For Those Moments {When We Think We are Not Enough}

2015-07-03 14.29.30

When I walked up the narrow staircase one week ago today, darkness had already enveloped our country home. It was night-time, around 10:00 p.m. when I knocked on your closed bedroom door, asking if I might come in. You were reading, a bed-side light shining its sheen across the page. The room was awash in a warm glow. You looked up expectantly. I felt such relief at seeing you there. Such a safe place to be— under our roof, where a body knows they are loved unconditionally. Where a body knows that they will be cherished forever.

I sat on the end of your bed and looked at you. Stared unabashedly at amazing you.

And inside my mother’s heart I felt the need to tell you how much you are loved. Felt the need to tell you how much I believe in you: believing that you have much to offer this world, much to give this circle of influence in which you have been placed.

I felt the need to tell you how incredible are the offerings and talents with which you’ve been gifted. Telling you how valued you are to both your father and I— to our whole family. I felt the need to tell you that who you are is enough for anyone, including yourself. You have much to give. Much to put forward to anyone.

I felt the need to tell you. And so I did.

But more than that.

I wanted you to also know that you, Precious You: You are worth so much more than even what we, your parents, think and feel. You are Loved, with an Eternal Love; loved by the One who knows no boundaries, no limits, no restrictions. Who knows no Shadow of Turning, knows no minute fraction of faltering. You are loved eternally. Wholly, purely, completely.

I wanted you to know.

But Child of Mine, there will be some, who will someday, somewhere cause you to consider whether you are enough. There will be voices that will taunt, will jeer. Will question, will doubt. And there will be niggling worries that will grow into all-out, full-blown fears in your mind. There will come a day when you will give ear to the thought that ‘who you are is not enough’.

Not enough for the crowd.
Not enough for the moment.
Not enough for the situation.
Not enough for the requirements.
Not enough for the job.
Not enough for the part.
Quite simply, not enough.

There will be moments, and these moments will come. For they have come for us all, at one time or another.

God says it differently to us:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love… with loving-kindness I have drawn you.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

There is never a question of whether or not we are enough.
We always were. We always are. And we always will be.

There is nothing that will separate us from that Love.

No crowd’s opinion.
No moment’s worry.
No situational disaster.
No lacking requirements.
No failed attempt nor any missing parts that need be present.
Nothing.

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8)

I left your room that night, tears falling freely. For I am so honored to have been given this opportunity to love you. It is my mission, my heart’s desire to impart to you the knowledge of this love.

A love that will endure for always. And forever ever after that.

For All The Nights I’m Not…

A very thoughtful reader wrote me a comment for my helicopter parenting article which made me think once again: the minute we think we know SOMETHING, we come to realize we don’t know anything.

If you haven’t read the article, I write about a near miss for two children on bikes, a story in which I describe myself as a bit of a helicopter parent when it comes to some aspects of our children’s upbringing.  However, that is not me ALL of the time.  I wouldn’t have you to believe I am a saint or some kind of perfect mother.  So just for the record, for all the other nights I am not the helicopter parent, here’s what I’ve been known to be:

Monday evening, September 29th, 2014:

In our house, if Husband is the voice of reason, I am the voice of hysteria.

It is 6:00 p.m., and I am simultaneously cleaning up from supper, emptying the dishwasher and refereeing children’s disputes/meltdowns. Apparently, there is not enough technological bandwidth power to suitably fire up the Save Our Sanity effort in our house tonight (i.e. the computers are not working and too many people are trying to access the limited supply.) All this while I am having my own epic meltdown.

In fact, mine is ten times worse than anyone else’s about five minutes in. If there was a club of Hysterical People Anonymous, I would be president RIGHT NOW. If there were a meeting of that club anywhere- ANYWHERE- within a 500 mile radius right now, I would gladly vacate the premises and walk barefoot to that meeting on a road of hot volcanic gravel, just to escape the fresh torture that is our after-supper witching hour sans Husband.

Ah supper hour. How I oft despise thee!

If there were a meal I would gratefully skip, it would be supper. I know, I know I KNOW- there are so many idyllic ideals surrounding this mealtime that I have read about, pondered upon and dreamed about in my sleep. But PEOPLE. Suppertime was actually made for the simple purpose of tormenting and afflicting otherwise exhausted mothers so that they could quickly lose their minds. Zero to sixty, baby. Honest, cross my heart- this is the really, truly, truthiest truth. I wouldn’t lie.

But just to be sure, let’s play a fun game. True or false… Supper time is a peaceful, relaxing hour when all is well in the world (and children eat all their food and then empty the dishwasher). Ding, ding, ding: FALSE!!!!!! Suppertime is actually an hour of psychosis when mothers (and quite possibly at times FATHERS) haven’t quite lost all their marbles in the long and endless battle to get their kids to come to the supper table- because that’s what supper is for. To finish them off and kill them slowly. Supper is quite simply for the birds. Literally. Or the cats. I ended up giving the cats two platefuls tonight. The birds got some crusts earlier on today. Whatevs.

