A moment of truth.

Yesterday, I watched a TED talk by writer Anne Lamott, in which she offers twelve life truths.

“Number one:” she says, “the first and truest thing is that all truth is a paradox. Life is….filled simultaneously with heartbreaking sweetness and beauty, desperate poverty, floods and babies and acne and Mozart, all swirled together.”

I’m immensely grateful that life in our family’s little bubble has been, for the most part, very good. Like most parents, I want my kids to be healthy and happy and kind. I want them to know love and trust and selflessness and second chances. I don’t want them to be hurt and I don’t want them to hurt anyone else.

All this talk of rainbows and unicorns is lovely, but, as we adults know, not terribly realistic.

My kids are growing up. They’re becoming more aware of the complexities and contradictions of circumstances and emotions. More aware that there’s a big, messy, beautiful, dangerous, exhilarating world beyond what they already know.

Despite my romantic desire to preserve their innocence, I know I won’t be able to protect my kids during their journey on a path strewn not only with joy and wonder but also with deep disappointment, pain, and loss.

It’s not my job to do that, though. As terrifying as it may be, it’s my job to ready them for that path, it’s my job to walk beside them as they navigate it. Until it’s time to pull back to the sidelines, that is. You can’t run alongside your grown children with sunscreen and ChapStick on their hero’s journey,” Lamott says, You have to release them. It’s disrespectful not to.”

In the warmth of yesterday evening, I strolled alone through the park. I followed the path beside the creek and made photos along the way.

Okay, so life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns, kids. But sometimes, evidently, it is.

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Raring to go.

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When you’re ready to venture out – near or far – on your own:

  • May you proceed with caution (this is your mother talking, after all).
  • May you find the courage to wander roads rocky and unknown.
  • May you relish the journey as well as the destination.
  • May you realize the value of experiences over things.
  • May you travel using all of your senses, an open mind, and your whole heart.
  • May you remember to call your parents once in a while.
  • May you always know your way home again.

 

For more interpretations of the WordPress weekly photo theme of Wanderlust, click here.

You never know what to egg-spect.

With all the excitement about eggs this weekend – both the hard-boiled and chocolate variety – I thought about a connection to this week’s WordPress photo challenge of Surprise.

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While colouring our Easter eggs today (a family experiment involving melted crayon shavings, stained placemats, and parchment paper accidentally set aflame…and which resulted in eggs that looked a bit like someone either threw up or bled on them), conversation drifted to the question of why eggs are symbols of Easter and of spring.

We talked a bit about the purpose of an egg, and the ideas of birth and renewal. All the egg/life/birth talk was enough to trigger memories of my own experiences – both physical and emotional – acting as the ‘egg’: carrying my kids during my pregnancies (which were, for me, mostly easy) and the ‘hatching’ events, so to speak (which were, for me, mostly not easy).

When a woman is ‘expecting,’ not much is certain. Sure, we’re expecting the arrival of a human, as opposed to a toad or a tomato, and science has given us the option of learning the baby’s sex, and sometimes the knowledge of the presence of certain medical issues. But beyond that, who this tiny person will become is a combination of factors including circumstances, choices, and the good old DNA lottery. We have only limited control of where this story is headed. We don’t really know what we’re in for, do we?

As they stood there at the kitchen table sharpening crayons and dipping eggs into cups of dye, I looked at these two similar but unique human beings that had exited my body not that long ago. And I experienced a flash of wonder that this is where we’ve ended up. It was complicated – a feeling of intense gratitude that we were all standing in the same room, safe and healthy and loved. A conflicted sense of both longing and relief for the days and years behind us, and of curiousity and hope for the days and years ahead of us. But it was also a feeling of acute irritation because they kept spilling crayon shavings all over the floor.

Then that moment was gone, and we were on to the next. And the next, and the next. Later moments included an attack of the giggles while I tried to make proper photos of our basket of splotchy Easter eggs.

Welcome, spring. We’ll try to be ready for what comes next, but in the meantime, we’ll try to pay better attention to what is now.

Twinkle, twinkle.

To my kiddos:

There aren’t enough stars for all the wishes I’d make for you.

But if I were to create a post for the WordPress weekly photo challenge of Wish, this is where I might start.

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I wish you won’t ever feel the need to spend too much time inspecting yourself in the mirror.

But when you do examine your reflection:

  • I wish you’ll remember that you were born with DNA instructions that dictate what you can see: the shade of your skin, the shape of your nose, the length of your eyelashes. These features were assigned without any input or effort from you. They are part of you. They may be the first things people notice about you. They may be admired or they may be criticized. But these, alone, don’t define you, and they don’t define beauty, no matter what you hear in the schoolyard or read on the internet. These are just the tip of your iceberg.
  • I wish you’ll look deeper into yourself to see these, as well: kindness, grace, and humour. Courage and perseverance. Resilience and curiosity. The capacity to love and to be loved. The willingness to help and to stand up for others. These, I believe, make you beautiful. Maybe you were born with some of these qualities. Maybe you were taught. Some of them are strong, while some need growth. In any case, your attitude and actions have influence in these matters. These are your superpowers. Use them for good.
  • I wish, in the healthiest way possible, that you’ll also acknowledge the darker parts of yourself, like anger, greed, and fear. Apathy and doubt. They exist not only in you but in every single one of us. I wish you strength and support to cope with these, to accept them when appropriate and to rectify them when necessary. Do so to keep them in check, as they make very unpleasant superpowers.
  • I wish you’ll read and enjoy this quote, because it’s so much better than anything I could have written:

“Take everything that’s bright and beautiful in you and introduce it to the shadow side of yourself. Let your altruism meet your egotism, let your generosity meet your greed, let your joy meet your grief. Everyone has a shadow… But when you are able to say, “I am all of the above, my shadow as well as my light,” the shadow’s power is put in service of the good. Wholeness is the goal, but wholeness does not mean perfection, it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of your life.”

