In which I consider that my spawn are an essential part of the universe.

Mom guilt.  I think all moms have it.

I’m 11% Jewish so I think I have extra.

There’s the regular, garden-variety mom guilt:  I wish I’d been more present . . . I wish I’d paid closer attention.  I wish I’d emphasized health and nutrition and set a better example with, you know — vegetables.  And sport ball.

There’s the deeper, more specific homeschool mom guilt:  I wish I had invested more in learning and less in curriculum.  I wish I had made homeschooling both more fun and more rigorous.  I wish I’d followed my instincts more and peer pressure less.  (No, seriously, Mean Girls has nothing on Mean Moms.)

There’s the special chronically ill mom guilt:  I should have found treatment sooner.  I should have been able to function better.  See?  We’re back again to the vegetables and the sport ball.  I thought I managed pretty well, until as adults, my kids mentioned “you were in bed a whole lot” and shoot.  They noticed.

And then there’s the what-the-hell-took-us-so-long mom guilt when you’ve raised your kids in a toxic religious environment:  My well-meaning efforts to connect to a community in which to serve and love went sideways and did far more harm than good, and I lie awake at night with the realization that I was responsible.

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

But there’s one more mom guilt, one that I only very recently had the courage to speak.

There’s the guilt that comes from looking at your kids, burdened and struggling with the depression and anxiety that you know all too well.  It’s the same depression that almost separated me from them more than once . . . my sheer determination to stay alive for their sake bolstered by a few good friends, good coffee, and good music.  And I look past them to leaders who fiddle while the planet burns, to loud chants supporting the basest and ugliest of the sentiments of our society, to children in cages . . .

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

And that guilt looks at all the suffering — theirs, the world’s, all of it — and whispers:

Who were you to inflict this on them? 

It overwhelms.  It is a wave of guilt that crashes over and drags me across the sharp rocks of my own making.

But then I look at my kids, overcoming all of the shit that I inflicted on them, starting with their rude introduction to a world that makes absolutely no sense, and I see two glorious beams of light.  They are compassionate, because they’ve suffered.  They are patient, because they learned to be.  They are recklessly inclusive, because they were cruelly excluded.  They celebrate the small moments of joy, because they know how hard we have to fight for those.

We looked at them in middle school and high school and joked, “Well, that one will save the world, and that one will save the planet.”

And damn if that’s not just what they’re doing.  One restarts people’s stopped hearts with chemicals and electricity, and delivers organs, and stops bleeding.  One is setting up an independent research project involving shore hardening and hurricane preparedness.

They’re saving the world and the planet.  Each in their own small way that is of brilliant, magnificent significance.

Who was I to inflict this on them?  I don’t know.  My mother’s heart aches to see them suffer.

But who was I to deprive the universe of these glorious beings, made in the image of the Divine, in their talent and their queerness and their absolute and perfect uniqueness?

My amazing little spawn.  The universe would be a darker place without you.

Shine on.