Husband, bless his heart, (while all this chaos is underway), is driving blissfully unaware in a van without children (AND HOW DID THIS PUZZLING REALITY HAPPEN???), oblivious to his wife’s complete and utter loss of her mental faculties. Ignorance is bliss they say. I’ll fix that. Luckily, he took the cell phone so he will soon be in the loop regarding all things psychotic that his wife has been fully aware of for the exactly two point three seconds that she has LOST HER FLIPPIN’MIND.
I love me some speed dial.

He answers me because he has to. We’ve got BlueTooth- no excuses. It must feel good to say, “Hunny, I am in Summerside right now…what do you want me to do?” when your wife is about ready to crawl through the phone wires. All I have to say is this: thank goodness for that forty-five minute stretch of highway. It gave Someone enough time to take a Sober Second breath before nailing the last spike into her own coffin.

All crazy things must come to an eventual, frantic end. So I eventually calmed down. What goes up must come down. I met Husband coming in the driveway as I was on my way out, (where upon I was sidetracked into investigating the back of the truck where Children had left a bunch of stuff they forgot to take in the house which I found and grumpily carted in myself). I guess the steam must have still been flying out my ears because he cleared a wide berth for me as I marched out the driveway and up the road.

This is my version of running away from home. And you have no idea how many times the after supper walk has saved our marriage. Thirty minutes of sweet, sweet solitude that brings Mother Dearest back to her senses, restores her sense of inner calm and reminds her of all she has and all her family means to her.

It’s all good- and dare I say, even worth it. Even if that means I have to go through it all again tomorrow night.

So, for all the nights I am a helicopter parent, I breathe a prayer of thanks.  And for all the nights I’m not, I’m thankful too.  Every life needs a state of balance in it to remind us of our fragility- to remind us of our humanity.  So for tonight, I will say this prayer of serenity…

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”

…because that’s all we can be accountable for in a given day.

On Helicopter Parenting

I am paying a bill for quesadillas and Greek salad. Along with the ‘so-worth-it’ charges for that sweet slice of heavenly bliss in the form of luscious raspberry pie. It is 6:00 in the evening, and I think to myself, as I close the restaurant door behind me- of all I have to do, all I have waiting for me at home. This supper with two friends was a welcome reprieve from the busyness of my life. From the hectic chaos that is our home at suppertime.  But my thoughts are now on home and those precious five that await me.

I head out toward my van and make my way toward the corner, taking a right onto the main street in our little town. I drive about two minutes down the road when I happen to see on the left two young bikers waiting to cross the road. Mentally, I judge them to be about my two youngest daughter’s ages while I simultaneously wonder to myself why they are out on their own without a parent. As I pass by, I can see the youngest of the two starting to move out into the street. I watch as he does indeed leave the curb and then makes his way onto the street. I am just passing by as he is doing this, so I do not immediately notice that a truck directly behind me is heading straight into his path.  All I am thinking is about is the relief that this child is still waiting by the curbside. The Young Biker doesn’t seem to be noticing a whole lot and appears to fail to notice this detail of the oncoming truck as well. As I move ahead, I continue to watch in my side-view mirror this oblivious child- hoping beyond hope that he will stop and do what I have taught my children and still reinforce almost every time we ride bikes together: to look both ways and do so TWICE before crossing. He does neither. And I am horrified to see that not only is he continuing to move into the busy street, but furthermore that the truck which was approaching is nearly upon him. And then, I see it. A squeal of tires and a child- nearly sideswiped. The little boy is just in front of the truck which has slammed on its brakes and come to a sudden and diagonal stop in the middle of the road.

“Oh Jesus, Jesus…” I start to pray. I watch helplessly as the truck remains motionless for what seems like an eternity as the boy crosses over to the other side. Narrowly missing what he might never fully understand could have been a fatal end. And I wonder what private hell that truck driver has just missed enduring as well. What panic he is experiencing even at this moment, having just avoided the most tragic of possibilities.

This one moment in many moments: it is a defining one. A make or break point in time where eternity pauses for the briefest of seconds to take stock and then breathe again. Do we ever fully understand how much we’ve been given?  Does it make any difference at all?

As a mother, I have had some moments lately. Some which have been challenging and trying, to say the least. We are navigating the waters of adolescence, the waters of sibling rivalry, the waters of struggles for independence and its accompanying challenging arguments. We are constantly teaching and mentoring and coaching and loving.  Constantly called on to exercise limited and short-supplied patience.  And at times, we might come across as helicopter parents: maybe to our off-spring and maybe to others looking in. But these children: they are all we’ve got. They are our one shot at this parenting gig. We are never going to get to do this over again; these four- they’re all we’ve got. And whether or not it is easy to stay the course, hanging in there when life gets tough and frustrating is not the point. This is our life. These are our kids. And we have no other alternative than to give them our very best.

