Walk the Line

April 12th, 2011

Unsure feet walking wobbly steps toward an imagined goal. Balancing all the weight and consequences of every decision while juggling all manner of odd shaped problems and demands. In order to avoid an horrific death, each step is first debated then carefully implemented. Possible failure, complete disaster and inevitable therapy all hold their breath waiting for me to trip and fall off the tightrope

“No you cannot quit piano” I yell out to him “I don’t care if you hate it today, just go downstairs and practice.” And with that I grab a little tighter to the rope with my toes as he swings me for a loop. The crowd below both cheer and boo. For whom I do not know.

“Let him stop” someone yells from the crowd “You’re too hard on him. He will hate you forever. You’ll ruin his life.”

Another voice screams up at me, “He needs to learn to stick with things. You’re too soft on him, he’ll never finish anything. You’ll ruin his life”

Doubt grabs me by the shoulders, blindfolds me and spins me around three times. I’m dizzy and have no idea where to place my next step. I hear the voices of the crowd grow louder until I can no longer hear a word.
I breathe, imagine and listen. Not to them. But to him.
I hear the piano, the mistakes, the thumping on innocent keys, the silences, and again the piano.
“Happy now?” He throws the question up at me, hitting me in the chest with a thud.
“No, not really” I cry back wobbling about.
“Well why not?” He demands.
“Because, I’m scared” I admit.
“Of what?”
“Of falling off, and hurting you”

He begins to laugh, and so do the crowd. I struggle to keep my footing. Why don’t they understand? This isn’t funny! Can’t they see that if I loose my balance someone could get hurt here, seriously hurt? I sit on the tightrope, clutching on for my life and his. But my hands are slippery and I loose my grip, I am no longer sure what to hold onto, there is nothing. The advice, the books, the statistics on all of parenting’s do’s and don’ts wiz by in a blur.

So I fall. Hard. I may have broken bones, I can’t quite tell. Perhaps I’ll die. I think this is it. Yes, I’m sure it’s all over. A mother, her decisions and the child collide.

But after some time when I have the courage to open my eyes I notice he sits by me perfectly fine with only a scratch. He  then gently leans over and looks into my face with a smile, and says,
“See, I’m not hurt at all!”

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  1. Margaret says:

    The fear gives way to the reality doesn’t it. he has to push, just as you have to push. That is how you will both move forward. Great writing.

  2. meg says:

    Thanks Margaret, some days are more wobbly than others 🙂

  3. Wonderfully written, and superbly illustrates the pain, insecurity and power of motherhood.  Great job, Mom.
    The only thing that keeps me centered on that tightrope is the belief that as long as I have a purpose for my rules, and I’m not just stubbornly clinging to them beyond their usefulness, we will all be fine. 

  4. Baby knowledge says:

    Wow. I lo’ve the fact that you told your son that you are scared of falling, scared of hurting him. Now he knows that every step you take, every decision you make, whether he is in agreement or not, is taken because you love him, and you care for him and you will always do what you feel is right for him. And that is why his scratches will  never be scars.  And he will always be fine.  (or “not hurt at all”).  Wonderfully written, thank you. 

  5. Baker Wright says:

    What a great way to express that feeling and that walk through parenting. There are fathers on that rope, too (sometimes the one stabilizing it, sometimes the one shaking it). Thanks again.

  6. Debby Bruck says:

    The net caught the both of you! There was a safety net underneath wasn’t there? Maybe it’s called “love” between mother and child that can’t be lost when people speak to each other and look into each other’s eyes knowingly. Blessings, Debby

  7. Paula says:

    I love that piano lessons were your example. I still remember my mother not letting me quit piano and telling me I had “no stick-to-it-iveness (though in fairness to me, I was a gymnast for 9 years and had been a consistently great student). She was doing the best she could, of course, but her words wounded me for many many years. I can now see that she was just speaking aloud her fears. What I would like to offer, though, is that the parental focus on piano lessons is quite odd if you think about it. Why is it so important that children play the piano rather than discovering and focusing on what their actual gifts and interests might be? It’s as if the fear that “I won’t be a good enough parent” gets attached to this particular idea of what a successful person does. And yet, there is no correlation between piano playing and success, or piano playing and the kind of committed focus we want our children to have so that they can build meaningful, fulfilling and, yes, successful lives. In defining for our children exactly what success is supposed to look like, we run the risk of destroying their natural impulse towards success at the things that they actually are willing (and, yes, sometimes with a little nudging) to commit themselves to. The challenge as a parent, of course, is to figure out when they want to quit because this isn’t for them and when they want to quit because commitment is hard. Our goal should be to teach them to stick things that matter to them out even when they grow weary and to let go of the things that really don’t speak to who they are. After all, what is childhood for if not for trying on and then discarding things that prove not to fit? In our desire for them to demonstrate that they are on the officially sanctioned path to success (which for some reason involves piano lessons and team sports an awful lot), we run the risk of keeping our children from finding their own authentic path to success. Can we instill in our children the attributes of perseverance and commitment we want them to have without deciding for them what it is they’re to commit to? I never did become a good piano player, and the forced piano lessons killed my love of music for many many years. I discovered my love of music many many years later, in my adulthood, when the mandate that I play the piano was long behind me. And then, I picked up the guitar. 

  8. Debbie says:

    This article was so helpful.  As a newly single parent this is exactly how it feels…every decision feeling monumental.  This helped me step back take a look at things and smile.  Thanks!

  9. susan says:

    Enjoyed very much. For the record, it is lose, not loose. 🙂


  10. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this, it is just what I needed to keep the daily decisions in perspective.

  11. baby knowledge says:

    Hi Me again, for the same reasons as stated on my previous message, could you please delete the link to babyknowledge. I am of course happy for my comments to remain without the link.  Many thanks Angela

  12. Andria says:

    Thank you for this. I struggle every day with decisions like this. sometimes certain, sometimes no. My son is 7 but there’s one thing he knows for sure. I explain my thinking to him. If nothing else, he understands that I’m trying to do my best for him. He also knows that not afraid to say sorry when I  get it wrong. The other thing your post reminded me of is that I’m not alone. Most parents struggle with this.

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