the yoga pose: letting go-asana
We’re at the river beach, the one we’ve been trundling down to for six years, each summer the kids inexplicably one year older. I watch, bewildered, as their long legs propel them to the shore, as if the physics of 365 days passing is a concept I haven’t yet grasped. Col and Rose and their friend Cedar sail off in an inner tube and come back with a fat, warty toad, who seems unalarmed with the turn of events. Matters of ownership are discussed (Col spotted it, Rose caught it, Cedar is an amphibian expert), and the three friends dig a pond for “Piezer Blubber.” The toad seems to shrug complacently, like a Jewish 1940’s comedian one moment you’re catching flies, next moment they’re catching you, eh, what can you do? as the kids place the toad on his bark ramp, offer him a few sandy ants, and reroute the warty bag of him back to his pond.
I’ve been here on a million weekdays and it’s always the outdoor playstation for the baby-toothed set, but today is Sunday, and the beach is colonized by loud, lanky, muscled, bikinied, cussing humans. Teenagers. They’re drinking beer and smoking cigarettes and likely not wearing sunscreen. I watch them like a nervous anthropologist: surely these teenagers are a different line of modern human than what my children will evolve into. Like Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, this is where we part ways. Co-ed groups are circled up, pheromones boomeranging back and forth between acres of exposed skin. Their brains seem developed precisely for sarcasm and loud whoops.
And yet, in twice the years my kids have already been alive (which really is the blink the grandmothers warned about), they too will be teens. And I can kid myself now, as they fawn over a warty toad and laugh at my jokes with gaping mouth-holes of missing teeth, that they won’t someday show up, acned and posturing, to receive their Oscar for Most Surly and Secretive Teen. Of course they will.
But now is now, and today I hand them the Oscar for Mental Buoyancy. Their kid-minds are cheery well-lit places where the bucking broncos of kindness, wonder and curiosity can’t be tamed. Just before we hit the river beach, Cedar’s mom Julia texted to ask if her car keys had gotten transferred to Cedar’s beach bag in the kid drop off. Without being asked, Col volunteered to run the keys back on the trail to the parking lot. And my heart folded in on itself, like a telescoping organ collapsing from so much maternal pride.
Give these children a park full of trees and they see a course for hide and seek. Give them cardboard and duct tape and they’ll riff like musicians on a thousand different engineering melodies. While their femurs and earlobes grow, so do the lesser known organs of generosity and courage. Last week, riding bikes to the river, we spied two spotted deer fawns ambling up a slope. One second later, Rose was splayed on the concrete, bike toppled over her. The world went silent and still—our family’s collective breath held—until Rose shouted earnestly from underneath the heavy purple metal of her bike, “Look! There’s the Mama deer!” It was as if she finally tired, just a little, of starring in the movie, It’s All About Me.
That was then (5 days ago): 16 inch bike.
This is now: 20 inch bike.
And yet, as quick as everything new clamors to the surface, so much is shed. Each year is a peeling away of layers. I’ve given away slings and kid-toting backpacks, cribs, kid-potties and a hundred stackable, squeaking, soft toys. I’ve given up the nursing rocker in which I spent the better part of six years cradling someone’s milk-scented head to my chest. Out went the 12-inch bikes, and just last week the 16-inch bikes. Sometimes it feels like parenthood is simply the practicing of the yoga pose, the letting go-asana, which looks something like this: knees and head bent to the earth in prayer position in immense gratitude for these golden lives, while your children inch a few steps further away.
The toad floats around its makeshift pond. The teenagers strut and preen like the beautiful, wild animals they are. Col, Rose and Cedar hold a summit on where to release Piezer, and are so democratic and skilled, I want to sign them up to lead Congress’ next Communication Retreat. Somedays I see the one thousand poses of letting go already behind me, and the thousands yet ahead, and am grateful for being right in the middle with these kids at the river on a gorgeous September day.