Our hearts demand this.  This is the path we’re on.

So when I see children out on a busy street without a parent to keep a watchful eye- protecting and mentoring and modelling and guiding children in safe bike practices, I think of my own four who sometimes find their old mom a little over-bearing. And I think- “thank Heavens you’ve got a mom like that. She might be annoying and embarrassing and too involved, but her heart is in the right place. And she loves you very much”; and this I know for sure: she would travel for her kids to the sky and beyond if that was needed.

Maybe that’s why they call it helicopter parenting.

Why I need my kids

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I stand beside her, tipping the muffin tray ever so slightly so that the batter will have that much more of a chance of making it into the hollow. She is intent on her task: lifting two ‘full-to-running-over’ spoons dripping with banana cupcake batter up and over the side of the porcelain bowl, toward the final destination- the muffin tray. It is tedious work, requiring a steady hand.

“I don’t need you to hold the bowl,” she says more than once. I do not concede her the victory on this one, and so we continue to work side by side. I believe she needs me. She, one just learning this art of food preparation; albeit, I will admit that each time she takes on a culinary project, that much more competence is shown in her attention to detail. Even so, I stay- diligently by her side until every last rounded chamber has been filled with creamy goodness.

We are finishing off one cupcake tray and sending it to the hot oven to bake, when she turns and says to me, “You do the rest- I am baked out.” Which is to say, she’s had enough. And so, the Little One who didn’t need me moments before now suddenly discovers that she indeed does need me to immediately finish up her task. As I am her Mama and I love her dearly, I bow to her request. She needs me.  I intuitively know this, meaning I am ever at the ready to step in when she needs a helping hand.

I don’t mind being needed.

Yes, I am still in that stage of life- where I am needed.  Although this stage is seemingly passing quickly, like sand in an hourglass. This shifting stage wherein I find myself: a time of life when I feel the pull, the tug- of little hands. Little voices calling out, “Mommy?” Little cries. And then again, big cries sometimes too. Even the Big Ones need their mother. The steady constant in my life at present is that these little (and not-so-little) people in my life are always in need of a mother’s touch. A mother’s hand, her patient reassurance. I am needed, even in this evolving phase of motherhood. Even as the years move at lightning speed toward these uncertain years ahead of parenting, where I know I will find myself meeting new needs, new requests. Where I will find myself being needed by my Fearless Four in new and different ways.

As the years press on, I am coming to see that I need them too. I need my children. This care that I have given them- it sometimes aches for something back. The returns are there- I am reminded daily to keep my eyes open to see them, my hands at the ready to receive them. But I am aware: I need them as much as they need me.

I need my kids.

This afternoon, I was feeling pressed. I had twenty coming for a birthday supper and by 3:00 p.m., I knew I was either going to have to tear myself in half or invent an assistant. Daughter hopped into the van for a ride up to the dollar store to buy the necessities (plus a treat for her- of course) and on the ride back, I asked her to help me with a certain task for which I knew I would not have time to do otherwise. She agreed. The job: to decorate our log cabin for her brother’s birthday get- together. I handed her a bag and did not place any expectations on her one way or the other. As I drove away from the cabin and towards our house to prepare the meal, I regretted that I had not given her any string to hang the balloons.

Whatever would be would be.

Upon my return, I loaded up my arms with food and assorted other items, then walked the few short steps it took to take me into our cabin to unload. My eyes caught sight of the party center which my daughter had undertaken to prepare in my absence. And I was immediately taken aback. Not only had she decorated- she had arranged things far more neatly and tidily than I would have ever thought to do. A banner hung over the table, balloons graced the fireplace mantle. She had arranged candy on the table as party favours. The table was set with a brand new tablecloth and cutlery was sitting in cups ready for the taking. It was all arranged and displayed beautifully, again- more attractively than I would ever have taken the time for. And all this, from a daughter who had initially stated her uncertainty to take on such a task.

She had no idea how much I needed this.  Needed her.  And I wonder, do our children know how very much we need them?

We assume as parents our role is to be the providers, the caretakers. The ones who meet the needs. But if we never allow our children to take on this role, how will they one day be able to care for the significant others in their future lives? Forget the future- our children must also learn to care in the here and now, for there is value in coming to care for others even in the present. No child is ever too small to care. Our children from a very young age need to know what it means to take care of another’s needs, for the sheer value of contributing to those people in their lives at present as well to prepare them for one day being the caregiver themselves to those dependents they will ultimately responsible for.

