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seeking: external uterus

2013 October 22
by Rachel Turiel


If Col is not sick and Rose is not bereft, I have approximately 2 solid days/week to put towards work.

Today, Rose is bereft. Actually, she’s bopping around in purple velvet—scratch that, now she’s in pink shorts and a doll sling turned bikini-top, crayoning smiling horses under blue skies. She speaks softly and continuously to herself. But, suggest that she join her friends at homeschool co-op, and she looks shocked, as if I’ve proposed she’s ready for a solo trip to Russia. An actual flood of tears rush from her eyes, suggesting the cliché originates in a six year old encouraged to separate from her mother.

This is a new development, this bereftness at leaving me. Everything is absolutely fine—giddy fine—until it’s time for Rose to go to the places she goes on the days I work. This morning she almost floated away on the sea of her own tears, until I said, okay, you can stay with me, but I’ll be working. You’ll have to entertain yourself.

And really, I’m flummoxed. This morning Rose watched three friends pile into the car heading to Fawn’s house for homeschool co-op, which is historically where learning dresses up like fun and all your BFFs are there. No dice. Rose waved good-bye to her friends and skipped inside to “entertain herself.” My prediction that she’d regret staying home after an hour of tedious aloneness is proving wrong.

I know that the latin root of “parent” is: More Flexible Than You Ever Thought. How many times have you been gearing up for some cheery social gathering, putting the finishing touches on your potluck dish, when your child turns her lovely moon-face towards you, flashing the grim, red-eyed squint of pink-eye. We get schooled early. I remember feeling all self-congratulatory when I got baby Col and his steamer trunk of supplies packed up for a hike all by myself. Next, he pooped, explosively, needed to nurse and then fell asleep on me. We stayed home and napped on the couch.

While Dan is gone hunting (does it seem like Dan’s always hunting? I overheard Col’s friend Mathew ask him: “What is your dad’s job? Does he work and hunt?”), Rose has been sleeping in a nest on my bedroom floor. But really, I wish I could incubate her in an external uterus at night. I’d tuck her into that dark aquatic cave and hook up the old umbilical cord, shuttling bits of last nights beef stew her way. She could craft her 6-year old nighttime dreams to the thready soundtrack of my heartbeat. And I’d sigh in relief at performing the easiest task of mothering.

Maybe it would be different if I had one of those jobs where I had to show up without a child (who’s now dancing in a smattering of headbands) zippered to my skin, like my friends who work as teachers, massage therapists, accountants. As far as Col and Rose see, I’m just typing away at the computer, the same little box which mysteriously produces videos of Arthur if you press the right buttons. All my deadlines and obligations, writing and editing work—this work I love so dearly—is as intangible to them as the rise and fall of numbers in our checkbook.

“This will pass,” friends have said. Child development is not linear, but more like a series of concentric circles. Kids swing out into their own brave orbits, and then loop back to the home base of their parents. Their evolution is a mysterious, beautiful and confounding process. Someday I’ll watch wistfully as Rose sashays out the door into the bright sun of her own life, but right now I am trying to keep the checkbook numbers up while she orbits precisely around my feet.


19 Responses leave one →
  1. Sue permalink
    October 22, 2013

    Lovely, visual post. I was settling in to write and my son just called from school to say he’s nauseous. So I am being Parent: More Flexible That You Ever thought- great. Thanks.

  2. October 22, 2013

    We just quit preschool because the separation was just too much for little pup {}, AND he sleeps in a “puppy bed” next to mine every single night. Oh well — this time of life is too short and I’ll take it as it is.

  3. October 22, 2013


  4. Molly permalink
    October 22, 2013

    On the nights my girl is with me and not at her dad’s, she falls asleep in her own bed – next to me. I fall asleep, too, and then wake up and leave when a friend calls, or I remember the beets in the oven, or when breathing feels like a priority. Then I sleep in the bed underneath, because really, why heat two rooms. At about 6 a.m., she wakes up and asks to climb into bed with me. These are both twin beds. So I move her blanky and her pillow and her. We cuddle up and doze another hour. She still often gets “skeered” to go into the bathroom or her own room alone, when it’s dark, and all the lights and action are 10 feet away in the living room. I go with her, and once I’ve driven the monsters away, she’ll stay on her own – for a bit. She knows she simply has to go to school, so she finds the edges of the other places in our lives for staying close. It’s a bother, and it’s dear. It’s a good thing she goes to her dad’s half the time, probably. On those days and nights, I have dates and watch videos in bed with snack food and go to meetings and operate loud, dangerous power tools, or think thoughts that have multiple parts, with pauses before the next one enters – the kinds of thoughts that duck their tentatively emerging heads back into shells in the presence of five year old demands, or anyone’s. I think that American style independence is overrated. At least until we have free pre-schools, medical care, college, and a more comprehensive food stamp program and better public housing. I was sent abroad at age 9 and didn’t feel entitled to complain, b/c I was so dang lucky for this Opportunity! I complained anyway, after three months, and my daddy came like a very tall knight and rescued me. I’m aiming for a kid who can leave home confidently when she’s 18 or so, to live elsewhere, and who would also call me in a heartbeat if she got busted for pot, or date raped, or forgot the recipe for Kaiserschmarrn. Bless us, this IS hard.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      October 23, 2013

