May 11

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

Did you know that Mother’s Day was founded in 1914 after Ann Jarvis, a peace activist who helped care for soldiers on both sides of the civil war? Her daughter, Anna Jarvis, campaigned for a day in memory of her mother and her work because she said a mother is the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world. It’s such a simple statement. True in that a mother brings you into the world. But after childbirth, it’s a commitment to being a mother that makes the difference. And like anything with great dividends, it’s not an easy task. It’s also not something everyone can do. I was talking to a student the other day about Mother’s Day plans and she confided in me that her relationship with her mom was a strained one. Apparently, when my student was a young teenager, her mother decided she was tired of the role and walked away from her family. And while she had come to terms with it, the change in her mother was a difficult one for my student to understand. But she said that her dad remarried a woman who happily took on the role and she was thankful to have her as a stepmother.

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the notion. However, I’ll admit to something. When I was young, having children was not a priority to me like it was to some of my sisters and friends. I wasn’t sure I really wanted to have kids. I was never that girl who loved to babysit and dreamed of getting married and having three kids and a dog and a house with a white picket fence. I always thought I’d start a career and travel and maybe have kids later in life. But life doesn’t work out as planned, and I fell in love and got married young and ended up pregnant just a few months after the wedding. And now I can’t imagine a life without my kids. Was is always easy? Oh, boy, no. Were there days I wanted a break? Many. In fact, I used to joke that Mother’s Day should really be a day without the kids. A nice, quiet day alone. That was when they were still crying a lot and constantly needing something. However, I like to think that motherhood becomes part of someone’s identity. I don’t know how I could now separate myself from it. 

Being a mom is the sweetest and sometimes most painful gift I’ve ever been given. Sweet because the bond and love I have for my children is almost indescribable. Painful because there are moments as a mother where the individual you are has to take a back seat to the mother your kids need. It’s not always easy to be selfless, especially when your kids don’t recognize the sacrifice, as kids usually don’t. Painful also because there are a lot of moments of letting go that happen over the years, if you’re doing it right. Eventually kids don’t need their mom to be central in their lives, and that can feel a lot like being pushed away. But I always remind myself that it is an evolution and eventually (hopefully) my kids will see me as I see my own mom. A woman who did more for me than anyone in the world.  Someone whose sacrifices I am eternally grateful for. Someone with whom I also have a wonderful friendship, for I can see her also a great person outside of her role as mother. I’m not only thankful today for my mom, I’m also thankful that I am a mom.

 

April 15: Meiosis

April is national poetry month. Yay! If you follow this blog, you know I like writing poetry. Unfortunately, a lot of my writing is a bit heavy or dark, seeing as how I use it as an emotional release. I’m back to feeling a bit more upbeat, so I found one for today that I wrote about my oldest, when she was still small. She’s an adult now, and I recognize how true these sentiments are. Watching children grow up is both an amazing and bittersweet joy, knowing that one day they will leave. Still, it’s something I’m thankful for every day.

And so it began, not with a bang
but a sigh and a groan from the
heaviness of love. Unprepared and

frightened we were by our creation
for intermittent cries in the night hung
sluggish in the morning

while dull eyes filled with the rays on
the bed. For months, day and night
had no pattern except for the constant

growth of love. Until, finally,
comfort overtook confusion.
Maturity blossomed with the first

fever and swelled with excited cries.
Yes, she’s ours,
Yes, she’s mine.

Dazed with pride we no longer felt
the heaviness–numb to the first fear
of ownership we watched our creation

grow, belying the years with her speed,
a shiny foil to our stagnant selves.
Nostalgia infused the hours of being a

spectator to a miracle with dim reminders
that one day we will not be enough;
our love will snap like a taut rubber

band and leave us dangling apart.

