Posted on | May 17, 2013 | 2 Comments
Before, eons and eons ago when I was not someone’s mother, I thought that motherhood might not be for me. I worried that I wouldn’t “take to it” … that I’d be bad at loving someone else the way they needed to be loved… that I’d be impatient and imprecise and in every way imperfect. Even when I was pregnant, I worried that something would go wrong. I worried that the world would notice and then it would be gone, then he would be gone… the perfect little being growing inside of me. I wasn’t “Mom Material” you know. I was scarred and broken. I had… dun dun dun… a past. I’d lived my twenties in style. I’d done stupid things. I couldn’t possibly be trusted to raise and care for and love a child. Could I?
Inexplicably, one evening in late August, I found my non-mom material self in a light blue hospital gown staring into two dark blue eyes that looked at me as though every part of him needed me to hold him close and tell him it would be okay… so I did. Even as I sobbed the tired cries of a new mother. Even as I wondered how on Earth I could hear one more scream or feel one more agonizing pull of milk. I held him close and told him it would be okay, even as I wondered if it ever would be, even as I wondered, still, if this was “my scene.” I held him close when there was poop drying under my fingernails, when everything smelled like piss and powder, when nothing made sense except the rhythmic bounce of my legs against the floor, rocking him as I sobbed that I couldn’t rock him anymore. Rocking as I sobbed that maybe, just maybe, I was right.
Maybe I wasn’t mom material.
Every pain staking minute of the first few weeks and months of his life was like a constant pin-pricking reminder that I had no earthly idea what I was doing, even though this little person, this little being, seemed to think that I did… seemed to want me to do whatever wrong things I was doing. Slowly, I started to become more comfortable with my wrong decisions. Slowly, I stopped reading what I was supposed to do and just did what I needed to do. Slowly, I started to base my thoughts and decisions, my actions and reactions on the ever-growing love I felt for this tiny son of mine. I was doing it all wrong. We were doing it all wrong. But we were in it together and dammit, there was so. much. love. Even with the hate and sadness and anger. Even with the sleep deprivation and the confusion and the horror. Even with all of my doubt, the part of me that tied me to my son grew stronger and stronger, binding me to him with a love I couldn’t hope to give voice to.
Slowly, ever so slowly, I became a mother.
Yesterday, my imperfectly mothered child “graduated” from preschool. He stood on the stage with his white cap and gown askew and stuck his tongue out at me. Though the “perfect mom material” in my head said to give him a stern look and make him stop, the mother I am stuck my tongue back out at him and we both laughed. Afterwards, we took silly pictures and tried to share a graduation cap made out of fondant which was totally disastrous both in fact and in pictures. And then his grandparents whisked him away for the weekend and I went home to my too-quiet house.
I opened a beer and sank onto the sofa to watch cheesy television shows, and took a good look around my consummately messy house. I scanned the rows of shelves lined with toys and picture books and the hand prints on the glass doors. I noticed the jumble and tumble of my every day world from the stillness of this unfamiliar vantage point and I realized, not for the first time, that of all the things I am and am not, and of all the things I am capable of being… the one thing I will forever be, the one thing he alone has forever made me…
Is a mother.
Perfectly disastrous, perfectly confused and concerned and conflicted. Always perfectly unable to be, well, perfect or proper or pristine, still so scared I’m doing it all wrong. But the love… oh, the love. This mind-blowing, soul-twisting, heart-aching love is what makes us parents…. it’s what makes us perfectly parents… not in spite of, but because of all our imperfections.
Posted on | May 16, 2013 | 2 Comments
This pollen thing is killing me.
I spent the weekend in the great outdoors, planting seeds and watering the garden I’m trying desperately not to kill. We ate popsicles and rode bikes and walked around the neighborhood. We picked strawberries and were chased by chickens at a local farm. We were outside all. weekend. long.
