I was influenced by a recent training with Dr. Brazelton to delight in all that parents and children encounter, and especially the inherent challenges they face. Selma Fraiburg once said, “Every child needs a parent who believes that they personally hung the moon.” I now believe each of us also needs to know that even our darkest hour is lit by a distant star entrusted to someone who will passionately delight in our memory and our handling of love and loss.
My father loved to think, and so he delighted in aspects of the thinking of others. This love of thinking imbued his days not only with the joys of scientific inquiry, but also with the relishing of fall apples and crisp snowballs and crocuses appearing at the first sign of snow melting. He loved to listen to thoughts that were new to him: the expert pointers of a young baseball player, or a poet’s complicated stanzas read out to him in the dark of night, when only the sound of the tires on pavement and the cadence of his child reading to him could be heard, and interpreted and reinterpreted together.
He delighted in me, and so I delight in my memories of him and dark chocolate melted on ice cream and colorful tops that sing as they spin. But he could never delight in the misunderstanding he encountered with my mother’s despair that gripped her and made her burn toast and lose keys and spend too much on too little. He wanted her to be logical and precise, something he never demanded of multi-hued crocuses or Jonagold apples.
In contrast, in a video documenting his work, Dr. Brazelton delighted in the complex feelings of an earnest eighteen-year-old mother and her chubby-cheeked nine-month-old son. Before the young mother said anything, he smiled; he smiled with acceptance as she contradicted herself, smiled in loving recognition as she spoke and gained confidence to admit the complexity of her struggles to love her son, smiled in acknowledgment as she revealed that when she rushed to meet him at the end of the day, she found sometimes she could no longer feel as though she knew her baby, seemed to feel as though she had lost him. Dr. Brazelton remembered with her the times she knew him well, for she took the time to learn from the daycare provider who her son had been busy becoming when she was away.
Dr Brazelton’s dialogue with this young mother prompted me think of what my mother missed out on when, at age four she lost her mother to a heart attack. At that moment and many to come she lost someone to delight in her. She lost knowing she would be loved. She married someone who delighted in the world and sometimes in her, but could not delight in her loss. It was this complicated, uneasy relationship to loss that she needed someone to tolerate, or so I was taught. But no – tolerance was not what she needed. She needed someone who could delight in this lost relationship and the potential for a new one, who remembered that though she was a motherless daughter, she still once hung up the moon and she and her five children were not alone but safe under a starry, starry sky.