At the beginning of motherhood, one of the great surprises was the revelation that I was enough for my children. When they were hungry, they wanted me to nurse them. When they were tired, they wanted me to rock them. When they had questions, they wanted me to answer. It didn’t occur to them to doubt my capacity to know that the word for that object in the sky was “airplane” or that love never dies.
When I nursed my boys, I would bend my head over their curled-up forms and my hair would dangle down. Each in their own time would rest a bottom hand on the curve of my breast, and the top hand would reach up and idly finger my hair, rub it between tiny fingers, tug on it now and then. It was as if, by reaching toward me, they were completing some circuit of love that began with the milk flowing and ended with the smallest intimation of their own agency. In those moments, we were each enough.
The other day, Oldest lay down next to me on the couch and sighed. I asked how he was doing and he said, “OK.” I asked what he was thinking about and he shrugged and said, “Life. What’s the point?”
I said the point of life is to love and to be loved. The point of life is to be, as James Merrill wrote, “lived by life.” I thought it was a pretty good answer, considering the fact that he asked me the meaning of life while the Olympics were on.
He shook off my platitudes and buried his face in the couch.
It was another of the losses, here at the end of motherhood. I am no longer enough, no longer able to come up with the right answer or, at the very least, some dangling hair for him to hold onto.