Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Dissecting Anna Karenina on the First Day of School
Tuesday was the first day of school. I have done the first day of school thing as a parent for 6 years now. Reason would possibly dictate that each year I would be more at ease with the situation...that I would have the motions and emotions of the day on a certain level of autopilot. When will I learn that parenting is anything but reasonable?
Kindergarten has never been that hard for me. The 2 and a half hours seem to whizz by and really, what can go wrong in Kindergarten(German translation...children's garden)? First grade is where it starts to get tough for me. Outsourcing the care and nurturing of my children over to Spokane School District #81 for 6 hours seems at more pessimistic times a drop-off at an unsterilized assembly line packaging plant. I miss them. I MISS THEM. Every year, the other kids get a little meaner(not mine, of course), the clicks get more obnoxious, and my children get a little more distant from me and a lot closer to the big scary real world. Yes, I should be thrilled and joyous at their increasing ability to function on their own...their ever improving skill of noticing and bringing attention to my many mistakes.....their increasing capacity to solve a problem on their own. Isn't this the goal of a good parent?
So what does all this have to do with the dissection of Anna Karenina?
I finished reading Anna Karenina the night before school started. Since it has been rated one of the greatest books of all time, I decided I had better give it a shot. I am not going to go into a detailed review of the book. I think that Tolstoy was a genius at giving a voice to inner thoughts and struggles and had a way of making the reader face the truths of human nature in a bitterly painful, comical, and sometimes embarrassing way. I have to admit that I found much of the book tedious and repetitive. But I also have to admit that I sometimes find life to be tedious and repetitive. Anyway, I didn't much relate to Anna Karenina herself and found instead a kindred soul in Konstantin Levin, who is an awkward, shy, social misfit of sorts, who finds the most happiness after working in his fields. He is really intense and this scares people a little, but he has a pure ideal of family happiness and dizzying quest for the meaning of life. He is finds life to be an intoxicating wrestle between joy and misery.
So, again, what does this have to do with me and the first day of school?
I will answer with a quote from the book. This is when Levin is finally able to see his newborn son after a long and mysterious labor (they didn't tell the husband ANYTHING back then).
"Smiling, hardly able to restrain his tears, Levin kissed his wife and went out of the dark room. What he felt towards this little creature was utterly unlike what he had expected. There was nothing cheerful and joyous in the feeling; on the contrary, it was a new torture of apprehension. It was the consciousness of a new sphere of liability to pain. And this sense was so painful at first, the apprehension lest this helpless creature should suffer was so intense, that it prevented him from noticing the strange thrill of senseless joy that he had felt when the baby sneezed"
Sometimes, with my children and others that I love, I ,too, am blinded by this sphere of liability to pain, that I am prevented from noticing the senseless joy of motherhood. It can be paralyzing. Luckily, I am often blinded by the senseless joy of motherhood and humanhood and am prevented from noticing the sphere of liability to pain.