And as my reward, I am now battling the nastiest bout of crap in my lungs that I’ve had in a long time. You know the kind, right? When you breathe heavy and every cough needs to be near a trashcan or toilet because you might. just. gag. on the grossness inside you. I hate chest colds with a fiery passion because they not only keep me from sleeping, and breathing and feeling like a normal person… they also keep me from running. Or at least from running without feeling like I’m just about to die.
So last night I popped yet another Mucinex and a sleeping pill and readied myself for hopefully the first good night of sleep all week. J and I were in bed by 7:30 and both asleep well before 9. Enter the dogs.
At 12:30, Riley started whimpering and woke me up. For a good thirty minutes I laid in bed and called her foul and slightly unnecessary names. At 1:00, I realized she wasn’t shutting up so I climbed out of bed to let her outside only to discover that AJ was pooping on the floor. Since he’s old and can’t really tell when he’s pooping, this means a scavenger hunt for all the poop. I let them both outside and turned on all the lights to find all the poop then scrubbed and cleaned and Lysoled until I was, you guessed it, wide awake. And unable to breathe from all the poop searching. I ended up making a cup of tea and catching up on this week’s Nashville episode in between trips to sit in an over-steamed bathroom to clear my chest. (Side bar: Huh? What? Why do I bother watching that show and yet hooked. I’m embarrassed by and for myself.)
I’m never really good at being sick, but this is my kid-free weekend and I have plans. Big plans. Plans which include the Avett Brothers. You know… outside. In the pollen. IT’S A VICIOUS CYCLE.
So the moral of this story is… um… happy freaking spring. Or stay inside. Or something along the lines of:
Need. More. Coffee.
Posted on | May 15, 2013 | 10 Comments
“I am stronger than I thought.”
That’s what the T-shirt said, when I pulled it out of the packing envelope; the one sent to me by my sweet friend in Tennessee. The note enclosed said it was for completing my first half marathon and there were running shoes just below the quote. I put it on immediately.
I did run a half a marathon in February. I do lace up my shoes and pound out miles on the treadmill and around my neighborhood and I am a stronger runner than I ever thought I’d be. My legs are stronger, my arms… stronger, my lungs and heart and mind are stronger because of the miles I have placed on my tennis shoes.
But when I snapped a picture of myself in my new t-shirt, it was not the strength of my body that put the smile on my face. It was not the muscles in my legs or arms, or the physical strength of any part of me…
Instead, it is a smile of remembering how far I’ve come; not how literally strong my heart is… but how figuratively strong my HEART is. It is a smile of accomplishment, realizing that I am whole again and ready to love and be loved again. It is a smile of realization that I am strong enough to be vulnerable, strong enough to be alone, strong enough to be 100% me … always and only.
I am stronger than I ever thought I could be… on and off the treadmill, on and off the road, in and out of tennis shoes.
I am strong. And more importantly… I am happy.
Posted on | May 14, 2013 | 9 Comments
In 2011, my husband moved out a few weeks before Mother’s Day so technically, it was the first “holiday” I spent “alone.” I put a much smaller J in the car and drove down the street to the grocery store where I bought a balloon and flowers and chocolates for myself. I filled the cart with junk food and took it all back home where I cried through a box of chocolates and several bags of chips about how I’d never feel whole again, about how I’d never move again.
See, when you’re newly separated or newly divorced or hell, newly broken… everythinghurts. For a long time. Everything hurts because you can’t let yourself focus on the part, the piece, the broken… because to focus on it would hurt too much. Like with any injury. The day after my finger was stitched up, another doctor unwrapped it to do x-rays and I remember staring at it with a complete abstract interest. It didn’t seem like it should be a part of me. It didn’t seem like it was mine. It was foreign and strange and looking at it closely seemed so bizarre that I only cried about it in a global sense of “ouch”… thinking about the actual disaster in front of me was too much to take in. That’s how those first few holidays felt without my husband. I cried about silly things, like not getting a present I didn’t already know about or not having someone to tell me dinner tasted good… I couldn’t cry about how broken I was… that was too much.
