“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round
in another form. The child weaned from mother’s milk
now drinks wine and honey mixed.”
Rumi’s translator, Coleman Barks, calls the poem that begins with these lines “Unmarked Boxes.” It resonates.
Confession: I’ve just read my first parenting book in near a decade (see The Day I Stopped Reading Parenting Books): Anthony Wolf’s I’d Listen to My Parents If Only They’d Shut Up: What To Say And What Not To Say When Parenting Teens.
This is not, incidentally, a book review, but if it was, it would say, “It has good parts. It has bad parts. Read with a critical filter, take what’s useful, discard the rest.”
I have a teenager now. I am still as much in love with him as I was with the newborn who woke me up every two hours. I will be more frustrated with him than I was with the toddler who pummeled everyone in sight… but that’s fine. That’s part of the package (It doesn’t get easier). My love for him has redefined how I understand, feel, experience love. Myself. The universe. I love him, unconditionally, and I will love him, unconditionally, until my experience of the universe ends.
Here’s something most parents don’t want to hear: he doesn’t love me unconditionally. No child loves a parent unconditionally. Meditate on that.
Whenever you tell me you love me. I think about what you might possibly feel for me, and what I think I feel for you, and compare it against what I feel for this child, for his siblings, and… if that is love, this is not.
You: Semantics. Always, with the fucking semantics.
Me: Words are important.
You: “What language does so spectacularly is lie, that silver-tongued projector of illusions.” That’s Coleman Barks, so you know it’s true.
Me: Fucking poets. Always telling the truth with their lies.
That Rumi poem, the next line, it goes,
“God’s joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box…”
(I was going to be a petty atheist and replace the first words with an ellipsis. But, I didn’t.)
I’m not sure about the metaphor. Is my son an unmarked box? Am I? Mostly, I am very literal—and there are still three unmarked boxes of loss in the space where I create.
I make my nocturnal teenager crepes and carry them up to his bedroom two hours short of his preferred waking time of noon.
Cinder: Best! Mother! Ever!
Jane: I know. Now wake up and get your sibs out of the house so I can work!
P.S. Rumi, same poem: “I don’t want to make anyone fearful / Hear what’s behind what I say.”