Saturday, May 21, 2011

Slow Motion Motherhood

There is a phenomena I recognize because of Stross that I have come to think of as Slow Motion Motherhood, or moments when life operates in real time for everyone else yet circumstances have slowed to a frame-by-frame pace for me. As I share in Involuntary Joy, they aren’t limited to hospital waiting rooms or other moments of stress.

With Stross, they have come on the most ordinary of days in the most ordinary of moments. His extraordinary life circumstances simply focus life in a way where contrasts to ordinary are keenly noticed – like when he, at 20 years of age, lumbers across our home on all fours to complete a simple errand because crawling remains his only form of independent mobility. In those moments, simple errands appear complex yet breathtakingly beautiful, courtesy of Slow Motion Motherhood.

While I am certain I have likely had such moments with Skye as well, I regret to admit that I am not as attuned to his slow motion moments. I wish I were.

Thankfully, I found some footage he took with one of our Flip cameras last weekend, and I was able to relive a breathtakingly beautiful moment that I missed. I am so thankful I have this moment, as belated as it is.

When I played the clip the first time, my heart clenched with breathlessness. So much had occurred in :29 seconds, and I had missed it all.

I have now watched this clip nearly a dozen times (and likely it will be many more by the time I post this). I have choked with regret each time: Why did I not stop in my tracks, grab Skye in a quick-but-tight-big-momma hug, then pull back to look up at him (for he is now taller than I) and say, “God, you are a fantastic young man. I am incredibly proud of you, and I love you so much it hurts.”

Why didn’t I do that?

The cliché answer: I take his life for granted.

The sociological answer: I would have embarrassed him.

The regret-filled answer: I didn’t really see what was happening in those precious seconds – 29 of which are captured here.

Before you watch the clip, I want you to know these things:
• I was in a hurry, trying to accurately locate the place on the Morningside College campus where I would line up for the processional that would lead me to my master’s degree.

• I was chewing gum – something I rarely do – to wish away possible coffee breath before meeting people for the first time. Skye despises the smell of chewing gum, so I try to hide it or keep my distance when I am chomping and he is around.

• I had only become aware of Skye’s presence behind me about 10-15 seconds prior to the beginning of this footage – after he had called out for me to slow up because his dad (waiting in our van with Stross) had sent him with our back-up Flip camera to take images of me crossing campus. I wasn’t sure how I felt about becoming the featured actor in a family epic, for I am usually the one capturing the footage. I love acting, but not in real life, so I when I heard Skye’s assignment, my instinct was to not slow my pace, as that wouldn’t be “real.”

• Because I am all about “real,” I managed to think of something I could share that I regarded as authentic. I chose something about having lost our primary Flip camera earlier that day.

• Finally, I was perplexed about why Skye would run across campus to take footage, because he doesn’t like being told what to do and doesn’t like it when I pull out the Flip camera. He is his own person. I remember a flash of wonderment: “Why is he doing this? Simply because his dad asked, or does he really want to?”

What I can see now, if not in slow motion but through constant playback, is that he did want to. He was proud of what I had accomplished, and he had responded to his father’s request to get footage as a gift to me. He believed I would like having parts of this special day captured for me. And I did … I do.

Skye: “Good thing you are graduating, and that’s what we're talking about.”

Ah, there it is: Slow Motion Motherhood in Skye-time.

Yes, Skye, that should have been what we talked about, as well as how insanely proud I am of you. I love your humor (the sound you made of footsteps “domn-domn, domn-domn”), your capacity for compassion, your creativity and your willingness to put others before yourself. I admire who you are becoming and how you are getting there. And when I mess up and miss some of your best moments, I love how you offer me generous portions of grace – often at your own psychological detriment.

Skye, these are things I would like you to know about this portion of a minute that we shared, but I missed:

• When I heard your voice, I felt excited. I love hearing your voice, especially when you say, “Hey, Mom!”

• When you chuckled, I hope it wasn’t a response to my inattention. I know that you – like me – chuckle sometimes when you are not comfortable and not sure how to react. I don’t ever want to make you that kind of uncomfortable.

• When I offered you a bemused look, I wish had conveyed more appreciation than bemusement. I also which I had not said something that probably only made sense to me; for even though we have lived in the same home for almost 16 years, I bet you weren’t able to interpret the nuance of my flippant remark. I intended it as a compliment, not sarcasm. Every graduate does need a son like you. They would be greatly blessed to have such a person to share life with.

• I also want you to know this: I should not have crossed the street without regard to what you might do next. You likely felt out of place even more than me; therefore, I should not have left you as the one to take the lead when saying “good bye.” Instead, I wish I’d have done exactly what I described above: grabbed you in a quick-but-tight-big-momma hug, looked up at you and said, “God, you are a fantastic young man. I am incredibly proud of you, and I love you so much it hurts.”

I am you know, and I do you know.

And one more thing: I cannot imagine being more proud of you than I already am. Still, I look forward to each day we get to share together, because I know I will be blessed with even more occasions to take pride in who you are.

Good thing someone found that other Flip camera for us, for I plan to continue using it for years and years to come.

“Hey, Skye, wait up! I want to get a really good look at you.”

I love you.


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