The things I want you to know
On Motherhood: What I wished someone would've told me when I was young
You turned ten months and I didn’t even know it. I was behind a day and that mark in time passed by, unnoticed. When I woke up the following morning, I looked at the light coming in through the window and thought about where we would go to celebrate. Maybe we’d go to the river lined with rhododendrons or to that point along the Appalachian Trail that gives you a 360-degree view of both the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Smokies. We’d take squinty pictures in the sun and eat fresh strawberries from Christopher Farms. I pulled out my phone to look at the weather and saw the date. My heart sank. How did I miss it?
No matter how hard I try to hold onto it, to slow it down, to make it stop, it slips from my fingers. Sometimes I look at your face and how much it has changed, and I cry. Mostly out of joy, but also out of loss. All the little things you do — the way you say dog, sometimes leaving the g off the end or the way you bury your face into my lap when you’re tired or how you laugh when I raise my eyebrows up and down just like my Grandpa used to do to me when I was little — I wonder if every time is going to be the last time. I hold onto the moment, shove it into my pockets, into my mouth, and try to carry it within me so I don’t ever lose it. But I can’t hold onto everything. With everything that you no longer do, there is something new to grab onto.
We never did do the hike or eat the strawberries in the sun because the day was enveloped in a deep gray. We played in the thunderstorms of summer’s coming and took our squinty pictures in the rain. The air was thick and warm. We could feel it in our lungs. And the rain fell slow and heavy like honey. I kissed the raindrops from your cheeks and opened my hands to Time.
I’m beginning to learn to let things go. Let things be. Let things happen. A lesson you’ve taught me merely by existing. You’ve shown me so much, my darling.
What do I have to show you? What do I want you to know?
There are things I want you to know that I never did when I was growing up.
I want you to know that it is not your responsibility to make me happy. If I have a problem, it is not yours to fix. If I am upset, it does not fall on you to cheer me up.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be thoughtful or kind, or that you can’t give me a hug or draw me a picture if I am sad. You can respond with your heart in all the ways that matter to you, and I want you to know that those are gifts and I will be grateful, but it is not your job to take care of me. I want you to take care of you in all the ways that I never knew were possible when I was young.
I’ve always gathered the worries of my parents into my arms as if they weren’t strong enough to carry them. I’d navigate their moods as if they were my own and burden myself with the adult world that I barely understood because I didn’t want them to be alone in their sorrow. I was so busy trying to be what they needed from themselves or from each other that I forgot to be me. I forgot to be a kid.
I don’t want that for you. I want you to revel in the wonder of childhood. Open yourself up to the universe, be curious, follow the thread, and find what lights your soul on fire.
I want you to know that you are loved.
I don’t mean love in a passive way like of course you are loved, you are my son. I mean love in the way that I can feel it in my teeth, my bones, the nerve endings at the tips of my fingers. A love that cannot be contained. I have to kiss your face and stroke your hair and hug you a million times a day or I will explode. I hope you can feel it. I hope it’s not too much. You can tell me if it is.
I craved the love of my parents like the forgotten plant in the dim corner of my dining room craves the light. I was always searching, bending toward it, stretching myself for a tiny sliver. A glimpse. It was there. I could see it, but I didn’t know how to get to it. I didn’t know how to fully accept it in the way they knew how to give it.
I hope I’m showing you what love is. What it is to me and what it can be. How to accept it and give it and be it. How to love yourself. That’s something I’m still learning how to do. But you’ve brought me closer to it, to home, and to my own heart.
I want you to know that strength is multi-faceted. It doesn’t mean not crying when you’re hurt or stuffing your emotions away where no one can see them.
There is strength in feeling the pain and the sadness and the anger. Don’t run away from it or try to hide. When you try to escape it, it robs you of living. When you try to protect yourself from it, it builds a prison around your heart. You’re allowed to feel, my darling. Move toward the fear, the pain, the sadness. Embrace it. Let it teach you something you need to know. Allow it to show you the truth. Pass through it. Give it the space to heal you.
