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Dear Parents, Know This

Somewhere in your epoch of child-rearing—with babe on hip or perhaps much later—you will shatter completely. You will be destroyed. How could it be any other way? When your children cry, I do not need you; when your children cry I do not want you; when they cry, I need you and I want you, this needing and not needing, it is a tsunami. It is tectonic. It will level the house of you —your kitchen of wants, your closet of ambitions, all of it  brought to the ground. 

Know, too, that you will scavenge a self from the wreckage, fashion a spine from rebar, salvage shingles for hands. You will Frankenstein a self more hearty, a self more able to traverse the biomes of childhood, its forests and grasslands, its deserts and swamps. 

The body that births is not the body that endures. You will remake yourself again and again, and again and again, because your children, the only thing constant about them is how they change, how they find new ways to delight and injure and fool. Hold fast to the knowledge that, on the very worst day, on the day when the deep and persistent exhaustion of raising and rearing has broken your last good bone, with the threads of your tears, you will stitch yourself back together. 

You will keep going. You will make breakfast. You will breathe, one breath and then another, because your children who are, and your children who aren’t yet, and your children who were but are no longer, and your children who never came to be, they are not done with you. They will never be done with you. They are mallet and wrench. They are fish in your bloodstream. They are bound to the blurry flux of your body, which has learned, by necessity, to exist in two places at once—the bus stop and the garden, the bedside and the brook. 

Even after you have exchanged your meat for metal, when you are balled and sobbing, still your children will be bound. Still, they will know you. How could it be any other way? Already, they have unearthed and are carrying the ossicles of your ear. Their pockets are heavy with tarsals and tendons, which someday they promise to return, to lay at the shrine of your feet as offering, as kindling, as witness.

Sarah Twombly s a recipient of the Maine Literary Award for Short Nonfiction. She lives in the woods with her wild family, and very tame dog. You can find her on Twitter at @sarahtwombly.