I think children are born for this. Born to care. A newborn gurgles and coos in adoration at the sound of their mother’s voice. This is a responsive gesture, acknowledging the relationship that is being built between parent and child. Without that coo, that giggle or smile, the mother can easily find her own resources drained. We need our babies love and response- it is what keeps us going in those fragile first days when exhaustion threatens to undo us. A toddler’s little arms are made for hugging, for reaching out and stroking hair, lovingly caressing their loved one’s face. Their little bodies crave the physical touch- it is their way of meeting the need of their parent- a need to be loved in the best three-year old way that child knows how, love shown through touch. And as children grow, there are so many ways they can learn to say ‘I love you’- love letters and notes left hidden under a pillow, simple words of thanks, unspoken gratitudes expressed by a wink or a nod. These are all ways children learn to show care- things parents need and crave and desire in our relationship with our kids. So that we can sustain our own caring back to them.

We need these gestures as parents- they carry us through these long days that challenge and tire us. Because let’s face it: parenting is a tough gig. Parents are always giving. Always offering more and more of ourselves. Always sacrificing and placing our childrens’ needs first. And so we should. But sometimes we need to learn to receive a little- for the benefit of our children.

So that they can learn to care.

Because at the end of the day, when our children are enabled to give back, are enabled to learn how to care because we as parents afforded them the exquisite opportunity of experiencing the blessing, they are then given a blessing in return. The blessing of caring for another.

Truly, what greater human blessing can we give our children than this?

Why I Don’t Have To Be An Expert

On Friday afternoon, I held a Mother’s Day tea in my classroom for all mothers of my current students. And it was a lovely tea for all those who were able to attend. Most of the moms came, along with one grandmother.

When we got to the part of the program where I told them I would be reading some answers to questions that students gave me about their mothers, I heard an audible groan go up from the moms. Of course, there was concern about what their child might have said about them, things said which could inevitably bring embarrassment to the given mother (no matter how cute or adorable it might sound when I wrote it down- word-for-word with the intentions of reading it aloud).
I assured them, in not so many words, that there was nothing to be said that would make anyone want the floor to open up and swallow them alive. Although some of the answers were pretty cute, along with their amateur use of grammar at this age.

Isn’t it interesting how concerning it can be when we know our children have expressed their thoughts about us to someone else.

Today, I was standing next to another young mother and she and I laughed about the fact that we are always wondering how our kids can come up with such flattering, complimentary professions of love for us in their cards and notes when what we really wonder is if we’ve scarred them for life with our constant bellowing and nagging. Not to mention our cranky monologues.

Yesterday, the day before Mother’s Day no less, I had an absolute meltdown regarding Some Children Of Mine who for three consecutive days in a row have left me “surprises” in the toilet and forgot to send them to the undergods at the septic level. I never intended to blow a blood vessel…it just gradually progressed to that point without any real warning to either me or them. In about five minutes flat, I went from concerned, compassionate caregiver to crazed psychopath.

There we are few of us crying and a few of us screaming. And those not doing either of those two things were considering ways in which to prematurely disable their hearing by first blowing a hole in their eardrums.

It was not my finest moment as a mother.

And I have thought a bit over the last twenty-four hours about my meltdown, along with the fact of the matter that I am still an amateur at this gig, even after fourteen years of practice. I still could use a handy manual or helpful little nanny to step in and intervene on those days where I have just “HAD ENOUGH”. Which leads me to my next level of thinking: that we are not mothers because of what we do, necessarily. But rather- mothers because of who we are. Added to that fact is this little bit of encouragement: we are not expected to be perfect at this mothering gig in order to make an impact. In order to be effective. In order for our children to love us.

Because it’s okay to mess up. It’s okay to still be a work in progress. To be a wrecking ball at times.

And I often fall into the trap of thinking that in order to take something on- something as monumental and life-changing and all-important as mothering, I ought to at least be a bit of an expert before I begin. Don’t we all do this at times? And we later fall prone to believe, as time goes on, that the more we do this work of mothering, the better we ought to get at it. So that when we do fail and make mistakes, as we are so prone to do, we are left baffled. Wondering how anyone could ever think of us as competent, let alone wondering how our children could ever come up with so many descriptive words to use in the acrostic poetry entitled M-O-T-H-E-R. Words like…

Mesmerizing, memorable and meek.
Optimistic, out-going and organized.
Tolerant, trustworthy and terrific.
Happy, honorable and helpful.
Energetic, effervescent and enthusiastic.
Role-model, realistic and responsive.

If it were up to me to write my own Mother’s Day card, here is what I might come up with on any given day:

Meanie
Over-worked
Truthful
Honest
Exhausted
Real

I think there is a bit of truth in both lists, tbh.

Because to be honest, moms don’t have to be perfect so as to be the perfect-fit for their kids. They don’t have to be mesmerizing to the exclusion of once in a while being viewed as a meanie. Nor do they have to be either always organized to the point that they don’t consider themselves a wee bit overworked.

We are mothers after all. Not saints.

We can be tolerant while brutally truthful.
Happy while still being honest and true to what we see as the obvious.
We can be the enthusiastic cheerleaders our children need us to be, while inside feeling absolutely exhausted and unable to put two coherent thoughts together.
Responsive and real.
At one and the same time.