Growing up, being an Easton meant you didn’t whine or cry or wallow. It meant you endured, you kept going. But I want you to know that there can be strength in giving up — not everything is meant to be endured. You have to listen to your heart. What do you need? Sometimes you need to rest, start new, or move on, and that’s okay.
I can still hear my father’s voice in my head every time I feel sad or any sort of self-pity. “Suck it up, little girl. Nothing good ever came from crying.” And there’s something to be said about that kind of chin-up attitude. I don’t know if I would have gotten as far as I have in life without it. I don’t think I would’ve been as brave, so in a way, I am grateful. But at the same time, I am still trying to access the side of me that was continually silenced. I want to convince her that it is okay to cry. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to feel. I want to give her permission to fall apart.
I want you to know that I am here. Bring all of your feelings to me, no matter how big or small. Scream and cry and tell me all the things that are burning from the inside. I will hear you. Climb under the covers. I will turn out the light and lie next to you in the quiet dark. Fall apart. My arms are open. My heart is in your hands.
I want you to know that you matter and I promise to give you the stability to dream.
When I was a little girl, I was scared to dream. And if I’m being honest — which I will always be with you — I am still scared. I was too caught up with merely surviving that dreaming about what could be seemed out of reach. I thought if I admitted what I wanted then it would surely be taken away from me. My self-worth was never nourished so I never found a stable ground to dream [live] from. But you, my love, will spin dreams from an unmoveable axis.
You won’t have to worry if I am going to come home or if I will still be there in the morning or if I will pick you up from school. I will always show up. You will never have to wonder about the basic needs of living — food, shelter, safety, love. I will read to you before you fall asleep and hold your little hand for as long as you need me to. I’ll stay up late with you talking about all the things we don’t understand, all the things that are unknowable. I can’t wait to hear about what pulls at your heart and what makes you laugh until your stomach aches. Because it all matters.
I want you to live from this state of knowing.
Knowing that every single thing about you matters. I want your life to flow from this place of deep confidence, a never-ending well of self-worth. You will never see the bottom. Live from this place — dream and dance and dare to make decisions from the center of joy rather than from a place of fear or worry or doubt. Act as though only good can come from following your dreams.
Because, my darling, you are worthy of everything good.
I want you to know that you can trust yourself.
It starts with an opening. The opening of your heart to the world. Learn from it — the trees and the rivers, the fireflies and the sun, the ocean, the stars, and the birds. Drink from it, and let it drip into your bones. Fill your hands until they’re sticky with the bounty of living. Learn from the ones who came before you, from the poets and the philosophers and the revolutionaries. Soak up their words and ideas and radical acts of being. Let them stretch your mind into the uncomfortable, into the dark places we were too afraid to go. Learn from it all. Let it fuel you and challenge you and soothe you.
Let it lead you back to yourself.
Back to that open heart. Listen to it, my love. Let it burn with need, with truth. Follow it. Let it show you who you are. Let your insides speak. Don’t put your hand over their mouth as I did for more years than I’d like to remember. Let them scream. What is it that they’re saying?
When I was young I didn’t know where to look for truth. I didn’t know where to go. I closed myself off from the world. I was trying to protect my heart, but I only ended up pushing myself further away from what I needed, what my soul was trying to tell me. I didn’t know how to trust my heart, my instincts. I didn’t know how to trust my needs. How to listen and nurture and give back to myself. To follow the thread of wonder and curiosity to get to the center of being.
I used to fret and worry and second guess everything I thought, every decision I made. I wanted someone to tell me what to do, how to feel, who to be. I wanted someone to tell me that I was making the right choice. But no one ever could, and that kind of living leads to nowhere.
It was you that brought me back to myself. I finally opened my heart, and there it was — the knowing. It was in me. It was me.
Don’t wait to know yourself, my darling. When you feel something, trust it. Listen to your needs when they’re asking for attention. Believe in yourself. Follow your instincts. You will know the way.