~ Parker Palmer (click here for more of this wonderful piece)

  • I wish that you’ll always look at yourself with equal amounts of honesty, courage, appreciation, and tenderness.
  • I wish, then, that when you turn away from the mirror and face the world around you, you’ll appreciate the duality existing in everyone, in everything. Light/dark. Joy/pain. Strength/vulnerability. Nourish your empathy, because everyone has a story. In a way, we’re all balancing acts. Grief and regret are inevitable, but it’s still possible to cultivate joy and wonder.

For starters, just look up at the stars.

With all my love,

Mom

My space.

Dear, sweet children:

I adore you with all my heart, but please, please, please: I prefer to go to the bathroom all by myself. Now that you’re a little older, no longer is it required that you accompany me out of safety, and accompanying me because you’re bored is just not a good enough reason, in my opinion.

At times you’ve observed that I spend “a long time” in there. This may or may not be due to the fact that I’m hiding from you.

Please understand that your mother is an introvert, and as such, enjoys and requires a certain amount of space and absence of noise in order to function properly. Failure in this regard will almost certainly result in the loss of my marbles.

I assure you that while I often need a few moments of solitude, you remain, forever and always, my truest loves.

Even if I lock you out of the bathroom while I’m in there, doing nothing but staring off into space, with my hands over my ears.

Affectionately yours,

Mom

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(Inspired by the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitude)

A.K.A.

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For the past decade or so, I’ve been known by another name.

Mom.

At our house, this name has been whispered softly and yelled in frustration. It’s been called out at 3 a.m. when there’s been a nightmare, mumbled through tears when there’s been a boo-boo, and shouted in excitement when I’ve returned home from being away.

Sometimes I’ll be downstairs, busy with something, and I’ll hear this name hollered from the second floor. If I take too long (i.e., more than a millisecond) to answer, I’ll be called again. Again. And again. With barely a breath in between.

If I’m sure that no one is seriously hurt and the house isn’t on fire, I’ll pretend that I can’t hear, because I prefer to be spoken to instead of hollered at. Then I’ll remember (too late) that a. I can hear; and b. the sound of “Mom” 100 times in a row is likely a proven cause of insanity. (Later, I’ll learn that the urgency was something like this: “I can’t find my green marker.”)

I’ve learned to recognize different tones. Certain situations, for example, call for “Mom” to be extended into a two-syllable word. A meek “Maw-awm?”means the children are about to ask for something like a treat or extra screen-time. “Maw-awm?” also comes in a more assertive and inquisitive version when they’re looking for information, like the meaning of a word.

And there’s the exasperated “Maw-awm!” (accompanied by an eye-roll) when I’ve provided a directive that is, apparently, just ridiculous – like this one: “It’s -15 degrees out, please wear your hat.”

Okay, so “Mom” isn’t always music to my ears. But when it is… it really is.

There are mornings I gently wake my kids in their beds, when they’re relaxed and unself-conscious, their eyes still closed because they’re only halfway out of dreamland. They raise their arms for a hug, and their skin is warm and their hair smells like lavender shampoo, and their breath is sour but it doesn’t matter, because in their sleepiness they greet me by murmuring the sweetest variation of my other name: “Mama.”

I make an effort – when life is busy and stressful, I don’t always succeed – to hold on to these moments. Tightly. Even if we’ve slept in and we’re running late, even (especially) if we had a fight the day before about chores, or behaviour, or winter hats.

I want to etch these moments into my brain, into my heart; preserve them so I can call them forth for comfort later, during my inevitable moments of doubt and anxiety. Savour them down the road, when my nest is empty and there are no longer any mornings quite like these.

Mother is more than a name. It’s a noun, an adjective, and a verb. It’s a role, a responsibility, a relationship. It’s a way of being, an identity.

I’ve learned that Mom is a pretty powerful word, even if it’s uttered only once.

 

(Inspired by the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Names)

Almost a decade in the making.

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To my child:

I was invited to share a photo that relaxes me.

I could’ve posted a photo of a babbling brook or a scorching sunset. A glass of red wine, a cup of steaming coffee, or a warm chocolate chip cookie. It would have been true to the theme if I’d posted a photo of a hot bubble bath or a hammock on the beach.

But instead I chose this photo I made of you tonight.

In it, you’re reading. Quietly. Independently. By choice. For pleasure.

You’re growing up, kiddo.

Let’s be bookworms together.

Love,

Mom.

 

Inspired by the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Relax