My grandson is teaching me non-attachment. At three, he has weathered the ‘terrible twos’ w/aplomb: there were almost no tantrums, and ‘NO’ wasn’t his favourite word. Nor was it ours, really.
But like his father before him, he has slammed into three w/a vengeance. Not only is he in the midst of ‘terrible threes’: he also is deep into attachment to consistency. In this case, having his parents at his immediate beck & call, & doing things a certain way. Which means a lot of I don’t want YOU when I try to help him do pretty much anything. On a family vacation, where I had hoped to be useful, this is at best highly inconvenient. The other night, the child who begged for me to put him to sleep a year ago, howled like a wolf cub when I tried to read him a bed story. I want my mommy! I want my daddy! I DON’T WANT YOU!
It’s hard not to take that personally, I confess. But I’m breathing through it, trying to remember who’s the adult here. This sculpture by Alexander Milov is a perfect metaphor for the child Trin is, and the inner fragile child we each hold within the cages of our visible selves. Trin is deeply attached — Upādāna, the Buddhist word is: ‘attachment, clinging, grasping.’ Me too, Trin. But inside your howling wolf cub, and my howling grandmother wolf, are these two children who only want to be heard. Acknowledged. Loved.
An important detail: non-attachment is not unattachment. Unattachment has the idea of breaking attachment, which implies a negative. That’s not the case with non-attachment, which says — you can love deeply & profoundly. Just don’t cling & grasp. That’s not really (grown-up) love.
Trin’s too young to get this, of course! But I’m not. He’s teaching me how to do this, as I try to breathe through the whole I don’t want you!! The Buddha reminded us that we are all Buddhas — linked by our Buddha nature — and that we should bring this to mind when we greet each other. In other words? It’s not about hurt feelings (or won’t be eventually…). It’s all about learning. My own 3-year-old Buddha is teaching me.
My younger son has a blog, as I do. HIs deals w/ his ongoing world travels (he currently lives in Brisbane, but spent last year hopping from Goa to Nepal, from the Philippine Islands to Thailand. Not to mention Sweden, Bali, et al… Next stop, probably the city of my childhood: once Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City.
He comes by this peripatetic gene honestly — my grandmother would say the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Either tree, really: I grew up in Southeast Asia, as we four girls & my mother followed my father’s career in the state department. My beloved joined the Marines in part to see the world. And our marriage was rushed, so we could go to Algiers where he had a new job. Years later, we would relocate to Saudi Arabia, where my younger son was born. We would live there 8 years as a family — 4 years of his life — and my beloved, his father, would stay two more. He learned travel as a 2-month-old infant, traveling in a carry cot.
In a recent blog post, he was able to articulate for me something I’ve wrestled with throughout my own migratory life: thereis a difference between friends for years and friends from years ago.
I have almost no friends from high school, much less earlier. Two friends found me on FB, and there are a couple of others who found me via my sisters. But none of these are people I would call in case of sorrow or loss, or to share new joy with. I have my sisters & heart-sisters for that, a small but true number.
All my sisters — of blood & heart — have friends from childhood. I seem to have shed many of my friends, as if they were autumn leaves. Probably a good analogy, as autumn leaves are shed for growth and preservation of energies. Many of my ‘old’ friends — from years ago — have beliefs that don’t really accommodate my own. They’ve chosen other paths, and that’s fine. But not necessarily something I like to think about.
I do have one friend from the first days of my long-ago college entry: the ‘brother’ who introduced me to my beloved. G & his wife & 3 daughters are true ‘friends for years’: the eldest daughter, my wonderful Kylie, emails me papers from her classes sometimes, and sends cards. The middle daughter, Lynzie, follows me on Pinterest, and is the source of GREAT tea pins! Little Fiona — who will be in HS before we know it! — is the 3rd of these virtual nieces, and the fact that I remain so close to all of them is a bright spot of reassurance that I’m not secretly unloveable… ????
This thread of reflection is brought to you by my younger son, his blog, and the things our children teach us. Recently I wrote a young friend that your children are takers, but they are also givers. And this — these skeins of connected rumination — are what mine have given me today ~