We celebrate Halloween big around here. It starts the week before and does not stop until November 1st. It commences with an adult only party that my friend, Kelsey, has hosted for years. The adults get creative, crazy and pretend like we are twenty-somethings for one evening a year. Lots of mischief and inappropriate behavior ensue. Continue reading
The cool morning turned hot and the kids ran in what seemed like circles pummeling questions at me not allowing time for my answers before they fired off the next one. We were trying to get out of the house for 24 hours to celebrate 15 years of marriage with a little quiet and togetherness. Grammy and Grandpa were in town and Carla our awesome babysitter was also on duty. I am always anxious before leaving the house. Even if we are just going to dinner, it is always so hard for me to leave. Darren always reassures me that they will survive without us and that our caretakers are completely competent. I know all these things, but leaving on any level gives me anxiety. I don’t even like leaving the animals so the three kids are tough for me. Continue reading
Susan’s bathing suited butt went screaming down the driveway with a rooster taking flight behind her. Her speed was impressive. Honestly, I didn’t know she had it in her. My 11-year-old sinister sister-self did not really feel badly for my sister. I was more worried about the tale that she would tell at the dinner table that would more securely seal the fate of my rooster, Charlie. He was an innocent and I was his protector. No matter how much I reasoned with him and his brother they continued to chase and scare the family, guests, everyone – except for me. Continue reading
Almost one year ago –
Ella steps to the corner of the mat. Her coach is with her whispering a few last minute bits of advice before the announcer calls her name. She is about to execute her first routine in her first gymnastics meet. The butterflies in my belly morph into the winged monkeys from oz. Darren and the kids stayed at home due to the fact that we had to drive an hour and a half to attend and also due to Liam’s inability to sit for the duration. I chat with a few other parents and text with Darren and Kelsey to express my pent up emotion. I am scared for her. She expressly let me know that she did not want to compete and she only wanted to do gymnastics for fun. She had made the team in the spring and it turns out that if you are going to practice with the team you have to compete with the team in at least one meet. She stands at the edge of the floor ready to fulfill her duty as a team member. I am already proud of her for sticking with it and doing something so far out of her comfort zone. At this point in her life it is common for Ella to say “no” to something new or different or risky. If she cannot predict the outcome with a 95% certainty factor the answer is no thank you. Today, because of her love of gymnastics she is doing something scary and uncomfortable without complaint.
My only wish for Ella as she stands at the edge of the mat is for her to feel good at the end of it. My greatest fear is that if she felt she did poorly, it will be a set back in the other things in life that require courage to put herself out there and take a risk. I want so much for her to grab onto her days and the opportunities that come her way and know that sometimes we win and sometimes we lose and that’s okay because it’s all about being richer for the experience.
She salutes the judges and the walks out to wait for the music. I have not yet seen her do the routine all the way through so I am curious and terrified. She completes some choreographed dance elements and some strength elements. I am a first time gymnastics mom and I have no idea of the routine or for what skills the judges are looking so based on my in-depth knowledge as her mother I would have to say that she did great. She pauses and collects herself for the tumble. I want to scream. “GO ELLA YOU GOT THIS!!” but I refrain and sit there motionless and wordless. She has only landed her round off back hand spring three weeks ago for the first time and then we went on a week-long vacation with absolutely no gym practice. She runs and tumbles and BAM she sticks the landing. She completes the routine and it was beautiful and I hope that she is as happy as I am, but I won’t know because I can’t talk to her until the end of the meet. This is a good thing because I want to say way too much and now I have time to counsel myself into saying very little and letting her do the talking if that is what she wants.
After floor comes bars, then beam then vault. She falls off the beam and can’t get some move on the bar that seems to be important. Her vault is decent. At the end of a very long evening we reunite and make our way to the car. I resist every urge to say too much and simply tell her that she did such a great job and ask her if it was fun. “It was so fun, Mom.” Her usual modus operandi is to not offer up details. I get a lot of one word answers to my probing questions – good, yes, no, not really. Instead of asking her questions, I say nothing listening to my inner counselor who is working overtime. She talks about her routines and emotions and the good and the bad and next time she will do this differently and so on. Next time? Then she says, “You know what, Mom? I am going to stop saying that I don’t want to do things before trying them because that was so completely awesome and I said I didn’t want to do it. And like the hay ride that I said I didn’t want to do when we were in Philly, I ended up doing it and that was awesome too.