      “so she finds the edges of the other places in our lives for staying close.”
      Exactly. I don’t think our job as parents is to give until we’re washed out rags of our former selves, but to know your boundaries and also where those edges for staying close can be found and nurtured.

  5. October 22, 2013

    Hooray for giving her the possibility to stay home with you! And she showed you she actually could entertain herself, thank you very much! So much with kids is reverse psychology. When they know they truly are free to choose, that they have a real options, that they are empowered to make the decision themselves and that you are their partners in this, incredible things happen!! Trust that when their cup is full, they will move on. They know what they need!

  6. October 22, 2013

    *damn* that’s some gorgeous writing, friend.

  7. Susan S permalink
    October 22, 2013

    Well, who wouldn’t want to hang out with you, Rachel? I remember when I wanted to stick close to my mom, it was usually for one of two reasons: 1) I was trying to avoid something. Cleaning my room, doing homework, facing the teacher who disciplined me yesterday, my brother, late summer boredom/fear of going back to school, anything at all, really. 2) Big changes in my mom’s life like when Grandma died, when my sister was born, when Mom went back to school, etc., those events rattled me and I wanted to stick close by to be sure she was still my mom. Once I was sure she was still my mom and the daily routine wasn’t that different, I was off on my merry way again. I think I was testing for consistency. Will I still get in trouble if I light all the candles in the house at once? Yes? All righty, then. Of course, Rose is much too well behaved to play with matches, but you get my drift, right? :-)

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      October 22, 2013

      Thanks for these thoughts. Helpful to ponder.

  8. Carrie permalink
    October 23, 2013

    We pulled out of school too.
    My girlie happy to be home.
    Love this post–love it
    Love your writing!!!

  9. Emmanuelle permalink
    October 23, 2013

    I sympathize with both you and Rose, since I went through a stage of bereavement myself when I was 13 or 14. I would go to school but not participate in other activities – and when my mother had to leave for a few days with my dad while our grandparents took care of us, I cried and cried and cried. It was a very irrational sadness, flooding me like a continuous wave, as if we were going to be parted forever.

    They did go, but understandably worried. After an hour and a half, they had to come back because they had forgotten some papers, and I was so relieved to see them (the impossible wish had been magically granted, so I could believe in good magic somehow) that I was not sad while saying when goodbye the second time.

    The idea of becoming an adult was making me sad all the time. I was loosing my childhood and I had to become a responsible person, and both things were really scary and distressful.

    Maybe the fact that you were all so scared for Col recently stirred up some deep fears of separation and loss, that are immediately appeased when – in spite of reasonable situations where she is supposed to overcome this irrational sadness – she can come back to you. As if this was proving to her that she can trust life and believe in good magic, after all.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      October 24, 2013

      Growing up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, for some of us anyway. Some people have called this stage of Rose’s a “regression,” but I see it differently, more as a circling back to home base. Thanks for your words, Em.

      • Emmanuelle permalink
        October 24, 2013

        I am still growing up… and still in spirals. But each spiral brings me closer to my true happy self :o)


  10. kate permalink
    October 24, 2013

    Beautiful. Thank you. This is the kind of perspective mamas in the throws of bedsharing, all-night nursing and the like need every once in a while.

    Rolling with it. Savoring it, even.

  11. November 11, 2013

    if you find the supplier of said device, please let me know asap. 6 is so special.

  12. November 26, 2013

    I work two days from home too and both girls leave for preschool in the morning and get back later in the evening. On days that I have one or both of them, I hardly get anything done, so I’m grateful for this time alone because like you, I’m tied to the computer, and they don’t really see me “working” so they’re constantly hovering above me, waiting, wanting, needing… it’s tough having to juggle this work at home thing with kids, but we do what we can and what must. Even when they orbit around your feet, as you have so beautifully articulated.

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