March 6

I was searching through a box of papers and things at home the other day and ran across some old photos. I’m so easily distracted when it comes to stuff like that, so I took a few minutes just to look through them and remember the moments when they were taken. One was of my youngest in one of her favorite outfits. It was a pink shirt with ruffled edges and a set of matching pants that had a tutu sewn at the top. I distinctly remember the day the picture was taken. I was dropping her off at the baby sitter’s house, a retired woman who loved my kids like they were her own grandkids. She oohed and aahed over this outfit and immediately insisted on taking a photo. But Emma was already distracted, off dancing and twirling in the living room. It took a bit of coaxing to get her to stand still, even for a moment. Later, after getting a copy of the picture, I wrote the following poem. Now that my kids are older, I’m thankful that I have some of these tidbits of the past to remind me of the magic of their growing up.

She fidgets in the imposed restriction
back against the wall,
fingers dance along the eggshell satin sheen,
whole body poised for escape.
Pink sleeves hang over hands,
crinkled netting floats around hips,
bare toes curl and uncurl into deep carpet.
Smile little dancer.
And she pauses,
Bambi blues open wide,
new teeth proudly display themselves
as she coyly complies.
Quickly the camera freezes her form
onto paper for those who don’t want to forget,
and she darts, twirls away, lost again
in the musical world of a one-year-old.

Feb 22

If you want a new perspective on almost anything, hang out with a small child for a while. Not just be around generally, but spend some time interacting. Tonight I went to a rescheduled birthday party for a friend. It was an intimate gathering of friends, watching the Olympics and chatting while eating pizza and cake. One couple had brought their 3 year old daughter, who initially was hesitant to venture more than a few inches from her parents. It wasn’t that she didn’t know people in the group, but because she didn’t recognize everyone, myself included, she was immediately shy. Of course, as time went on and her parents got involved in conversations, she started pulling out toys and crayons and entered her own little world of make believe.

It was about then that she drew me in. She was playing with a boat (on wheels) and was trying to shoot it across the carpet and into some unknown abyss. I happened to be around the unknown area, so I grabbed it and sent it back. Immediately, we had a game going. For the rest of the evening, I was her new friend. Her parents periodically checked in with me, reminding me that I could escape at any time, but honestly, I was having too much fun simply watching their daughter. Small children have no filter, no fear of looking silly, and almost no end to their energy. I was part of an ongoing story that involved sea monsters and waterfalls and mermaid bears. We hunted for secret caves and got lost in swirling waters. She contrived ways to trap the sea monsters that involved papers marked with X’s and invisible buttons that if we pushed them, the monsters would fall into deep holes never to return. At one point, she wished we had a magic sword and asked if I had one, so I checked my pockets and lo and behold, I did have one. (It was a silver worry stone I often carry with me, but it worked for our imaginations.) Close to the end of the evening, she needed a method of escaping the ever present sea monster, and we decided rainbow pixie dust was the sure thing. That would mean she could fly. She’d tell me she was ready, and I’d pick her up and fly her around the room. After that, she needed to use pixie dust A LOT.  Until I was forced to admit my wings were broken and needed time to heal.

I remember this age from my own children. It’s a time of wonderment and imagination. The story tonight wasn’t the fun part, it was watching the delight and intensity in which she told it. Every thing she felt was reflected in her facial expressions, the fear of the monster, the excitement of escaping, elation of flying. There was no holding back. And when her new friend was too tired to continue playing, the disappointment wasn’t hidden either. But that was ok. She didn’t know how not to be honest, and that’s what’s so wonderful about small children. They say and do what they feel with no filter or fear. How often do we, as adults, have the chance to do that? So tonight I may have missed out on a few of the adult conversations, but it was a good trade. This magical time in a child’s life doesn’t last long enough. There’s a pretty small window when everything is a possibility and imagination reigns supreme. I’m glad I was able to be share in that a little bit tonight.

Day 30

A couple of quick things today.

First, my snow blower works great. And I was able to help out a neighbor with her drive. Ok, I didn’t actually use the snow blower on her drive, but I did send my kids over with shovels to help her while I figured out how to start my new machine. I’m just sad I actually needed to use it. Show of hands on who is tired of winter.

