January 31, 2016 by Katia

I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions this year, I never do, but this time it was a different kind of non-resolution-making. In past years my lack of calendar-induced goal setting was always tinted with a slight sense of regret, viewing the resolved ones around me as more accomplished versions of the human specimen. But while in the past I may have, on occasion, half-assed a last minute micro-resolution which I would forget about the next day, I haven’t done so this year. One of the side effects of maturing is avoiding setting yourself up for failure.

I first became aware of the one word resolution or intention setting, if you will, when I read this post by my friend, Sarah, at Left Brain Buddha and it deeply affected me. This year, while I was busy avoiding setting myself up for failure, one word resolutions kept popping up around me in friends’ posts and public discourse. I played whack-a-mole with them and went about my day until it became increasingly obvious that I had a visitor, a word that humbly surfaces at unpredictable times. It’s tactful in its lack of persistence. It travels light in a manner that suggests it doesn’t intend to linger and carries no luggage of guilt or self judgment. It’s not shackled to a sentence or dressed in meaning. It leaves as inconspicuously as it enters but the echo of its name lingers: Clean, clean, clean.

Without committing to it publicly I’ve decided to listen. Sometimes I treat my visitor literally and start shifting things around, clearing surfaces, sweeping until it feels airier. Other times my visitor shows up veiled inviting a different kind of interaction and I treat it as a coded message that I need to decipher.

Clean (1)


Having him taught me of a happiness so intense that like white light it incorporates shades of other feelings into it: sadness, fear. I’m not sure why but whenever he sets my heart soaring it also flutters with fear and palpitates with sadness. Maybe it’s that underlying knowledge of finality or that primitive, scariest of all fears. He also drags me down, lower than I’ve ever sunk. When he blatantly ignores, defies, teases, pushes buttons relentlessly inviting me to endless duels of will and I start losing patience and become the words that I speak endlessly to revoke his actions and become someone else, a nag, a fire shooting dragon, someone I’ve never been before and my heart sinks with the thought “does he even know who I really am?”



Some days Clean invites itself into our relationship and — without any deliberate intention setting –strips away unwanted layers and shows me his beloved core or a shiny new emerging side.

I was walking him and his friend to school one morning and the muddy ground where he ran and jumped just the day before froze overnight leaving a strange wavy surface reminiscent of an ancient excavation site. The boys stopped in their tracks, fascinated by the change that took place so unexpectedly.

It’s so interesting how the ground tells us stories about the weather, right? Just this week the grass was soggy, then muddy, before that it was covered in snow, then ice like a giant skating rink. Isn’t it fascinating how the same surface can be so many different things and in such a short span of time?


I took him to movie night at school yesterday. He was sprawled in a sleeping bag on the floor of the gym next to his friend. I was sitting right behind him on a chair chatting with his friend’s mom, my friend, Rebecca. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time and it was great to find myself enjoying the ability to engage in a continuous mostly uninterrupted action, not being pulled away as frequently as I am at home. He had recently taken to filtering every show he watches on Netflix through me, pausing it, insisting I watch, often inviting me from another room to do so and controlling every aspect of the experience at all times by alternating between the screen and my face, sometimes placing his hand on my cheek, repeating “not yet, keep looking”. I chat away, enjoying the company and freedom and then my eyes wander toward his spot on the floor and I catch him as he turns his head in a quick and sudden movement, eyes wide open with amusement, surprise and appreciation for what just happened on the screen but they’re turned toward the wrong mother sitting behind him on a blanket with her two toddlers. I smile and nod as I would at home trying to catch his gaze and show him that I too had noticed that moment on the screen, even though it’s a white lie, as he would call it, but he misses my signal. That emotion, so familiar to me, that he silently shared with an unexpected recipient boomerangs as he turns away in acceptance. He’s already moved on but my heart is pierced. I wasn’t there.

This moment cleans the residue of some of the bad ones preceding it. This is the “him” that I want to cling to. This is our relationship, as I want to experience it. This is a reminder to treat every day like a new day and every moment like a new moment, to shift, sweep and wash away the layers of his less welcome words and actions and mine and remind myself of the wonder and excitement and the inherent vulnerability of exposing your real self to someone who may not reciprocate and everything else I saw on the surface of my son’s face that night at the movies. He is six and there is nothing more important than him.


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12 thoughts on “Clean

  1. alexandra says:

    This is the world, for those who feel deeply. And the layers exposed here, have me aching. Beautiful, just beautiful, Katia.

  2. Aw, so beautifully written. I’ve had those heart piercing moments as well and am astonished how long they linger. For me. Not him. Being a mother is not for the faint of heart.

    • Katia says:

      Thank you, my sweet friend! These moments always feel so intensely personal and it’s such a blessing to learn that others can relate. Xoxoxo

  3. samwassel says:

    This is so beautifully, elegantally written. Your son is lucky to have such a poetic and insightful mom 🙂

    • Katia says:

      I appreciate it so much! Here’s the problem: you can’t be very poetic with a six-year-old boy (correction: my six year old boy) and that is where my frustration often stems from. I feel like I have a lot to express to him but he would rather not listen or talk about butts… 🙂 As a consequence I often feel like I don’t know if he knows who I am. I’m sure the poor listening is a phase (or at least I hope so) and that we will be able to have more flowing communication in the future and even now he can be incredibly mature and complex. Ramble over. Thanks so much again for stopping by and sharing your kind words! 🙂

  4. I so very much relate to this. Truly. It’s like when we want to cherish, we miss it, and when we want some quiet, they need a snack, or something like that. Gorgeous writing and thoughts as always my beautiful friend.

    • Katia says:

      Thank you, my dear dear friend. I know you can relate because you feel things deeply too. It was a bit of an eye opener because I was getting so annoyed with the constant need to provide feedback on tv shows. I was also flattered that his filtering everything through me but it’s so hard, as you say, to constantly be on. So much love to you!

  5. After having my little boy, I had bouts of post partum, severe depression, and intense anxiety. I had never in my life loved something so much and the constant nightmares that something bad would eventually happen to him, ripped my heart to pieces. I found myself attempting to distance myself from him. If I could just, love him a little less, not care so much. I understand that this post is not really at all related to depression or post partum, but this phrase…
    “Having him taught me of a happiness so intense that like white light it incorporates shades of other feelings into it: sadness, fear.” I feel for the first time is the most correct description of how I feel about my son on a daily basis. Thank you for being you! And as everyone above stated, for writing so beautifully! Bless you.

    • Katia says:

      I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to read your comment this morning. It touched me on so many levels. Thank you so very much for talking about your experience and pointing out the parallels. I think that parenting is such an intense experience that that we all end up visiting unknown (darker or sadder) parts of our soul at one point or another, which should make it easier for us to identify with each other, which is why it drives me nuts when I hear such insensitive rhetoric like that of Marianne Williamson last week. Lots of love to you and thank you again!

  6. Yes to all of this. What a beautiful post!

    • Katia says:

      Thank you so much, Nicole! It’s always so unbelievable and wonderful when something so personal resonates with someone else. Thank you!

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