It’s been two years now since I last lived in the same house as my ex-husband and to say that everything is different, to say that everything is better seems to minimize just how different and better everything is. People told me it takes time. People told me to wait and see. People said all the things that were true and right and obvious but what they said always just felt wrong. I couldn’t imagine a time when I wouldn’t hurt because the hurt was so big. I couldn’t imagine a time that I’d draw in breaths without wondering if they’d bring tears on the exhale. I couldn’t imagine healing.
But the healing comes.
After a brutal breaking of your soul, the healing comes.
First it’s awful and then it’s worse. Then when it stops hurting to breathe, it’s numb again and then it’s oh so hypersensitive that the barest brush against your wound breaks you all over again… checking “divorced” on a health form, writing your mother as your emergency contact, struggling to zip a dress or fasten a bracelet by yourself. Just when the numb becomes familiar, the feelings creep back in and they’re just all wrong. You laugh when you shouldn’t, cry over things that shouldn’t bring tears, get irrationally angry over something small and insignificant. It’s like you’re waking up from a dream or a nightmare or at least a long and drawn out sleep, and you can’t quite figure out where you are or who you’re supposed to be.
But those feelings? They sort themselves. Slowly. You help them along through your passion for something new… painting, planting, running. You become someone new. And then one day you wake up and the thought of your ex doesn’t make you want to drive nails into someone’s back. One day you can have a conversation with him or her and you don’t wonder what they’re thinking about how you look or what you’re wearing. One day you realize that not only are you not sad or angry… you’re not in love with that person any longer. One day you throw your arms out wide and spin around in the sun with the son you always wanted and you don’t believe or think or feel that anything is missing.
One day, you are healed. You are whole and strong and better than you were. But there are oh so many days before that day, that it feels like it will never come.
Then it does.
And on that day, you sit and think back on how many steps you’ve taken, on how many miles you’ve run, how many races you’ve finished with your arms high and your soul higher… since that day when you sat on the floor of an empty bedroom and wondered how you’d ever walk again.
And you realize that for some, for you, it took the breaking to make you whole.
Posted on | May 10, 2013 | 4 Comments
We were sitting at the stoplight when I looked up in my rear view mirror. My son had been driving me absolutely crazy all morning long… one ridiculous request after another, crying, yelling, kicking… just a very three sort of day. In the mirror, I could see the car behind me, a Caucasian couple in their early fifties, driving a larger SUV. The woman was crying slightly and the man beside her was obviously angry, his face animated and contorted with screams. I wanted to look away but I couldn’t, I just kept wondering what could have happened already, at 7:30 in the morning to make these people so unhappy.
At the next light, the car beside me held a thirty-something African-American woman, sharply dressed in a perfectly clean BMW. She was on her cell phone, seemingly ordering someone to do or not to do something, judging by the movement of her mouth and the unhappy shake of her head. Behind me, the Caucasian couple kept arguing; beside me, the African American woman kept talking on her phone. And then from ahead of me, a car turned left with the arrow. In it was a young girl, wearing a tiara with a car full of her friends laughing and dancing. The back window spelled out “SENIORS” and I had to smile, for maybe the first time all morning.
So many times I worry what people will think if they look into their rear view mirror and see this thirty-something Caucasian woman bobbing her head and singing her heart out. So many times I worry that I’ll be judged by the people around me, judged with their stares and glares and frowns. But this morning, I looked at the people around me and I decided that, if given the choice, I don’t want to be the perfect professional or the bickering couple. If given the choice, I want to always be the girl in the tiara, dancing to unseen music, happily oblivious to the people around me.
Without thinking twice, I flipped on my iPhone and started to sing along, started to dance along with my uncoordinated and strange arm dances. I’m sure the woman beside me was amused, in the way that you’re amused by a senile old man doing the twist to Reggae music. I’m sure the couple behind me were appalled. And you know what? I didn’t care. Because when people see me in their rear view mirror, they may shake their heads and they may roll their eyes, and yeah… they may judge me. But they’ll also maybe, just maybe, smile.
