Tag: motherhood

Calendar Schmalender

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In the beginning, there were two grandmothers (his and mine), two mothers (also his and mine), and three Other Mothers (all mine. I think it’s a girl thing.) to honor and celebrate by way of food, flowers, gifts, cards, calls, and visits. Then one fine year, I had a baby on Mother’s Day, and I thought “Yay! Now that I’m a mother, I’ll be able to sleep in, have breakfast served to me in bed, get all kinds of goodies, and spend an entire day doing whatever I want when I want.” Wrong. There was now a daughter, two grandmothers, two mothers, and three Other Mothers to honor and celebrate.

As time rolled on, there was a daughter, one grandmother, two mothers, and three Other Mothers.

Then a daughter, two mothers, and three Other Mothers.

Then a daughter, two mothers, and one Other Mother.

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And now: a daughter, one mother, and one Other Mother.

In a Velveteen Rabbit kind of way, what started out as balm for my I’m-worn-slap-out-and-who-needs-a-Mother’s-Day-for-herself-anyway soul has gradually become Real: I don’t ever want to guilt my children into obligatory public displays of affection for me on one particular day of the year, and I don’t want fancy, expensive gifts that I’ll just have to find a place for then dust. I lean towards gluttony – I want them to love me every day in a myriad of ordinary ways, and I’ll take cheap trinkets and baubles and handwritten notes that show they were thinking about me throughout the year.

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When I gave birth to my daughter and 14 months later to my son, it was Mother’s Day, regardless of dates on the calendar. (And yes, I realize she is standing on the kitchen counter, unattended. I learned everything I know about child safety from my mother.)

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Every time my son brought me a dandelion bouquet or my daughter brought me roses picked from her grandmother’s yard, it was Mother’s Day.

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When my daughter insists I try on new makeup, it’s Mother’s Day.

When my son calls me just to check in or texts me the title of a movie he wants me to see so we can talk about it or emails me a link to an article or app he knows I’ll like, it’s Mother’s Day.

When my daughter asks if she can come up to the mountain top for a while or when my son calls to insist that I fly out for this particular arts festival he knows I’ll love: Mother’s Day.

When my children tell me it was not easy having me for a mother when they were in high school because I am creative and not at all like anybody else’s mom, it’s most definitely Mother’s Day.

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When my daughter-in-law gets on the phone to wish me a happy birthday, it’s Mother’s Day.

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When my answering machine is filled with messages that my daughter and my Other Son Whit have scripted as part of the elaborate prank they orchestrated (instead of doing their homework): Mother’s Day.

When the son manages enough breath support to beg me “Stop, stop. I need a minute” then falls on the floor literally rolling in uncontrollable laughter, eventually composing himself enough to climb back in the chair to take his place beside me and says, “Okay, you can continue now” so we can finish reading Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby: Mother’s Day.

When my daughter saves a place for me down front and introduces me from the stage, when she thanks me publicly for my support, it’s Mother’s Day.

When my son asks me to help him weave a basket for a cub scout badge, and when my daughter picks out the fabric for the dress she wants me to make, and when we move to the farm and they invent elaborate games to entertain themselves – you betcha, it’s Mother’s Day.

When my children unabashedly introduce me to their friends and their friends become my friends, it’s Mother’s Day.

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Both children and maybe even my daughter-in-law and Other Son will check in at some point today to bid me a Happy Mother’s Day, and I’ll be tickled to hear from them. But what I ache for, appreciate the most, and never tire of is hearing them tell me that I’m still a part of their lives wherever they may be and that they’ll always love me, regardless of who they may be sharing their lives with — hearing their laughter — hearing them use the familiar words and phrases that never fail to send us into gales of chortles — seeing their bright eyes — having them call to say “I’m coming for a visit.” — cupping their precious faces in my hands — swapping stories that all start with “Remember the time when . . . ” as we sit with a bowl full of photos in our laps — growing a strong, loving relationship with my daughter-in-law — feeling their arms around me or their hand wrap around mine — hearing them purr when I scratch their backs — listening to the delights and angsts of their lives — having them ask me questions, even though my answers become increasingly thin and worn and run the risk of showing I’m not half as brilliant as they once though I was (oh those were the days) — watching them move through this world with grace and intelligence and compassion and creativity . . . I’ll put a flower behind my ear and raise a forkful of cake to that kind of Mother’s Day any ole’ day of the year.

