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The Groaning

I heard a line in a poem today that made me stop and ponder.


Do children often groan at the sound of their mothers’ voices?


Perhaps I misheard the line but now I can’t unhear it..


There’s something disturbing and frighteningly honest about children groaning at the sound of their mother.


Is she asking too many questions?


Does she worry about their well-being?


What if she loves a little too closely?


Children do, of course, groan at the sound of their mother.


Mine do.


I yearn to better understand (or accept) why that is a common expression, and how to detach myself from the ache that comes from the sound of groaning.


Of course there are gradations of groaning; there is innocent, uncomplicated, even unavoidable groaning that comes from being told to get up in the morning or to put a dish in the sink.


But I struggle with the graver groaning; the groaning that stabs, that suggests that I am not wanted, not appreciated, or that I am being kept at bay; that my children are somewhat, sometimes, allergic to me.


How does this happen after so many years of being their everything, the one without whom they couldn’t survive, the one who turns herself inside out to provide, nurture, teach, feed, clothe and comfort?


Does it happen because we’ve been their everything, a confirmation of the age old dance of pushing away, needing to find their own voice, their own path and the angst of doing so when mother is (or, is seen as,) interfering with their autonomy, even if just a tiny bit?


My older daughter is private and holds her attachment to me very close to the vest; it peeks out in moments, but is generally kept hidden; closed off and protected, and thus her groans are not groans at all but a quietness, resembling inches, feet and sometimes miles of distance, which for over-sensitive me feels like guttural groaning, painful groaning, a groaning line being drawn between us.


And in the midst of the distance, a comment may be made by an innocent bystander proclaiming with delight that my daughter looks just like me.


I see her take in the comment, rub a hand through her hand as I might, and smile in agreement.


And then groan.


But then there is the handmade card she gives me, creatively decorated, in which she gifts me this line: “There is only you. I am nothing without you.”


She acknowledges that she pushes me away and is sorry.


“One day,” she continues, “I will have my own child and will understand the complexities of it all”.

A sound comes out of me when I hug her appreciatively.


It may even sound a little like a groan, when really it is a sigh; a tremendous sigh of relief and of yearning, an exquisite connection.


Maybe groaning is just complicated sighing, digesting, reflecting and acknowledging the raw, life-affirming link between mothers and their children, a consistent hum that reveals the truth of that primal relationship that devours and allows us to be.


I will listen to the groaning more carefully, as if it could nourish me; and consider it a reminder of our unbreakable bond, from which groaning is naturally emitted.


I will hold the groaning closer; not be angered or disappointed by it (or at least not always), and feel its power; its proximity to the ultimate truth that is at the center of my being, my world, their being, their world and I will hear the groan of love.

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