The truth is, we don’t have to have our act together- have our ducks always lined up in a row. Mama, we have permission to mess up. We are not perfect.
But we are perfectly right for the children we’ve been blessed to love.
And that is why they love us anyway. And why we joyfully can carry on in spite of it all.
Happy Mother’s Day, all!

Just a Mom

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was one of those nights. Home late from an after-school appointment, I grabbed a box of cardboard-thin mini-pizzas and a bag of fries out of the freezer in the hopes that no one would notice my lackluster performance as tonight’s leading chef. As I threw the un-nutritional meal of the day into the oven, I screeched at various children to ‘do your homework’, ‘practice your piano’ and ‘get off your i-pods’. From there, I had words (a fight) with my oldest as well as an argument with my youngest. I also sat down at the computer at some point in the evening after which I exclaimed that I could not possibly sit down with one of my children and practice their piano as “my nerves just couldn’t take it tonight.” I then proceeded to whittle away some well-wasted time on Facebook as my Husband took over.

Am I a bad mommy? Or was this just a momentary lapse of ‘mommy finesse’ in an otherwise typical day/typical life?

I have just finished reading this article in which the bad mommy versus good mommy is discussed in a candid and frank manner. The article can be summed up in the concluding paragraph which asserts that bad mommies, like good mommies are at heart: just a mom.

I have said this before, but it is worth saying again: moms who care enough to self-reflect on whatever good it is they are doing or whatever “not-so-good” it is they are doing are moms who are invested. Moms who care. An invested mom is a mom who is in it for the right reasons. Is it what she does that matters? Not necessarily. Doing is not generally equated with being. It’s not what she does- it’s who she is that matters most.

Moms who care are the best moms for their children- no matter how they define themselves.

As Strauss indicates in her article below, it is time we stop defining ourselves by who we think we are- divisions that serve to build up walls between mothers rather than create common ground. Whether we are stay-at-home or working; bad mommy or good mommy; breast-feeding mommy or bottle feeding mommy; mom who uses pampers or mom who uses cloth diapers; or the most deciding factor of all- mom who feeds her family organic chicken dinners or mom who relies on cardboard nuggets and Styrofoam French fries- it’s not really what matters most. What matters is that we are a mom- and we are the best mom for our particular little set of kidlets that they will ever get. We are the best- just because we are their mom. And it’s not what we do that matters- it’s who we are. Being the best mom our kids know- no matter what that standard appears to be. Because: It’s all good. We’re all good enough. And we are are all the best, ‘bad mommy’ or otherwise.

That is to say: We’re all moms. Period. End of story. Enough said.

I am not a bad mommy nor am I a good mommy every second of the day. I am more than either of those- more than either label. Because being a mom is complicated. It’s complex. We are not just moms, we are women: wives, friends, professionals, employees, friends, daughters and sisters. Each one of those positions can affect how I am at my mothering and vice versa. And sometimes I need to remind myself that labeling has never served to better a person- no matter how much that label is used to explain them.

Moms, we are more than our labels of good/bad or otherwise. More than whatever labels we might place beside our title as mom. Because at the end of the day, our kids know: we’re their mom and we are there for them.

We need to stop the self-analyzing and realize that who we are is a product of many things: our upbringing, our values and beliefs, our personality, our circumstances, our influences and our faith. Who we are in a given moment can change because of a mood. We are never entirely one persona or another: we are a blend of many, varied characteristics and many faces.

Isn’t it time we just started seeing ourselves as ‘just a mom’ and ditch the labels?

A Hug Takes But a Second

A hug takes but a second. But that is hard for a big brother to understand, let alone tolerate. And she is tormenting him. Mercilessly. Arms wrapped around his waist in a vice-grip. He allows her for but a moment longer, and then I can see that he’s had enough. He says something smart- words that might sting if not interrupted with another distracting thought or action. She runs out of the room, looking for another body to touch. To cling to. To tease.

What a little monkey.

But there are no takers. Everybody’s just too busy tonight. Nobody is interested in bending over for a hug. A snuggle- a squeeze. I stand there at the sink and I take it all in.

“C’mere,” I say. “I’ll hug you.” She runs into my arms. And then we hold each other for a few short minutes.

“How come you never ask me for a hug? ” I then say, after we’ve both had our quiet moment of loving one another. “Why don’t you ever want to hug me?”

“You’re never there…you’re always too busy, she says simply, without flourish.

I feel slightly stung. I am the mother. I should be good at this by now, four kids later. And she, the baby. I should be the one she runs to first. Shouldn’t I?

But truth: often I’m not. And she’s right- I am too busy some of the time. Cleaning, cooking, nagging- you know the drill. And to be honest, sometimes- I just don’t have the energy. The gumption’s gone

But a hug takes just a second.