And if I’m only sharing a small slice of my life with these random people on the road, I want it to be the part that makes them smile.
Posted on | May 9, 2013 | 13 Comments
I’m not good at a lot of things.
There are over a billion things that other people succeed at that I struggle with every day… cartwheels, patience, losing weight, having great hair, icing a cake perfectly, FONDANT, painting, basketball, photography, talking when I’m nervous… Tons and tons of things that I’m just not all that great at. And when I come across people who are good at those things, I cling to them like they are life rafts and I’m drowning in this vast sea of all that I can’t do.
At first, I thought I was clinging to them simply because they are better: better people, better moms, better attorneys, better Christians… better somethings or someones that I should be or could be if I just tried hard enough to be, well, them.
I worried that I was trying too hard to be what I’m not, to bask in my own failures by way of surrounding myself with others’ success. I worried that I was looking down on myself for what I am not, looking down on the person I really am… un-athletic, un-coordinated, overly wordy, with flippy strange hair and the penchant for melancholy. I worried that these friends of mine would one day look around and realize that they had surrounded themselves with, well… me…. someone less than, someone lesser than… someone unworthy of their friendship.
And then I realized that my friend who does Ironman competitions inspired me to run. My friend with the patience of Job inspires me to breathe a bit slower, to cherish things a bit more. My friends with a sense of humor that makes me snort milk out of my nose inspire me to see the humor in even the little things… even when I don’t want to. My friends with big hearts inspire me to give more, my friends with the gift of photography inspire me to take more snapshots, my friends who string words together like poetic pearls inspire me to write more and write better. My co-workers who show me up on the regular with their minds and their ability to process and analyze the law make me a stronger lawyer. My sister, with her organic garden and love of the Earth makes me more conscience of my actions and how they affect the world.
I spent a lot of time worrying that I was the least of my friends and that that fact made me somehow wrong with my selection of friends. But how boring to be the best in your circle, right? My friends make me a better person. And I hope, in some small ways I don’t even realize, I inspire them, too. Because I think that’s what makes friendship, especially among women, so very important. I’m not less than my friends. I am more than “just me” because of my friends.
I’m still not a natural athlete. I’m still not the skinniest or the smartest or the funniest person in any room and definitely not even in my circle of friends. But I’ve learned that what matters isn’t that I’m the best amongst my friends… it’s that I am the least. What matters is that I surround myself with people who make me a better person, not people who just make me feel better about my inadequacies.
So to my friends far and wide, even those of you who “live in my computer” and who haven’t yet had the distinct displeasure of meeting me in person and finding out all my intricate inadequacies, I say thank you. Sincerely. For making me strive each and every day to be a better me than I was the day before.
Posted on | May 8, 2013 | 4 Comments
J and I have been battling a particularly nasty brand of stomach virus that leaves us both starving and, as yet, unable to eat effectively. So we’re both exhausted and annoyed and in general ready to wipe this right out of our lives. Last night, I decided a 6:30 bedtime was in order so we were tucked in with books well before normal.
I’d say we we’re both asleep by around 8:00 last night, or at least I think we were. Around 9:45, I woke up with a start to J calling me from the bathroom:
“yeah…” I was groggy and irritable and totally confused by whatever was happening.
Those are two words you just can’t ignore, so I stumbled out of bed and to the bathroom to clean someone else’s bottom… just one of the glamorous parts of motherhood. Once he was all cleaned up, we went back to bed. After maybe a minute, J tapped me on the shoulder.
“WHAT.” I was probably a little crankier than I would have been if I weren’t, you know, sick and tired.
“Um… mommy? There’s something gross on my pillow.”
I sat up and shone my phone “light” in that direction and yeah. There was something gross on his pillow. There, right on his pillow, was poop.
