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28 April 2016 @ 12:12 am
A letter to my children on the eve of my 35th birthday  
Dear Harrison and Colin,

While I was working today, I watched "Deep Impact" on Netflix. It's not what one would call a good movie, per se; movies in which all mankind is threatened by a fast moving space rock on a collision course with Earth tend to be categorically terrible due to overly earnest dialogue, bad science, and repetitive deus ex machina eye-roll-inducing scenarios (e.g. Elijah Wood somehow manages to locate his girlfriend in a sea of thousands of evacuees just in time to haul her to higher ground before a colossal tidal wave kills them? Yeah, no.)

But hey, who doesn't love a fun apocalyptic drama!

Watching a flick about the end of the days on the eve of one's birthday is both a good and a bad idea. It's a bad idea for all the reasons I've already mentioned, but it's also a good idea because it does force contemplating the unspoken question of every apocalyptic drama: "What would you do if the world ended tomorrow?" Granted, my end of days is a long ways off (I'm only turning 35, for crying out loud), but I do think this question evokes a different answer depending on your age and experience. That may be the reason why the protagonists of "Deep Impact" range in age from teens to adults of varying maturity - each character approaches the cataclysm from a different perspective which drives their actions throughout the film.

I think "What would you do?" is the very question that motivates us to keep making apocalyptic movies - because otherwise, how many of us actually think about the precarious nature of life and act accordingly? Good thing we don't have a comet the size of Mt. Everest headed straight for Canada - we'd be unprepared on multiple existential levels with no one to save us!

Which leads me to the other thing that happened today.

Tonight, Harrison, you cried for a long time about not wanting to go to bed. Last night, a nightmare had convinced you that a monster was in your pillow waiting to attack you in the middle of the night, so you crawled into our bed during the wee hours (and Daddy had to go sleep in the living room as a result). "I want to sleep in your bed," you cried into my shoulder, "because I don't want anything bad to happen to me! I want you to protect me!" (Your capacity for innocence at the same time as you express yourself so maturely never fails to blow me away.)

To calm your fears, I told you that monsters are only make believe, that Mommy and Daddy are always here to protect you and keep you safe, and that our prayers at night fill your room with goodness and light to help keep bad thoughts away, for that's all that monsters are. Then, Daddy and I took turns sitting with you in the dark until you fell asleep. (You were there, too, Colin, only you were asleep for most of this. Thankfully, your dreams so far seem to focus on nursing and also possibly milk.)

So you may be wondering what all this has to do with a mediocre disaster film from the late '90s. It's because, despite multiple past viewings on HBO, TNT, TBS, and goodness knows how many other networks, for the first time ever, I watched "Deep Impact" and wept. In particular, it was the scene where Sarah's parents, seeing an opportunity for their children to live, strap their youngest - a baby - to their eldest - Sarah - and send them away to find higher ground. Her mother sobs as she watches their children disappear into the throng.

For some reason, it took being a parent myself to read this scene accurately. Though they have doomed themselves by staying behind, Sarah's parents aren't grieving the inevitable end that awaits them. They cry because, in sending their children away to survive, there is finally nothing else they can do to preserve them or ensure their safekeeping. They are, in essence, giving their kids over to fate, and though expedited by the unwelcome arrival of a 600 billion ton space rock, it's what every parent generally must do at some point. And something about that feels a little like the end of the world to me.

The older I become, the closer that moment will arrive when we must hope for the best and let you take over as your own savior. Watching you grow, it seems like time is hurtling ever faster toward that inevitability, and I have to consciously remind myself that I will blink and find two grown men before me one day. Some of the best scenes of "Deep Impact" are quiet moments between people who, despite age differences, use their remaining time to slow down and (re)connect. "What would you do if the world ended tomorrow?" For this movie (and for virtually every other film about the end of the world), that is the answer. In Hollywood and in life.

Another year of my life begins tomorrow, and as this day wraps up, I want you to know that I will do my best to keep you safe, secure, whole, and loved for as long as I am able, pending heavenly bodies don't collide with our planet. And until the day I let you go on to become the masters of your fate, I will strive to slow down the breakneck pace of our lives together, cherish every moment, and be grateful to God and Creation that I am your mother, come hell, high water, and meteors.

Happy Birthday to me.

Love you to the ends of the earth,
Julieaggiebell90 on April 29th, 2016 03:35 am (UTC)
Okay, first... Happy birthday. :)

This is beautiful, and I love that you wrote this for your boys. What an amazing future gift for them (and for you--because you should come back to this in 10 or 15 years. I think you'll be glad you did)

I cried at that same spot in Deep Impact, and for the same reason. My kids are currently 22, 15, 11, and thisclose to being 10 (her birthday's May 11th). I'm watching my 22-year-old consider what he's going to do after school, and when (not IF) he's going to ask his girlfriend to marry him (!!!!). The 15-year-old is finishing up his freshman year in high school and will be driving soon; he's trying to figure out where he wants to go to college. The 11-year-old--my individualistic, super-sensitive, super-shy, artist son--will be leaving the safety of elementary school to go to middle school (where, unfortunately, bullying is much more common, especially if you're a little different) , and the "baby" will be going off to summer camp halfway across the state--on her own(!), for the first time, and then she'll be in school for the first time without having at least one of her brothers there, too.

I feel like they're all at these crossroads right now. Some are making major life-defining decisions, some are making smaller ones, but they're all off doing things and deciding things for themselves--things that I can't do for them. And I think I want to cling tight to them and keep them right where they are, but... I don't. Because watching them go off and do things and make decisions and make mistakes--without me? Watching them grow and become their own people with their own tastes? That's amazing. I can't wait to see where they go.
Venessa: H/G Book 7 kissmudblood428 on April 29th, 2016 03:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with me - what an amazing thing to find yourself witnessing these important transitions your children are all making simultaneously! I was talking to my father in law about this yesterday, and it's really interesting to compare all three of our perspectives since I'm still at the beginning of this realization, you are in the thick of living through it, and my father in law is completely on the other side of it. In so many ways, it really is the end of "the world" to let your kids go, but once it happens, a new world begins in which we all have to figure out life after "the event". For my father in law, it was when his son moved out and suddenly he was in an empty house. There was no gradual change; the comet had struck, leaving an alien world in its wake overnight. But while there was a kind of grieving that took place for him, it also enabled him to rebuild a new life and identity for himself - one in which his son was no longer dependent, but still equally loved.

Anyway, thank you again for sharing your story. I hope each of your beautiful children sail through these incredible changes with grace, and since they're *your* kids, I have no doubt they will emerge strong, wise, and successful. <3