We walk, she clasping my neck while I make my way into the formal sitting area where the fireplace in winter often cozies the room with warm embers and soft glow. I sink into a chair, and she leans into my chest. We re-adjust- she’s bigger now than I last remember. I have to hold her differently to make it work. But we can do this. Because a hug takes just a second. One, two counts- and the moment is over. And she’s gone again- off to do what six-year old’s like to do best. At any given moment.
And yet- tonight. Right now- I am so glad I took the time. So glad I held her close this evening. After all, a hug takes but a second.

I am like most mothers eternally busy. I have lots to do, and then some. I often leave myself to the very last, so lately I’ve been focused on reclaiming the vestiges of my former myself. Which is to say, I am all for moms getting perspective. Something I haven’t always been good at doing myself. I am all for moms who also know when pulling back and letting go is the best choice. And I am all for moms who don’t take themselves too seriously- who don’t try too hard to be perfect and who accept themselves for who they are, warts and all. I am all for mothers who are ‘people’ first. Who love who they are and are proud to chase their dreams.

Because sometimes we mamas just get lost in this parenting gig- and we wake up twenty-five years later and wonder who we are. We wonder: what’s our purpose now?

I am not for that kind of mothering.

And yet. Sometimes in justifying and then accepting my mothering status as ‘good enough’, I forget that we mamas can never really quite ‘get enough’ of these precious growing up days- these moments, these years. They are fleeting. Momentary. They are ever so fragile and brief. And while I realize I have limits and boundaries around what I can and cannot do- a hug takes but a second. A smile is just a breath. A kiss is but a instant.

And then it’s gone.

When I remember it just like this, that all our moments are just precious slips of eternity, then it’s more than doable: it’s magic. Getting enough of all those little moments is what we live for. It’s what makes those other less than stellar moments of our day all the more vivid and real. It makes our life less a project and more a story. Because each moment then becomes a piece of the puzzle. A tile in the mosaic.

These are the days of our lives, these living years. They are what really count- they are the big picture.
May we never forget to seize the little opportunities in life that make all the difference.

To Thine Own Self Be True…

Post-Mother’s Day 2013 (survived!).    And so here I am reflecting now, on a few of my favorite things.  Mothers and holidays and good old-fashioned truth-telling.   Blog style.   And I got to thinking about motherhood.    About the mothers I know and love, and about how each special mother, from those who are steady and patient to those who are more boisterous and bold: each Mama I know is to her own self, true.

True.

True to her calling.  True to herself.  True to the mama she is and was meant to be.

And truth matters.  Because it is reveals who we really are.  I was confused today by a writer claiming to be  truth-teller.  A beautiful mama whose blog writing I follow.  And what confused me was this.  She has always been characterized by certain behaviors and traits- which she has carefully revealed to her reading audience through selective choice.  She staged it to be this way.   And then, out from nowhere, came something  completely opposite of what she had built herself to be.  Nothing bad, nothing harmful.    Just confusing.  And in and of itself, what was presented was perfectly acceptable behaviour for another woman’s style of mothering.   But because it was HER writing, it was confusing.  Because I always thought she wanted me, the reader, to see her in a certain light.  And now she was completely changing the rules.

And this is what I was really thinking.  If she is who she always said she was, I wish for her to stand by that philosophy.  If not, then she should be whomever she says she is now.  It is confusing for those who have come to know and love you for who you are only for you to then change your authentic self to something else so as to please another group of people.  To gain popularity or favor.    I just wish I could say to her, “To thine own true self remain true.  Whomever that self might be.”

And so, upon reflection, I have decided to highlight the many faces of authentic  mothering that I have known.  And admire each for remaining true to whomever they believe they should be.  As a mother.

There are some mothers in my friendship circle who have always known they wanted to be a mother.  From their earliest memories of being themselves a child, they knew in their heart they would one day love a child of their very own.  These mothers are natural nurturers.  From a little girl, they could find in a crowd that one person who needed a little extra love and attention.  And they could make that person feel accepted and included.  They were natural empathizers, knowing just what to say and what to do to make those around them feel loved and cherished.  These mamas are often put on a pedestal.  But really, they are just doing what comes naturally and easy to them.  They appear effortless in their mothering.  And it looks easy because it is: when you love something, it isn’t work.  It’s a joy.

There are other mothers whom I have known, who have grown into mothering.  It was a learning process.  They always wanted children but just weren’t quite sure what to do with the lil’ creatures when they arrived.  “You have to do WHAT with these baby wipes, and WHEN…?”  I can hear them incredulously muttering to their Hubbies.  And that, having been said during pre-natal classes only after having been stunned into reality from the grueling labour and delivery video.  These moms, love their hearts!, did their best to muddle their way through in the dark.  Finding their niche with every passing year.    Getting their groove back with every passing milestone.  And doing a bang-up job at this gig we call mothering in spite of their lack of experience.