On his pillow.
I jumped up and turned on the light to figure out where it came from. Inexplicably, there was no poop anywhere else. None on his pants, none on his hands, none in his night time diaper. There was no poop on the floor, none on his feet, none on the door knob. And yet, unmistakeably, there was poop. On his pillow. I can’t explain it. He couldn’t explain it. THERE WAS NO PLAUSIBLE EXPLANATION.
I thought I’d seen it all. I’ve survived the magical mystery poops of infanthood, the accidental poops of potty training and the bottom wipes of potty trained. I’ve cleaned poop from floors, from doors, from the sides of a potty. I’ve had poop under my fingernails, for gods sake. But I had never, ever, until last night, seen poop on a pillow with no plausible source.
I guess… happy mother’s day?
Posted on | May 7, 2013 | 6 Comments
Last night, I saw Time slipping in and out my window.
My son was sleeping next to me and the sweet inhalation of his breath swirled around the room with the whirr of the ceiling fan until I almost thought I was or maybe could be asleep there beside him, stretched tight or curled loose around the tendrils of his mind. I was but a child myself, wasn’t I? Just a barefoot blonde with bright eyes and tangled curls… or was that him? Could we both be that young? No… it must be him. He must be the child, which makes me… which makes me… I blinked and yes, there, perched on the window sill was Time.
He was not, as others have said, a tender grandfather with an aged beard. He was not wise and tall and angled. No, the Time I saw there, staring back at me was just a child… just a baby, newly born. And with each breath I felt in me and each breath I felt beside me that baby grew. In a matter of seconds, his lithe feet were beneath him and then in seconds more he walked the thin line of the window sill with the grace of a child, head thrown back in silent laughter. I blinked, I shouldn’t have, and he was sullen, cross-legged and staring back at me with sleepy eyes and too long hair. I reached to brush a bit away, to catch a glimpse of the boy beneath and in that moment he was taller still, smiling back at me with the eyes of a man. He placed a finger to his lips, casually leaning down and placing at his feet a brand new baby boy. As he straightened Time was old again, or was he young, just as the baby began to walk the window sill with his arms outstretched.
Beside of me, my son stirred, blowing out a breath of air that hit against Time and it exploded into light or sound or love, disappearing out through the silent cracks of my bedroom window into the night beyond.
I wiped a tear I didn’t know I’d shed with a hand I didn’t know had aged. My son was just a baby, just a moment before… I was just a girl moments before that. And Time? Time is out there, walking the ledges of nursery room windows, aging the hands and eyes and minds of little girls like me. Of little boys like him.
It’s not true what they say. Time is not a grandfather.
Time is the first breath of a newborn baby, for that is the first moment Time ever really matters.
I wrapped my arms, the strong arms of a woman… no longer a girl, around the sweetness of my son, holding him close… for that moment loving not just the baby he was or the child he is, but also the man he will become in a moment too soon for my heart to grasp. I thought I saw a flicker of Time again on the sill, but when I looked he was gone… leaving us here, for now, still mother and child.
Posted on | May 6, 2013 | 6 Comments
We played hard all day, planting flowers, kicking soccer balls, riding bikes and racing cars. We painted pictures, drew with chalk, built cities out of colored blocks and then bowled them over with a small Avengers ball. Lunch was had on a blanket across the floor, picnic style, as we watched his favorite cartoon and dinner was meatloaf, at his request.
Around 7pm, we were sitting on the sofa watching a movie and he had his head laid back against the sofa cushions. I was exhausted from our day but in all the good ways that a parent gets exhausted from spending the day at the beck and call of their child. He looked over at me and grinned then frowned a little.
“I like living with you,” He patted my hand and I smiled, tousling his hair lightly before he continued. “But I don’t like living with just you… I think we need someone else to live here, too.”
My heart sank, dipping down and around the pit of my soul as he told me in his sweet voice that he thought “maybe daddy should live here, too.”