Second, I have a friend who asked me to attend her daughter’s school play with her tonight. I ended up not going, which is not what I am thankful for (not really). Although I do have to admit to some harsh parental realism…school plays and other general, auditorium-based functions at the grade school level are torture for me. Don’t get me wrong, I was as proud as any parent to see my kids squirming and semi-singing from 50 yards away. They’d be dressed up in whatever holiday attire was appropriate at the time and inevitably standing behind someone twice their size, with me thinking…why? Why were they required to wear a Hawaiian grass skirt when it’s not even visible? My kid looks like a floating head. They should just require headgear. But even that isn’t what bothered me the most at these school functions. It was the lack of space and terrible sound systems. So many family members crammed into a hot, smelly gymnasium to hear a mashing of voices or just those couple of really loud kids… Then again, maybe it was just the schools my children went to. I’m sure there are probably schools that put on wonderful programs by talented children in spacious auditoriums that have fabulous sound systems. I would then have to amend my thinking.

I jest, a little. I know these school functions are a passage of child rearing that plays an important role for kids and their parents. They are moments to be proud of our kids and let them know it in a visible, public way. My children always looked for me in the audience and I always smiled and waved excitedly. And I would have done that tonight for my friend’s daughter. Being asked to go made me feel like family. And when it ended up that her boyfriend was able to get off of work, I let them go as a family without me. I’m sure there will be other opportunities over the years to join in. But today, I’m thankful to know my friend thinks highly enough of me to be part of her child’s life in that way. For that, I would have happily gone.

 

Day 27

I was able to hang out with my kids again today (thank you, horrible weather, for the school closings again). We had brunch together once I got them out of bed just before noon. Then ran some errands.  Nothing too exciting. But that’s one of the cool things about my kids, they’re really easy to get along with. I ask them to help out, they do. I ask them to keep the noise level down late at night, they apologize. They sense I’m in a bad mood, they ask what they can do.  I’ve been really lucky.

They’ve always been pretty good. Well, they’ve gone through their phases, of course. Terrible twos (through fours!). The 10-12 year age when they were soooo emotional and couldn’t stand each other. My oldest had what we affectionately call the “dark” time when she was into anime and all the things associated with it (hair over the face, hoodies with animal ears, fingerless gloves ALL the time, and everything in shades of black). Then again, she had several obsessions over the years that translated into oddities which sometimes encompassed her sister. The Lord of the Rings period was interesting. Nothing quite like taking kids dressed as elves to McDonalds. That gets you noticed. My youngest has followed suit, as far as age-related phases, but she’s had her singular moments as well. She’s fiercely independent, yet extremely accepting. It took her a long time to understand personal space. I had a few conversations with teachers over the early years about that. Apparently, not everyone needs a hug. (I personally disagree, but for the sake of the introverts, my daughter learned appropriate boundaries.)

Formative nuances aside, I have two incredible daughters. They are well-adjusted, intelligent, interesting young woman who, strangely enough at 16 and 19, still enjoy hanging out with me. Together, we have been through some interesting ups and downs, moved numerous times, and shared heartaches of losing people we love. They could have given me a lot of grief over the years, acted out, gotten angry as a lot of teenagers do for disrupting their lives in one way or another. But amazingly, they never have. Instead, they have been loyal and supportive to me. My oldest is the type who will come up to me and tell me that I haven’t hugged her enough lately; she needs a hug. My youngest never asks, of course. She’s still a good hugger.  But she’s quick to ask if she senses something is wrong. They also get along well with each other. Just today they were reminiscing about the time they both first got cell phones. They had spent the better part of an evening calling each other and leaving funny messages, so they could laugh together later.

Today, even when there was nothing special going on, we found ways to laugh together. Tease each other and be silly.  Today and every day, I’m really thankful for that. I’m really blessed to have them in my life.