There are some moms who were surprised with becoming a mother.  Perhaps it was the timing that threw them off-guard.  Perhaps the circumstances.  Perhaps it was a combination of the two.  And some of these moms, if they were to be brutally honest, would say they don’t love the act of mothering.   And that becoming a mother isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  But these moms, they love their children.  And they are committed to seeing their children through childhood into their adult years.  Committed to giving their offspring what they have- out of a heart of sacrifice and a heart of devotion.  They are warrior mamas.  They are soldiers.  And these Mamas are giving out of a heart of love as much as are those whom we might hold to a idealized stereotype.  It just feels a little different.  And that’s okay.

There are some Moms in this circle of friendship who are screamers.  Hollerers.  They love to yell.   They love to raise their voices in exclamation.  They might have once been a drill sergeant.   And they epitomize the mother attributed to in the infamous  Mom Song.  They might even have mailed in contributing lines for that piece which was sung by an amazing soprano singer (who might herself be a hollerer-mom.  I can just tell.)  These moms operate on one decibel, and it may or may not break the sound barrier.  But they fiercely love their children.  And they just might be the first of all moms to have the quick-wittedness inside them to impulsively jump in front of a bus so as to save someone or something.  Even if that might merely be their child’s cherished teddy-bear (incidentally, which is worth more than its weight in gold to their precious, screaming toddler.)

Some Moms are reckless.  They love to live life on the edge.  They live life large and loud and free.  Others are quiet and introverted.  Blink, and you might miss them in a crowd.  Some mothers love to do crafts.  They are the reason we have Pinterest.  Others hate the darn things (their motto: crafts=pinsanity).  Some moms are amazing cooks.  Some can’t even boil water.  Some mothers love to be alone, away from the prying hands of little children.  Other mothers long for hands held close and warm embraces.  Moms come in every shape and size, in every color and variety.

And you couldn’t find the same prototype twice.  They come custom-designed.

Some mothers, to the naked eye, just seem perfect.  And when you size yourself up next to them, you feel you can never add up to as much.   They just know how to ‘mother’ with such ease and grace.  They are models of what the stereotypical mother might be, were she truly a reality. And they give other mothers a source of inspiration and motivation of purpose.  Other moms seem to care less about perfection.  They would rather you and the rest of the world, know as much.   Because they love being the black sheep of the mothering crowd.   They thrive on being ‘good-enough’.  Anything more would be a little too much cotton candy for their liking, thank you very much.  But these moms- they still show up for their kids, in spite of the image they often portray.  And they are much better than their “good enough’ projection seems to indicate.

Excluding my own mother, and trying my best to be impartial!  I have to say.  Amongst the circle of mother-friends and acquaintances whom I know and love, there is not one mother I can say is the perfect prototype.  Not one I would hold up to the light and declare, “This one!  She is the true ideal!”  And neither would I want to.  Because every mother is best in her own right.  Every mother is perfectly suited to the mothering she was designed to do.  Because mothering is an art.  It is not an ideal.  It is a calling, not a job.  It is a life-long pursuit, not a milestone marker.  And it is mostly an act of the heart and the soul, not so much an act of physical reflex.

And all of us who call ourselves mothers need not compare ourselves to one another.  Because it is the variety that provides beauty and color.   And if not for the wide array of mothering prototypes, our children would not have the custom-designed Mama that was specifically chosen for them.  The travesty lies in trying to be someone we are not.  In believing we are not good enough.  In thinking we need to be more like one type of mama and less like another.  It is in our diversity that we find excellence in design.  In our weaknesses, we find we are made whole.  And each Mama must be the mother she was called to be.  For that is being a mother at one’s very best. That is being authentic.  That is being true.

To each one, be true.

To each mother: be true.  True to yourself.  To your family.  True to your world.  True to your Maker.  And true to the mother you were designed to be.  It is only in embracing who we truly are that we can then accept others for who they were designed to be as well.   And a mother does it right, most of the time, when she is authentically herself (allowing for a few mishaps here and there!).  She does it right when she is true.  That is, when she is truly the kind of mother she was meant to be.

Keep on Keeping On

That moment. When you feel so very, very horrible. And all because you have left your middlest child at the rink, waiting for the better part of an hour because you had no way to get in touch with her. And all because you were driving from Point A to Point B to Point C to Point D. And on the way you nearly ran out of gas.

And then. When you finally did arrive and met your crying child at the door of the rink, her friend says to you, eyes raised as she breezes by, “She sure was getting worried.” And you later find out that ‘said’ friend also asked your child, “Does she always forget you like this?”

That moment. When the semi-middlest child tells you that you never give her enough attention, that you always favor the youngest because they’re the baby. That you never listen to her. Oh! That dreadful word never. Never, never, never.

That moment when Oldest tells you that you never (there it is again…) go to the rink to watch his games; or that, at the very least, you are not there as much as he would like. That you never pick out the right kind of jeans, that you don’t buy the right kinds of cereal. That you don’t live up to all his wildest expectations of what a mama should do and say or be.

And you think you might be a fail.

