My Dad was the one with all of the answers. And sometimes, still is. Not much of a talker, or one who voluntarily shares his opinion. He’s quietly fascinating. Genes are so incredible. For while my son shares his face, my daughter shares his love of birds and butterflies. And everything that grows and makes this world beautiful.
When Mom went to work at night on weekends, Dad was there. He replicated the Egg McMuffin and made the fudgiest brownies you could imagine. He built the treehouse in the backyard and showed me how butterflies hatched from cocoons.
My husband had big shoes to fill. And while he’s so very different from my Dad in so many ways, they are alike in their amazing ability to step in and not only be Daddy, but Mommy, when she’s not around or not available.
For the first four months of my daughter’s life, she would only sleep on my husband’s chest. She was a colicky baby and soothed by his warmth and strong arms. Hours spent rocking her to sleep often didn’t compare to the comfort she felt curled up in his protection. They still share an incredible and undeniable bond, along with a love of all things anime.
Time is always at a premium in our house. Support is not. While I sneak off to some corner of the house to pen a particularly difficult post. or fly to the other end of the country, he is there, being every bit the parent that I am. Arranging for play dates, making dinner, goodnight hugs and kisses, and stories by night light.
If there’s any question as to what kind of a job he’s doing, ask my son what he wants to be when he grows up. His answer: “A daddy.”
A few months ago, I left my house in such a hurry, I forgot to say goodbye to my youngest. He was upstairs getting dressed, and I was doing my usual manic Monday routine. It hit me on my way into the office. I pictured him at his tiny table in Kindergarten class, tearful, sullen, declining his tiny chocolate milk carton . Perhaps the teacher would ask “What’s wrong, sweetie?” And he would recount the morning when I had failed as a mother by neglecting our good-byes. Boy, did I beat myself up…all…day…long.
I called my mother, who often serves as a confessional, and admitted my misdeed. “He’ll live,” she stated dismissively. You know what? She was right. I came home that evening, and he bounded down the stairs and wrapped his arms around me, like every other day.
Today’s mom obsesses over perfection. Over doing everything and being everything. I often fall into this trap. I cannot bake very well, and I am not great at crafts. When it comes to sports…also, not so good. Sometimes I let a curse slip. Sometimes I forget to sign a paper. And I’m not checking every piece of homework that leaves the house. After much research and debate, I believe this all to be normal. We are all imperfectly perfect.
Let’s do an exercise. Instead of focusing on all of the things you neglect to do, or “weaknesses,” think of all of the gifts you bring to your children. You know, the things that make you Mom and not an automaton. I am a killer library partner and skilled bedtime story reader. No matter what your interests are I can scope you out the best of the bunch. Got a report? Editor-in-chief, here. Let’s talk about your syntax. I am a great nighttime cuddler, and I’ll watch movies with you all rainy day long. I have a limitless imagination, and I come up with all types of “Let’s pretend” games.
The next time you’re beating yourself up over some minor misdeed, or how you feel you are less than perfect, think about all of the intangible gifts you provide to your kids. Stumped? Ask your kids. I bet they know.
“I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and then I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in.” Virginia Woolf
Some ten years after moving into our home, we finished the last room. I thought it would be the most delightful little cave to write in. It’s on the third level of the house, three tiny steps up from the rest of the bedrooms on the floor below. We put in a soft little sofa, some cozy throw pillows. At about nine in the morning, the sunlight peaks though its petite windows. The faint, staccato peeps from a robin’s nest in a nearby oak pierce the gentle breeze through billowing curtains. I never actually realized how perfect it would be until it was complete. And then I sat down to write and I felt, well, isolated. And really, that was the point, except that’s not how I write.
I write on the kitchen table, near a bubbling pot of pasta water. Beside two dogs begging for treats, or fighting over a toy. I write in the din of post-school chaos. Homework pages flying here and there. Near playdates chasing cops and zombies. And a husband who is telling me about his day, and asking about mine. I write in the buzz of love and life.
So, say hello to my little friend. My writing companion, who follows me from room to room. To record a passing thought. All while allowing me to be in the company of my muses, my family.
My childhood contains at least half a dozen vague memories of a bleeding child being ushered to our bathroom. The other mothers on the block would consult her for a feverish child, a rash. The first opinion before heading off to the emergency room for stitches. Or home for an icy compress. My mother, the nurse.
While I slept, my mother headed off to the local emergency room to start her “day.” It was unusual at that time to have a married, working mother. I never thought about the lives she touched while we slumbered. She remained fascinated in her field, as evidenced by sometimes off-kilter dinner conversations or the slightly grotesque nursing magazines that came in the mail.
My teenage self squinted into my reflection in the bathroom mirror. I had my mother’s green eyes, but nothing much more. She was petite and curvy, I was long and skinny. Where had she left her mark? So many were the spitting image of their mothers. It was obvious was not going to follow in her footsteps. I became woozy at the sight of blood.
Not the type to preach, but more likely to discuss. I only learned the answers when I became a mother myself. What impressed upon me in my youth never had to be said.
She had (and still has) friends. Some of them from childhood. While we played corner store or house or Monopoly, she chatted with friends. They met for coffee or came over for barbeques. We went camping with them and their children. When she lost a son not yet 25 years old, friends came to the house in droves to comfort her, some with words and some with only a hand held. She could have become bitter, turned inward and died inside. She chose to live.
What my mother instilled inside me is a life of balance. Of time spend with friends. And with family. With meals together. The courage to dream and to be. The notion that one can live through anything. And she never had to say a word.