all of the selves we Have ever been
When my son was in preschool, he wanted a pet.
“Pets are living things,” I said. “They require good care and attention.” A busy mom, I already had too many living things to care for, so we settled on some “starter pets”—three hermit crabs.
Sam and I and two little friends made a visit to the store to acquire our new pets and all of the supplies necessary for a proper and attractive habitat. As we sat around the table opening packages and preparing the glass aquarium for occupancy, an excited, fast-reaching arm knocked the smallest of the hermit crabs to the floor. There was silent devastation as we gathered around the scene of the accident. The hermit crab was no longer a living thing.
The children called for a proper burial. After we secured the surviving hermit crabs in their new glass house, we ceremoniously carried the tiny cadaver outdoors. We chose a small patch of soft earth alongside the driveway. A hole was dug and the hermit crab laid to rest. As we circled the spot with downcast eyes, my three year old son said, “Mom, I think you should say a few words.” A sweet and touching moment it was. At that tender age, Sam already understood that death was a solemn moment to be acknowledged. He believed that his mom would know just what to say. Life should be remembered in its passing. I spoke a few somber words about a pet we barely knew and then we left the hermit crab to nourish the soil and the daffodils in the ongoing cycle of life.
It was a short, fast walk from the driveway to the front door and from preschool to adolescence. In their teen years, my children rarely asked me to say a few words. In fact, they often begged me, “Don’t say anything, Mom!” I understand that adolescence is a self-conscious time filled with fear of embarrassment. Youth have that invisible audience that travels inside their heads mocking them incessantly and filling them with self-doubt. Everything parents say and do turns a teen’s fears into reality.
But there were times when we witnessed troubling events. The children could feel my back tense up and my shoulders lean forward indicating that I was about to rise from my seat. I would feel a hand on my arm and hear the adolescent mantra in my ear: “Don’t say anything, Mom!” In those instances, my reply would be, “If this is how it is today, and I don’t say anything, how much worse will it be tomorrow?” Young teenagers want to live through the day; they don’t care about tomorrow.
And now tomorrow is here. Social media dominates our lives. The once invisible, contemptuous audience has become a reality. My children are adults; they don’t need me to speak for them. They can speak for themselves which is good because I am finally…
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