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I’m feeling prolific today, which makes this the third post du jour in a day that has all the markings of being a 4+-post day, so scroll on down if you’re a mind to . . .

leaping because the need for support is just that big

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“if you can’t easily tell the difference between right and wrong,” i told my children repeatedly, “choose the hardest thing cause let’s face it: if the right thing was the easiest thing, everybody would do The Right Thing.” i sit here torn, split, spun. i come from a cultural legacy of not airing dirty laundry in public, of stiff upper lip, of silence is golden. my mother has friendships that span almost nine decades, and it has not escaped my notice that their conversations are about the weather, happenings in the community, about recipes and fashion. they seldom if ever talk about health issues, except to add a name to the prayer list . . . without any details, of course. they don’t talk about children gone awry or any other unpleasantness, angst, sadness or hurt. they don’t talk of anything that might be construed as embarrassing or negative, and i often wonder if that’s not the secret to the longevity of the friendships.

that’s where i come from, and today i live in a world of social media where people are warned against posting too much personal information for fear of retribution in the workplace or at home. again with the stay-light-and-positive-or-stay-mum routine. i’m of an age (tenured, i like to say) when i can say “pfffft” to such things, but my daughter is young . . .

i’m trying to decide whether or not to tell you that my daughter is struggling with thyroid issues, low vitamin d, and depression. she hit that dark spot again recently – emotional black ice, i call it – and this time she held nothing back on facebook. “do you ever wonder if people would miss you if you weren’t here any more?” she posted. my initial instinct was to cringe and wish i had access to her login information so i could delete it. as a mother, i often fall into the mindset of to stay small is to stay safe. but this time, i wondered aloud if posting snapshots of her pain on facebook didn’t make her one of the bravest among us. and when she asked about being missed, well, she was telling us exactly what she needed, so doesn’t that make her one of the most honest among us? it resonated deeply with my bones as they nodded and smiled in agreement.

she was certainly willing to risk being alone, that’s for sure.

to her question about being missed, one woman posted something about how my daughter should not be concerned with what other people thought, how she should think enough of herself, blah blah blah blah blah. i became instantly furious. livid, in full and glorious mama bear mode. hell, my daughter had just told us precisely what she needed (to be told she’s loved and has had a meaningful impact on lives and would be terribly missed). the last thing she needed was to be preached to, to be told what she should be feeling and how she should be viewing things and what she should and should not be saying. livid, i tell you. livid. but we’ll talk more about uncaring (which often looks a lot like stupidity, if you ask me) another day. i have stories, oh my goodness, do i have stories.

for today, though, i’m taking a risk, opening myself and my daughter up to avoidance (important note: these particular things we’re dealing with are not contagious), preaching (please, please, please don’t tell us about how “the lord never gives us more than we can handle” or to “keep calm and carry on” or to “look on the bright side and be positive”), scoffing (it’s maddening to us and unbecoming to you), and pity (it’s a really heavy thing to have cast over our shoulders. empathy is okay, but pity, that’s more like an anchor, so no thank you). but i’m also opening us up to caring and concern and love and support, and i’m telling you that’s what we both need.

it is not easy, though, opening up like this. my daughter is brave, but me? not so much. i am a private person and for many good reasons that we can talk about later. i can tell you this much now: more times than i can count, i’ve been told that i make too much out of things, that the problem with me is that i feel more than i think – and the worst thing? they were said with the voice of authority, and i took them to heart. plus when people cluck and fuss, i launch into pleasing hostess mode and do whatever i can to reassure them and restore them to a place of comfort – which takes a lot of energy that is better spent elsewhere. so yes, energy conservation keeps me quiet, too.

