On a late night in March, my eyes hung heavy with morphine. My exhausted body weighed down by crushed rocks of labour. Softly they placed AJ in my arms. In the dim light of midnight I looked at him. The connection was anaesthetic and distant. Yet somewhere, gently a voice rose within me. In an exhale, I began to write a new story.
Seven years of drafting adventure after adventure. One day a new page fell open. I was standing at AJ’s classroom door. I could feel the buzz and excitement of prep students vibrating through the walls. “Can you stay back a minute?” asked his teacher. With the thin rise of panic I waited, anticipation trembling the pages.
In an empty classroom she led me to a display board, tacked with drawings from each child illustrating what they wanted to be when they grew up. The teacher lingered at AJ’s. “I don’t think AJ quite understood what was meant by this task,” she said. AJ had drawn a picture of himself as a Ninja. I asked the teacher what she thought the problem was. Her reply was simple and honest. “He cannot possibly want to grow up to be a Ninja,” she paused, “it is not a job.” In the quiet of my voice I found the calm I needed to respond. “Not only can he grow up to be a Ninja if he wants to, he will be an awesome Ninja if he does.” I walked away, the protagonist furiously protecting her story.
In that instant I was transported back to a cold hospital room. I was a little girl, there with my mother, visiting a dying friend. The frail woman on her death bed with sheets of pale blue asked me how school was going. School was great, I was always doing well. Then she asked the inevitable question. What do you want to be when you grow up love? Silence snapped into the room. The hands of expectation closed in tight around my neck, constricting my voice. Burning inside me the answer “I want to be a writer.” But into the room I heard the words “I want to be a lawyer.” Approval crept across the dying woman’s face. My mother smiled. The chapter closed shut.
As I dusted the cobwebs and turned over the musty, brittle pages, I now reopened that chapter. With tears I typed the words. With each keystroke that dampened the page my story was torn into pieces. I wove a prose of dreams I had for my son. The insatiable hunger I had for him to pursue happiness at all costs. To always listen to his inner voice. To grow up and be whatever he wanted to be, free from any definition. Then I stopped. The lesson here was far greater than conviction or dreams. AJ’s haphazard, thick pencil drawing of his Ninja made me realise that I was merely trying to rewrite my own story. My finger heavy on delete, I erased my soliloquy of tears.
As a parent I want to save my son from all that I have experienced and endured in my life. The ferocious mother in me wants to protect him and guide him on the right path at all costs. Yet, I cannot do any of these things. All I can do, with open humility, is share my story. At times, I can use my story as a guide to how I raise him. Then I need to close my book. Step aside. Relinquish my words and let my son write his own story.
For all the chapters of success and happiness I must expect the chapters of failure and disappointment. For all the heroes, there must be villains. For all the love affairs I must also expect the sadness. Even in those early moments of life, in that blinking midnight dim, AJ was already writing his story. Stripped bare, the realisation that he would only ever be a character in mine.
If I could inscribe the inner cover of his story I would write: my precious son, this is your story. Do not let anyone else write it for you. Not even your mother with her eloquent words. In your moments of doubt and uncertainty, I will always be your soft place to fall. In your moments of happiness success, I will be there on the side lines cheering. Go for it. I will always be your biggest fan.
“Story” was first published on Kidspot. It was my second post as a finalist in the Personal and Parenting category of the Voices of 2014 competition. You can view the post here.