Dear Mouse: Flight and Grace

Dear Mouse,

You don’t remember your first moments of life, but I do. I used to think it was because of the pregnancy-labor-holy-cow-I-made-a-human progression that primed me for such technicolor memories, but now I’m not sure. Adoptive parents describe that first moment with the same kind of detail and intensity, so maybe it is simply that we parents all experience a similar kind of intense imprinting.

I can still feel your inky black hair under my hand, wet and sticky. I remember the extravagant softness and frailty of your skin under my fingers as I traced along the base of your skull and down to your neck. The rhythmic swell of your rib cage was what I imagined a butterfly must feel the first time it opens its wings, alive but not quite ready to take flight.

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Image: A black and white photo of newborn Mouse, wrapped in a blanket. Her arms are curled up to her face and she is sleeping.

I believe there must have been some spark of recognition that passed between our bodies after connecting for the first time as two fully distinct beings.

And after that, a constant haze of us. Comforting, diapering, feeding, playing. So much holding. You gave me a singular sense of purpose that I’d never felt before. That’s how it has been, for you and all your siblings. Until now.

Now, you’re peeking out from beneath the veil of childhood. Let me have my moment of honesty here: I don’t know whether I’m more concerned for you or for me. Part of me wants to be a selfless mother who is emotional simply out of love. I’m privileged to watch you step out, scared that you’ll get hurt, and excited to see you take flight. Of course, I do feel all those things.

As much as I want to leave it there, here is the other reality: I’m scared for you to pull the veil back and see me. Until now I’ve been just your Mother—infallible source of comfort and understanding. Even when I wasn’t doing it right, I was doing it right, you see?

You keep using all your new maturity to confront me about some legitimately flawed choices and attitudes of mine, and holy parenting-win-that-feels-like-a-loss, is it hard to hear. I feel this completely irrational urge to engage in a tit for tat argument with you, whereby I list out all the ways I’ve been a generous and empathetic and progressive parent, and therefore am completely unworthy of your criticism. But. They tell me I’m not supposed to do that with my seven year old.

You’re leaving me, daughter. We might still be breaking bread together every day and laying down under the same roof, but you’re still leaving me. You’re carefully stepping away from me, and I know that every time you look back, you’ll see me less as Mother, but as mother, the flawed human being who also happened to raise you. I know you’re still young and I know we have a lot of time left, yet I am still left with the feeling of not enough air in the room. I want to breath you in all over again like that first time, go back to that constant haze of us.

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Image: A black and white photo of 7yo Mouse. She is looking off to the side with a smile, her hair is braided and tied with a flower hairband.

Why am I writing this? Maybe so that when you are grown, you can have proof that yes, I knew what was happening. And yes, it was just as awful and miraculous as you could imagine. And yes, I’m screwing up and I know I’m screwing up, but I’m doing my best.

Most of all, I vow now to listen to you without agenda, without judgement, forever. Except when that is really hard for me, and then I ask for grace. I’ve known you for longer than you have memory, before your butterfly heart fluttered and took off on its own. I cannot forget the time before you flew away.

Love,

Me

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12 Comments on “Dear Mouse: Flight and Grace”

  1. ajummama says:

    I need to write for this very reason and of course you do it so beautifully. My boys are only three and five but dag, I been grieving the no more babies stage hward. Thanks for inspiring me to really write it down (soon?) instead of just numbing myself with more TV. Also, can you email me about Portland please? I am so goomgoomheh about this city that folks keep suggesting to me. Oh, love that photo of 7 year old Mouse. Who took it and did it require a fancy camera?

  2. Jisun, this took my breath away. Please never stop writing. And to your fierce, fragile little mouse… she will understand someday. Completely. xoxo

    • jisun says:

      That is a great compliment coming from you! Let’s cross our fingers and hope they all understand, huh? If not, we can all drink together at least.

      • You had me at “drink!” They will absolutely understand. Just like I will understand when my 4-year-old, who just told me she wants me to go to college with her, recants entirely in 13 years. Haha!

  3. Mardra says:

    Beautiful, momma.

  4. gps says:

    Oh dear. You’re in serious trouble when she’s a teenager….. :-)

  5. modernmessy says:

    So beautiful! Poetry.

  6. Choosing says:

    I guess that from the moment they are born, they are on a path leading to independence, a path leading away from us. From little things, like being able to turn from their back to their bellies, to bigger things, like going to the store buying some milk we just ran out of. To even bigger things like spending some days away from you on school camp. They are constantly practicing how to leave – but still, in the evening, when they cuddle and hug, the little baby is still there. And I think (hope) that there will always be some moments , even when they are grown up, when the old feeling of belonging is back, just for ja second, just for a glimpse.


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