I almost cry, but I don’t. I say, “That is really great, honey. I am so happy that you were able to figure that out. I bet it feels so good.” The rest of the way my motherly heart sings with admiration for my oldest daughter and for myself. She is not only growing up, but she is growing up great. She is learning about testing her limits and that awesomeness can come from moving away from her comfortable sure thing into scary and not so comfortable. I know now that she is going to learn this with or without me or maybe even in spite of me. As for me I, I finally shut my mouth and listened. I have a moment of – DUH – why had I not started listening a long time ago. I guess I never really realized I wasn’t listening. I move away from the inner self flogging and enjoy the moment in the car alone with my girl. I had not asked her what she learned or told her what she should take away from her experience. I had let her have her experience and learn from it. I realize how much more valuable this moment was without my voice. We are learning together and this simple fact inspires me to be better – and to listen.
This week Ella turned ten. I have been thinking about this double-digit milestone for a few months. She keeps growing taller and a few days ago, asked if she could read The Hunger Games. It makes me realize that in a few short years I will be the parent of a teenager. Then I stop and remind myself that she still plays make believe with her friends and sometimes can be found mothering a baby doll.
Some of the most significant memories of my Mother are of those years when my older sisters where teenagers. I remember seeing her struggle with parenting and even though I did not know all the details, I remember knowing that it was hard for her. As I transformed into a teenager myself she transformed into my unreasonable mother. I was now the center of my own universe.
When I was 21, I flew home from Colorado to spend Christmas with my family. It was on this visit that I realized my teenage self was morphing into a young adult. It felt good to hang out with my mother in this new chapter of my life. I found a new appreciation for her and I sensed she felt the same. As I packed to return back to school she started to cry. It caught me a little off guard because by this point she was used to seeing me come and go and our good byes usually resembled those of two people parting for the weekend.
Why are you crying? I asked. We are going to see each other again in May.
I just hate saying good-bye to my children, she said.
May is right around the corner, I said.
My mother was experienced with the comings and goings of her grown children. On prior visits she couldn’t wait to see us, but then sometimes I think by the end she couldn’t wait for us to leave. I like to think this visit was different. We liked each other again and I had arrived as an adult.
Maybe she knew that we were not going to see each other again. Maybe a part of her knew that this would be it. She died that March.
As I count backwards on my first ten years as parent of young children and contemplate my future with teenage girls, I wonder what it would be like to mother with my own mother at my side. I miss the advice she would deliver, the advice I would heed and reject, the stories of her own mother and the chance we missed to be friends again beyond that one Christmas visit. She gave me the best and worst parts of myself and for that I am grateful.
She is still with me, though mostly in the quiet of the night when I am reflecting on the defeats and triumphs of the day. She is in the deepest parts of my soul and sometimes it is her voice that escapes my lips. Each day on this journey as a parent more is revealed to me about my mother even though she is not here to answer the questions, give me advice or defend her choices. I judge less and understand more. She is my mother, totally flawed and perfect at the same time. She made a path for me as her mother did for her.
As I close out a decade of being a parent, I realize that now more than ever I am contributing to the path that the mothers before me created. I am shaping and planting and trying to make a beautiful foundation for my girls. I want to skip more and trudge less. I want there to be laughter and grace, but mostly I want to pass on the love that I still feel from my mother 20 years after her death.
WordPress told me this was my first post so I thought I would go with it. I have wanted to do this for so long and here I am doing it. I have always been a late bloomer. I already blog with my crazy sisters over at The Mary Sisters on all sorts of things, but I wanted a place where I could document everything for my family. I want them to be able to look back on these pages to be reminded that they are loved and remember the little things. I want to remember the little things. I’ve tried doing this in a paper journal, but I have never be able to pull it off so I am hoping that the prospect of somebody actually reading will help with my sticktoitiveness.
My mom suddenly passed away when I was 21 and I have nothing of her thoughts, her feelings about me or anything for that matter documented except a few journal entries my sister found. They were very depressing. I know from experience we tend to want to write when things are hard. I have the college journals to prove it. This blog is not going to focus on the hard stuff and that’s not to say I will never write about it, but I want to focus on the beauty.
A record of life to look back is a great thing, but more importantly is the now. At this point in my life I want to write. This is my space for that.