’t fit so closely into mine, and that I will miss it, and to extinguish that fear would be to lose the achingly beautiful bit of the present I can actually bear- so instead of arguing with the wistful man on his laptop, I buried my nose into my son’s hair and enjoyed his arms clasped around my neck. Being in relationship with other humans is inherently unsatisfactory.
There is this poem by Thomas Lux called ‘A Little Tooth,’ and I love it because it speaks to this bittersweet feeling I have of parenting being a deliciously unsatisfactory experience. You go through the wringer for your kid(s) over and over, and despite your best efforts, he writes: she marries the ‘sweet-talker on his way to jail’, and what is left is some memories of doing, loving and a pair of sore feet. So unsatisfactory. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Copyright Diana Smith 2018
Thomas Lux’s poem can be found here
📸 Kat Haylett