That moment. When your older child takes a compliment you’ve given to a younger child and turns it into a stab in her own back. As if to say. That in complimenting anyone else, it automatically means attacking someone other than them in the process.

That moment when you are trying to tell everyone how well they’ve done, how very proud you are. And no one is listening because it is not about their own very selves, at that very second.

And you feel so very tired.

That moment. When you are worn down and drug out and used up because of life. And because you went to bed late the night before. And all because you were booking a solo ticket south FOR YOURSELF. For the very reason that you dropped a chair on your foot earlier in that same evening. And that incident was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

Because you’ve hardly given your own worn-out self any attention lately.

That moment, …THAT MOMENT. When you look at your hands, at your feet; and they look…old. When you look at your body and it seems flabby. When you look at your eyes, and they seem tired.

That, my dear Mama, is the moment you realize. That being a mother is the hardest gig you’ve ever had to do. Harder than anything. Ever. And a secret part of your own self knows this to be true: that the reason God doesn’t let us look forward is because in His great wisdom, He knows a mother’s heart would fail if she knew all that was to come. Yet. In His great mercy, He allows us to look back and see how far we’ve come.

That moment. When a Mama gives herself grace. When she forgives herself, even when her four precious off-spring in their immaturity cannot. And she tells herself:

“Well done, Warrior Mama. You are doing a bang-up job being a Mom. You are doing me proud, Self. I know how hard you work at this. Keep on keeping on, Soldier Mama. There will come a day when this too will pass, and you will forget how hard it was and only remember how awesome you did at the hardest job know to human-kind. Mothering. You are beautiful, wise, full of grace upon grace. And your children will one day rise up and call you blessed. Don’t you ever give up.”

That moment is what keeps me going.

Keep on keeping on, soldiers.

Good Enough Momma…

Photo: I am the OKAYEST!! I AM THE OKAYEST!!

I succumbed to new depths of misery today, in the form of the after-school ski program.  I literally, no word of a lie, pulled Littlest One up three cross-country ski- hills, most of which while holding both her poles and mine.  And the only music to my ears was her incessant wailing, I mean full-out howling, from start to finish.  Sheer. absolute.torture.  I was more stressed out after I skiied than I had been before during the work day.  An afternoon of outdoor entertainment.  All in the name of being a good- no!   That is to say a GREAT- mother.

Makes me wonder what it takes to just be good enough.  What it would take to merely be a good enough mother.   An okay mother, even.

A good enough mother probably wouldn’t stress herself out piggy-backing a screaming Kindergartner around a six kilometer track, now would she?  No.  She is far too sensible for that.  A good enough momma knows that sanity is a precious resource, needing preservation for such time as one might be close to scraping the bottom of the barrel.  Thus, throwing oneself into unnecessary, tortuous after-school programs might be a bit of a drag on the old mental health bank.  And we all need a wholesome reserve for a rainy day.

A good enough momma doesn’t try to kill herself doing crazy hairstyles for school winter carnivals.  She knows that bed head is many a suburban wannabe/preppy kid’s worst nightmare.  Thus, sending a child to school without formally brushing their hair is normal/crazy enough for her, thank you very much.  Or as in my case.  I did the girls hair last night after bath,  when things were fresh and the hoolies were somewhat comatose, and then gave strict warnings this morning to not mess with perfection.  Or else.  Added a few multi-coloured pony-tail holders and a bit of sparkles (that I noticed were never washed out from the weekend, but still came in handy anyway…),  and we were good to go.

A good enough momma will tune out her children’s screaming voices when they reach a certain pitch.  That pitch is predetermined on an individual basis.  I reach my ‘tuning-out plateau’ fairly suddenly, immediately following the first cry or wail of discontent.  Believe me.  After four hooligans, you get to know the difference between cries of despair and those merely of malcontent.  It is not too often that something is drastically wrong.  So when the incessant crying begins, I have disciplined myself to think happy thoughts about monkeys escaping from the zoo whilst the zookeeper is wistfully snoozing in the clubhouse.

It works like a charm.

Good enough mommas do many things the same as great mommas.  They just don’t kill themselves and their off spring in the process.  ( I realize that great mommas don’t do the latter either, which means we have more in common than we think we do…)  Okay mommas who are good enough realize that life is short, time is precious and children are not as fragile as they might have their parents believe.  Good enough mommas are willing to make sacrifices so as to keep their own fragile sense of self-worth intact.  And maybe, just maybe that might mean flying south even when one’s brood of four is heading north to Souris for hockey provincials.

Did I just say that?

Yes, I’ve said it.  I am considering taking a solo trip south for March Break, sans children and husband.  I am no longer good enough, I am just plain bad.  I’ve heard from the Peanut Gallery, and consensus is they don’t want Momma to go.  Husband on the other hand can’t wait to have the rule of the roost all to himself.  So what’s an okay momma to do?

Do what every other good enough momma does when the going gets tough.

Get going.