See… it doesn’t matter what I do to protect and fend off the outside world. It doesn’t matter how hard I play with him or how often we giggle. It doesn’t matter. Because when he goes to his friends houses, their daddies are there… and his is not.
And that reality finds him even through the colored block towers and thick black soil. That reality hovers around his shoulders, waiting to sink and drown him with the truth that his daddy is not here. I sat and watched his eyes for a moment, realizing that… for now… the heaviness of that reality is still hovering. For now, it has not wrapped itself around his shoulders. For now, it is still kept at bay by a tickle fight or popsicles on the porch. And though I realize that one day, his questions will need a full and formal response. For now, for three years old, for the sake of both of us… I tucked away the daggers in his questions and just smiled my patient, mother-knows-best smile.
“That’s silly, buddy! Daddy lives with (his girlfriend) and she’d be sad if he lived here.”
“She could come, too?” He asked, always with an answer… ever a lawyer’s child.
“But we don’t have enough beds…” I shrugged.
“Oh.” He looked around and nodded. “You’re right! Oh well.”
And for that one moment he was satisfied. For that moment he was okay with how things were or are or will be for our family of two.
Maybe, just maybe… for a moment, so was I.
Posted on | May 3, 2013 | 4 Comments
Last night I had a babysitter so I could go out to dinner with a friend. When I got home at 8:40, J was nearly but not-quite asleep and he bounded awake like he hadn’t seen me in days instead of hours. It took more than an hour for him to wind down and more than that for ME to wind down. I was finally asleep around midnight, only to be jolted awake at 1:45 by my youngest dog whimpering. Because AJ, my 15 year old “puppy” hasn’t been doing all that well, my first thought was that something had happened. So I rushed out of bed and ran slap into AJ, who was completely fine and utterly confused that I was out of bed. Turned out, Riley just wanted out of her kennel.
I let her outside, only to face an hour of barking to be let back in. I think I got about four hours of sleep spread out over the night, thanks to her.
At 7:00 this morning, J woke me up with a “GOOD MORNING” that quickly devolved into tears because (inexplicably) I would not allow him to eat a cupcake for breakfast. The tears melted into a full body scream fest with flailing because he needed a shower. I had to carry my 45 pound son into the shower and deal with his “SOMEONE IS KILLING A LOUD CAT” screams while I washed his hair and body. Honestly, you would have thought I was washing him with acid.
When he finally got clean, he refused to get dressed. Then he refused to walk. Then he just flat out refused everything.
By that time it was after 8 and I was at my wits end. We were arguing (yes, I argue with my 3 year old) over fastening shoes on his feet and he was sobbing with his whole body that he didn’t want to go to school and suddenly it dawned on me that I was hungry and tired and frustrated. And that’s an epically horrible combination for me. As I looked down at my tear-streaked little boy, I realized he might just feel the same.
So I quit arguing. I packed away my “IF I REACH ONE ON THIS COUNT DOWN YOU WILL NOT GET TO … (insert threat).” I set aside my inner perfectionist and tucked away my clients for the day. Then I sank down on the sofa next to the bundle of anger and leaned my head across the space between us, for just a moment, touching my forehead to his. He started to scream again, and I kissed his forehead.
“Let’s go get bagels,” I smiled.
And, wonder of wonders, he smiled back.
So we went for breakfast, the monster and I, and we giggled like the morning had never even happened.
Some days, you just have to admit defeat. Some days you have to realize that your kid needs you, needs your time, needs down time. And if you’re lucky enough to have a semi-flexible schedule, you can do what I did: throw up your hands, throw out the idea of getting to work on time, and just go eat bagels with your kid. He was gone last weekend to see his grandparents, he spent last night with a sitter… he maybe just missed, well, me. So this morning, he got a little extra me…. and that’s what we both needed.
Happy Friday, guys, from the lawyer with her kid tucked in the back corner of her office watching Imagination Movers…keep looking »