The Black Hole of Parenthood

No one told me it would be like this. Seriously. There were no warning labels or ”proceed with caution” signs. No flashing red lights or people on the side of the road shouting, “Stop! The bridge is out!” Only lighthearted sitcoms and moving television dramas that showed the joys of parenthood. Those of us that grew up in the 70s were regularly fed a diet of simple stories that culminated in the neatly crafted familial reconciliations after a seemingly world-shattering yet manageable disagreement between parent and child. There was no briefing from a fictitious ”Parenting Council” who presides over pre-parenting coursework making sound recommendations for anyone wanting to take that dive into the black hole called parenting. Why ”black hole of parenting”, you say? Well, a black hole by definition (informal) is ”a place where people or things, especially money, disappear without trace”. Now, if that’s not the definition of parenthood, I don’t know what is?

No one talks about the mental, emotional, financial, and physical toll parenting takes. Experts don’t warn you to say goodbye to who you are (or aspire to be) once you make the decision to bring a child into this world. You’re not advised to lay your wardrobe to rest, put your social life on indefinite hold, or even prepare to watch ANY money you make just disappear before your very eyes. You hear jokes about the sacrifices of taking care of your kids, but no one sits you down and has a serious, no holds barred discussion about who you are, what will happen to you (especially if you’re a woman), and who you’ll be after the fact. If you’re like me, you get caught up in the cute little baby pictures, the smell of Johnson and Johnson baby lotion, and the warm fuzzy feelings that come with holding a cooing “wittle” baby and just wait for that nesting instinct to kick all the way in. Then, you’re a goner, and the train that is your life prepares to derail.

So at this point you might be thinking , “Yikes! She sounds like she’s a full on entree of bitterness with a side order of regret”. And to some degree, that is true. Honestly, I am working through some residual bitterness and simmering regret. But not necessarily for the reasons some may assume. Let me say that I absolutely love my three children beyond words! They are the source of my greatest joy and by far the greatest gifts for which God has entrusted me.They are incredible human beings on so many levels. I look at them and wonder, “where the heck did these folks come from? These adult, opinionated, compassionate, and complex human beings come from? From me? You mean, I had a hand in helping form them? I’m still in awe”. And here’s where the bitterness and regret abide.

I wish I’d been prepared to handle the cruelty of this world. I wish I’d understood how traumatized I was from my childhood and then empowered to do the work necessary to keep from passing that trauma onto my children. The bitterness that simmers within me is born of those who’ve harmed my children causing them life altering trauma. It is born of my inability to protect and defend them the way they needed and my ultimate failures as a mother. I wasn’t able to protect them from bullies, sexual predators, and systemic racism that makes them begin to question their worth as soon as they became aware of unfairness based on complexion and hue. I regret falling so incredibly short of what my beautiful brown children needed in this world that so often doesn’t love them wholly or even at all. I regret being so paralyzed by my own depression and anxiety, such that I didn’t give them what they needed emotionally when they were young. I know that I’ve contributed to the trauma they’ve suffered in their lives. So, as contradictory as it is, my greatest joy is tinged with the stain of my deepest despair.

Now back to that black hole I mentioned earlier. Parenting has literally sucked my finances (still does) down the parenting black hole. It’s gone and I swear I’ll never find it. It’s also claimed my stomach muscles, my hair color, my mental health (yay for meds), my sense of safety, the reality of my small circle of power, and quite often, my feelings of competence. But, what I’ve learned is that while the black hole has sucked away so many things I thought I valued about myself, the things stripped away have revealed a real person, a better one. A beautifully flawed woman who loves with her whole heart and has done the best that she could to love, prepare, and release her children into this world to make it better. And while no one told me about the trials and pitfalls of this parenting experience, I’m so glad I’ve lived to see the triumphs. To my children, thank you for allowing me to mother you and fighting to keep all of us from being sucked into the black hole of barrenness.

Embrace the Chances

Each day that we live, we are presented with more options, choices, and chances than we can consciously comprehend. Now, they’re not all grandiose and gargantuan enough to tip the world on its axis, but they have the potential to be life-changing nonetheless. So often we neglect to even notice these options, choices, and chances that we deem little or inconsequential. Because they are often fleeting, they don’t appear to be important in the grand scheme of things. But in truth, the little ones set the stage for bigger ones!

Our willingness to chase after and embrace our chances (options and/or choices) is the piece that’s actually astronomical. In order to propel ourselves to higher levels of productivity, experiences, and existence, we must embrace the smaller chances presented to us each day by God. Embracing chances requires the faith that since God is there presenting this chance, then surely He’s awaiting us in the other side! When we shrink away from these chances, we are turning away from a divine destiny, orchestrated by God, that’s pushing us toward becoming our best selves! He knows EXACTLY what we need to push us to the next level in our lives every time there’s a need for elevation. So trust God. Be willing to see the chances He lays before you. And embrace those chances with love, passion, and purpose each and every single day!

In Memoriam to the Deceased Members of the Class of 1988

By Liane E. Stone, ‘88

We were a garden of blossoming, fragrant flowers

Planted in colorful clusters across the hills and valleys of Northfield Mount Hermon.

Bursting with adolescent angst and pubescent passion,

We began this journey…together.

Endless days filled with breathtaking views of picturesque mountains draped in blankets of gold, orange, red, and green hues.

Together, we took that first step toward global citizenship,

All while coming from every nook and cranny of this vastly diverse landscape called earth.

Though armed with different toolboxes gleaned from myriad upbringings, experiences, and ideas

We were open to learning about the true essence of each individual life we encountered upon these hallowed hills of Northfield Mount Hermon.

Together, we sadly dined on barely tolerable cuisine that left us running to the snack bar in search of more palatable sustenance,

Together, we cheered on fellow hogger athletes who sometimes won, and sometimes not,

But that never caused anyone to question our loyalty nor did it weaken our enthusiasm.

Together, we suffered through weekly all school meetings meant to unite and inform us,

Yet sometimes strangely felt like corralling us into sheep-like submission.

Together, we pulled all-nighters, gulping down Jolt sodas and popping No-Doze like caffeinated skittles,

Writing papers on Brothers typewriters because desktop word processors were just becoming an accessible thing during our day.

We walked the paths of Northfield and Mount Hermon, together.

Late nights lying in the cool green grass counting stars, making plans, and crafting dreams that felt so real we could touch them.

Campus-wide snowball fights, races for school-baked pies, and “dressing up” to attend formal occasions, the NMH-way.

Together we gathered in prayer as we readied ourselves to walk across that makeshift stage built on the football field,

While swallowing the melancholy tears of goodbye to this journey, and hello to the next.

We lived so much, laughed so much, fussed so much, planned so much, and played so much together that we never imagined a time when we would no longer be we, us, as a whole.

But one day, our Creator looked lovingly across this garden of blossoming, fragrant flowers planted in colorful clusters,

And knew that despite the array of incomprehensible beauty that we possessed,

Some were weakening, some were suffering, their life forces slowly ebbing away.

It was then that He lovingly reached His hand down to our garden,

Plucked nine of our most beautiful flowers,

And took them to His greenhouse filled with love, joy, peace, and healing for their souls and their spirits.

It was there, in His greenhouse, that they were separated from those crumbling shells and placed in the master’s garden

Where they will no longer suffer, wilt, nor weaken from the harsh elements in this world.

Though our garden is smaller, and our clusters are missing blossoms,

And the link that connected us as we’ve gone on this journey together is forever broken,

We have assurance in knowing that there will always be a part of those nine blossoms in our hearts,

In the air, in the soil, in the head, heart, and hand, and in the soul of Northfield Mount Hermon.