Yesterday I posted all about some failed experiments and my refreshed outlook on experimentation.
Today I want to delve into the status of my ongoing grandest experiment and discuss some ideas for future experiments.
I just finished reading Holdfast: At Home in the Natural World by Kathleen Dean Moore for our Sense of Story book club. (Our discussion will be happening soon so keep checking in on Sense of Story if you have read along with us.)
There is a chapter called “Dead Reckoning.” Dead reckoning is a navigational process where you calculate your current position by using a previously determined position, knowing the direction you are going in, and the speed at which you are traveling. Moore is about to embark on a boating adventure in dicey weather that could leave them lost out on the open sea – that is, unless she trusts the navigational skills of her twenty-four year old daughter.
As she watches her daughter navigate confidently using dead reckoning, Moore wonders:
When did this happen, that Erin knows how to do this better than I do? How did it happen that she has coaxed me into making this trip, when last I looked I was giving her M&Ms to bribe her up a mountain trail? Why should she be unafraid, when my heart is scrabbling against my ribs like a rat in a box?
This is how I feel when I look at my eldest daughter – my grandest experiment where the results are coming in fast.
Parenting is the biggest experiment of all. Some days I don’t know what’s up or down. Sometimes I tend to over-analyze my methods. I deconstruct every action and reaction. I calculate probabilities and throw them out the window because Murphy’s law seems to kick my butt in the end.
And my poor guinea pig, #1. Despite years of dealing with our guess-and-test disasters, she seems to be all right. I watch her gracefully deal with the logistics of her independent life. She takes charge and cooks meals or makes me tea when I need a helping hand. She teaches me how to use the latest app or tells me what she thinks about a current event. When did this child have an opinion about worldly matters? How did she figure out how to navigate the outside world? I can’t remember teaching her any of this.
Like Moore, I marvel at how fast this all happened.
How did we get here?
I remember giving birth to her and not knowing where we were headed but knew we would be fine. I remember being lost and scared and not knowing what I was supposed to do. I was hopping from buoy to buoy, barely keeping steady and afloat. I was doing my own form of dead reckoning, frequently getting lost and going in circles with my poor baby in tow.
All of a sudden, we are here. She and I are talking about where she will go, far away from home. We talk about what it means to live on your own. We talk about what she wants for herself and where life will take her, so very far away from home.
There are four others who also look to me for guidance and direction. How quickly will the time come when they can find their own way? When will they take me by the hand and lead me, knowing the way better than I do? Will I end up only knowing to anchor?
Moore talks about anchoring:
“Setting an anchor is something I know how to do. The slow motion dance, the forward and back of it, the partnership, the soft movement of tides past a boat at rest, the sureness of our hold on the earth – there’s a joy in this, a kind of homemaking, and when the anchors are set and the engine is finally quiet, silence settles around us like snow and a sea lion exhales somewhere in the passage.”
As the years go by, I notice how good I am at anchoring. Anchoring our rhythm. Anchoring our home. Holding it steady as they go off experimenting with their own dead reckoning skills, confident that they will always know where I am, where I’ve anchored, where home is, so that they can always re-orient themselves based on this pre-determined position.
In the upcoming years, I will experiment with how and where I anchor. Will I rely on a physical space to be our anchor? A house. Or will I remember my eldest daughter’s words when I asked her what “home” means to her as we embark on adventures with and without each other: home is wherever we seven are together.
In the upcoming years, I sense experiments and explorations with this definition of home are on the horizon. My experiments with paying attention and creating habits to support this act will only increase as I slowly accept this slow yet painful physical separation from my children. I am learning that as they grow into and through the middle, teen, and young adult years, they are undergoing this constant process of giving birth to themselves, their true selves. They will experiment with their identity and question everything that I have presented to them. Our relationship will be tested. Can I hold the space, hold anchor, when the tough questions arise, when they inevitably blame me for all the things I have done and all the things that I didn’t do? How do I navigate these waters without guilt pulling me overboard?
As I experiment in the way I parent, adapt, communicate, and live, I have comfort in the knowledge that I can always try again. I can always use dead reckoning and figure out my location based on where I was sixteen years ago, last year, or even yesterday . If I pay attention to the speed at which I am travelling and the time it has taken me to get to this place, I can always figure out which direction I want to move. I am open to pulling up anchor and settling in a new place knowing that as long as the seven of us are together, I am home.