one thing my daughter has consistently done in her adult life, though, is nudge (okay, shove) me out of my comfort zone. she’s shown me how to take risks and how to live with the consequences. she’s repeatedly shown me that vulnerability is its own brand of strength, and today i dip my toe in that stream and hope for the best because, well, the need for support is just that huge.

i told you stupid things. thanks for not listening

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when you are young
i tell you to hold my hand
when crossing the street,
and you do.

i tell you to eat your vegetables
and you do.

i tell you to put your coat on
before going out in the snow
and you do.

i tell you not to run with a pencil
and you don’t.

you get older
and the lines blur.
things get more confusing,
less clear . . .

i tell you how to flirt,
but you’re not interested
in silly games
designed solely to capture the attention
of boys.

i tell you that you have to invite
everybody in your class,
but you don’t because
you don’t like everybody in your class.
you don’t want to spend time with them in class,
and you certainly don’t want to spend your life outside class with them.

i tell you to wear comfortable shoes,
but you wear those shoes with 3″ heels
because they make you smile.

i tell you not to run for political office,
but you run for state legislature
and wind up in a runoff with the
career politician
because you love this country
and want to make a difference.

i tell you that you can’t save every stray cat,
and you make cat food your american express –
never leaving home without it
because while you might not be able to
bring them all home,
you can at least feed them.

i tell you that when on a small budget,
keeping yourself in fresh flowers is an
extravagant and avoidable expense,
and you surround yourself with them anyway,
in pretty vases throughout the house
and scattered in every patch of sunshine
in your yard
because you find them beautiful.

i tell you nobody needs that many silk robes
even if it does cost $5 at the thrift shop,
and you get it anyway
because it feels good against your skin.

moxie . . .

for all the times i confused
keeping you small
with keeping you safe,
when what i really wanted to say is
take up as much room as you need.
for all the times i sounded for all the world
like i want you to be like everybody else
when what i really want more than anything
is for you to be you, regardless.
for all the times i said anything that implied
i want you to let other people define and determine your worthiness,
when all i ever wanted from day one is for you to listen
to your own bones and let them tell you every single day
in a myriad of languages
“you are talented
you are beautiful
you are worthy,”
i apologize.

over the years,
i told you these things (and more)
in a variety of ways
subtle and dramatic.
when i really meant to tell you
just the opposite.

the minute you were born
i became a mother
and a switch flipped
way down deep inside me,
routing my heart to be concerned
with your safety
and that safety became its own language
that sounds for all the world
like i want to keep you small,
like i want you to blend.

i guess i turned stupid because
i never wanted you to be hurt
(i still don’t)
and yet i know that i can’t protect you every minute of ever day.
and even if i could, i wouldn’t deny you the opportunity to be hurt
to learn who to trust and who not to trust,
to learn who to call
and who to never speak to again.
to learn at the hand of pain
just how strong and resilient
and beautiful and worthy
and powerful
you truly are.

so

for all the times i said stupid things
(even though they were said with the very best intentions),
thank you for not listening to me.
thank you for always dancing to your own internal orchestra
to dressing to the tune of your own internal stylist
to singing to the tune of your own internal mother who was,
so many times,
much, much wiser than i.


[::]

p.s. “all” is figurative, you understand.
for example, when i tell you to slow down when driving,
i still think you should listen to me.

p.s. 2 that woman, that “mental health professional” who once drew up a dress code for you?
i should’ve punched her lights out
instead of wasting my life trying to talk to her.
people like that one don’t understand ordinary language.

p.s. 3 again, thank you for holding onto your self
even through all my stupid.

p.s. 4 all these things are quite true,
but please
don’t make me regret saying them.

p.s. 5 in case it doesn’t come through:
i adore you.
i absolutely adore you
and am honored beyond description
to be your mother.


happy birthday, my precious daughter.

now let’s go shopping and spend that birthday money!