already you

February 26th, 2018

You have always been you. It sounds a little bit silly to say that, because it doesn’t come close to expressing what I mean. As the person who has spent nearly every one of last 7,000 days and nights in silent wonder and raging worry over every aspect of your life—your eating, sleeping, feeling, and thinking; your hair, bones, blood and skin—I mean it as an admission. It wasn’t me. It isn’t me. It will not be me that makes you who you are.

I have a memory of the first time you waved bye-bye. A sitter was holding you in her arms near the front door and I was walking out of it. When your baby waves bye-bye to you it’s a moment that really sticks. But it’s not quite right to say you were a baby then. You were already you when you did that, already a perfectly functioning human being. You were on a path that was uniquely yours, that had begun in a time and place before me, and that would progress in a completely intact and natural way after me.

Why did I think I had so much to do with it?

Every now and then my Zen teacher will say something (that he has said many times before) to point to the truth of life. It goes sort of like this: “Once you were a little child, then a teenager and now an adult. You were 10 then 18, 30 or 50. Was any of that hard to do?” No, we chuckle to ourselves, since it’s a given. It happens by itself.

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don’t toil, neither do they spin.

A lily does not become a stalk of corn either. It never becomes anything but itself, by itself. This is another revelation that sounds stupidly obvious and unremarkable. But we should reflect on it. We should study it: the obvious and effortless perfection of the way things are and how they come to be.

I grew up in another time, a time before the dawn of the Industrial Parental Anxiety Complex. This is to say that my mother did the mothering, such as it was, and my father did the fathering, for better or worse, but nothing that they did or didn’t do was formed by this new attitude of expertise called parenting. Parenting is not something that anyone knows how to do or will know how to do. It cannot be taught, except by children, who have the sometimes charming and often infuriating ability to be no one but themselves.

My mother never once hid broccoli in the mac and cheese. She never hounded me to practice the piano as a way to elevate my math scores or letter in lacrosse to polish my college prospects. These kind of manufactured agonies were simply beyond the few extra hours available in her day. She had other concerns, great matters, and her children did not appear to be chief among them. Oh happy day!

Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself.

This is not to say that we don’t have our hands full, as parents. Not to say that there isn’t much to learn or do, but it concerns our children far less than we think. Our job is to raise ourselves upright as half-decent people and self-managing adults. To be honest and reliable. To be patient. To have confidence in ourselves and trust in nearly everyone else. To keep going through the rough patches, with a resilient hope and idiotic optimism that all will be well. To shine light equally on the lilies and the thistles, the flowers and the thorns, the rocks and the mud and the grass that grows every which way in the field without applying a fence or force. To simply be, faithful and true, because that is how our children grow strong in themselves as themselves, lacking nothing, functioning perfectly, the amazing humans they already are.


  1. And there you go. Today has been a particularly tricky day with Gabby, and me struggling with her struggling.
    I raised my big kids without the benefit of the parenting anxiety industrial complex, as you put it. And they are pretty ok humans.
    Thank you for this reminder. Love you.

    Comment by marcea pugliese — February 26, 2018 @ 2:19 pm

  2. Thank you for this message today, Maezen ~~~

    The story of my parenting life in the Age Before. Done without any motherly/grandmotherly guidance, not in familiar home towns; decades before the advent of the “internet World” that now advises us all.

    Those tiny newborns are now the adults whom we love, respect and cherish as they make our life cycle complete. Pax & Bonum.

    Comment by mary petro — February 26, 2018 @ 5:54 pm

  3. Beautiful reflection and image of your dear girl.

    Comment by Lauren Seabourne — February 26, 2018 @ 6:35 pm

  4. I look at my child and sometimes it’s like I can see all these images from the past of her face projected onto her. And I see, yes it’s her.
    I like to believe/trust that a persons soul has a certain fate for the person they are. It is a sacred pact between a person and his soul. Sadly in this day and age there is a tendency amongst parents to violate that pact. It’s like ripping a closed rosebud open in an attempt to find the flower inside. The irony is that that violation then becomes the childs fate, or was it the childs fate that their fate would be violated that way from the beginning? It’s like they say in Star Trek, you must never violate the time-space continuum.
    Fortunately nature is very forgiving.
    PS what a beautiful photograph.

    Comment by Simone — February 27, 2018 @ 3:20 pm

  5. 💕

    Comment by Larson — February 27, 2018 @ 5:28 pm

  6. Fear grips my heart when I see my son struggle in school, behaviorly and socially. I feel the desperation of not being able to control his actions anymore. And then I think, wait, could I ever? Those first three to five years are especially deceptive, making us thinking we have sculpted the clay. I look at the astonishing ideas he conceives and I think perhaps he wasn’t actually clay at all. Which is for the best. I’m terrible at keeping track of tools.

    Your posts bring light to my mind and much to think on. Thank you for that.

    Comment by Jessica — March 7, 2018 @ 8:56 pm

  7. I’ve always had the distinct feeling that our son chose us to be his parents … which is weirdly reassuring.

    Sending love and appreciation your way. XOClare

    Comment by Clare K. — March 8, 2018 @ 8:26 am

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