The adventure of tragedy

I can’t stand it when I see children ripped away from their parents, or parents forced to leave their children behind for their safety. At that point in the story I just weep unconsolably now. It never used to be like that – it used to just feel like part of the adventure. Before I was a parent, I didn’t really get what the big deal was, honestly.

And maybe this was a simple maturation process, or a reward of the rite of passage that is parenthood, but I can’t help suspect there is something else at play. Because I have always maintained a rather unhealthy distance from the concept of family. I have looked upon others’ close familial relationships with bemused curiosity and an uncomfortable tinge of envy. I never had a parent that felt like a safe space; like plain and simple sanctuary; like unconditional love. I’d never known that, so I had no concept of what it would be like to lose it. And I hadn’t considered that that’s what those moments in the story represented – the tragic loss of true love.

I’m a good mother. I’m validating and responsive and highly attuned to my son. I am joyful to be blessed with this role, and I know he feels it. I am enthusiastic, I’m quick to admit error, I respect him as the whole person he is and protect him as the precious growing being that he is. I have done my best to earn the honour of being a safe space for him – a sanctuary of unconditional love.

And so I am terrified of messing it all up by doing what humans inevitably do. I’m scared of dying and leaving him behind.

I was watching Aquaman when it hit me that it’s so much more painful to have and to lose that kind of thing, than to never have known it at all. I don’t know why it took Aquaman for that realisation to descend, but there we are. I feel a responsibility, having gained my son’s trust, having nurtured his open heart, having made him vulnerable to me. Because that makes me a potential source of great pain to him, and a lot of the ways I could hurt him are outside of my control.

But the thing is, I didn’t really start living until I felt what it was like to love and lose. To give myself over completely, to trust in someone else, and to have that sanctuary stripped away. So maybe I was right all along. Maybe it is just part of the adventure.

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