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Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

I was standing at the sink, washing the last of the dinner dishes when I heard her at the top of the stairs.

It was a hiccup and then a sob, and then another one.

“What’s wrong?” I called out.

No answer.

I put down the dishcloth and headed up the stairs.

She was standing inside her bedroom door.  The room was dark but I could see her, head bent, tears running down her cheeks.

“Sweetie, what’s wrong?”

She was fine 15 minutes ago.  She was sitting downstairs watching a movie.  Watching a great movie actually – watching my all-time favourite movie for the first time.

Anne of Green Gables.

“He died Mommy.” She said, her voice breaking as she reached out to hug me tightly.

Oh.

Now I understand.

“Matthew?” I asked.

“Yes Mommy, he died!”

There are times when I often wonder if my daughter and I are even remotely, even distantly, related, so different are we in appearance and almost all other things.

But there, standing in her room as she cried for the first time at a scene in a movie – my movie – that made her cry the exact same way I did, and have each and every time I’ve seen the movie since, I saw myself in her, and vice versa.

In that moment I realized maybe her and I are kindred spirits after all.

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It was your birthday yesterday.

When you woke up in the morning (to the loving sound of your sister singing ‘Happy Birthday’ at the top of her lungs from the bottom of the stairs) you were still seven, but a couple of hours later you officially turned eight.

Your teacher emailed me to say the class sang ‎to you at exactly 9:11am (the time you were born) and I knew you would get a kick out of that. For all of your easy-going ways, you still appreciate the clarity that comes from precision.

I got to drop you at school, something that almost never happens. You took my hand as we walked down the stairs at the back of the school yard and chatted away about something I no longer remember. Truth be told I wasn’t listening very closely; I was too busy looking at you and wondering how it’s possible for eight years to seemingly pass in the blink of an eye.

As we neared the corner where we would turn into your play yard you slipped your hand out from mine and started to run ahead, eager to see your friends, your baseball glove and tennis ball at the ready.

A glimpse.

I wonder how much longer you will let me hold your hand ‘in public.’

I wonder how much longer you will let me kiss your cheek and smooth your hair and cheer (embarrassingly) loudly for you from the stands of a hockey arena or baseball diamond.

Your older sister has taught me that these things are fleeting, only lasting a definite period of time, based on a timeline that I can neither predict nor change.

One day you will do what you have always done, and the next day you will not. You won’t even realize the change, but I will. A line will be drawn in the sand between then and now and I won’t fully realize how much I miss ‘then’ until I can no longer go back.

We went out for dinner last night and you brought along two friends from your hockey team. The three of you sat across the table from me, still young enough to have little plastic lids on your drinks but old enough to order for yourselves and go to the washroom together chuckling the whole time about a joke I probably wouldn’t understand.

You chatted with your aunt on the phone, at one point telling her you were out for dinner and “had two buddies” with you.

Buddies.

Not friends, but buddies.

For some reason the way you said it gave me pause.

You now have buddies.

All of a sudden I could see you at 16, you and your ‘buddies’ coming through my front door, in the house only long enough to empty my fridge and grab some sporting equipment from the garage before jumping in the back of someone’s car and being off again. I can almost feel the words ‘drive safely’ and ‘wear your seatbelts’ caught in my throat.

‎I try to reassure myself that there is time, so much time between now and then, years and years to get used to a new normal.

And then I realize how quickly the last eight years have gone and say a silent prayer that the next eight pass just a little slower.

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‎”Don’t!”

“I didn’t do ANYTHING!”

“Mom, he made a face at me!”

“I did not!!”

Guys, can you just ignore each other, please?? Just look out the window or something. We’ll be home in 10 minutes.

Thirty blissful seconds of silence.

“Let’s play a game”

This could either be a blessing or a curse.

“The first one to see a truck, yell truck!”

“TRUCK!”

“TRUCK!!!”

“I was first!”

“NOOOOO! I was first!! You cheated!!”

A curse. Definitely a curse.

“Mommmmm, she cheated!!”

I’m not sure how a person could cheat at a game that involves seeing a truck and yelling.

Leave it to my kids to find a way.

It’s in moments like this that I can’t believe there was a time when I wished for them to talk. A time when I wished for them to be old enough to have a conversation and interact with each other. A time when I was excited for them to act like brother and sister.

“Mom!!! She’s pointing at me!!! Make her stop!!”

‎Close eyes.

Bang head slowly against steering wheel.

Repeat. ‎ ‎

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‎I’ve been that lady.

That lady who bribes her kids with junk food.

That lady who “shushes” them when they ask questions.

The lady who lies and says “yes” when they ask “Mama, did you see that” because I actually didn’t see it because I was playing Candy Crush on the ipad.

The lady who cuts someone off in traffic and pretends it was an accident.

The lady who eats popcorn for dinner more than I’d like to admit.

The lady who pretends to be in the shower when relatives call.

The lady who wears clothes to the grocery store that toe the line between lounge wear and pajamas.

The lady who puts the kids to bed early if there’s ‎something on TV I want to watch.

The lady who looks at all I have and still wonders what might have been.

The lady ‎who used to see the things that other people did and though to myself “I’ll never be that lady.”

Until I realized I already am.

So now I don’t judge that lady, because I am that lady and she is me.

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‎You and I, we seem to be in an almost constant cycle of renegotiation.

I tell myself that we’re just figuring things out, that as you grow and want more independence it’s only natural that I’m going to struggle to know how much to let go and how much to hold on. ‎ We’re just working out the new rules and responsibilities within our relationship.

It sounds much better than the reality which is that we can’t seem to see eye to eye on anything these days.

If I’m being honest, I don’t think I’m doing a very good job at this. I’m trying to do the best I can but I’ve never been a mother to a ten year old before and if there’s a manual out there, I can’t seem to find it. I fear you are paying the price for my inexperience. While I realize that your brother is a whole different species (pretty much) I feel like at least he will benefit from me having been through it once before it’s his turn. You would probably point this out as yet another example of the unfairness of your world as the older child.

When I was your age (cue eye rolling now), I kept a journal. I thought it was a very grown up thing to do and that was pretty much my goal for everything, to be a grown up. One of the other reasons for my journal-keeping was that I promised myself I would always remember what it was like to be a kid so that when I (finally) became an adult I would be understanding to what kids go through.

It was a nice idea.

Of course the concept that I couldn’t really grasp at the time was being a mother. If I’m being honest I can barely grasp the concept right now. Sure I can remember that when I was 10 I wanted independence and for my parents to trust me and to stop bothering me to do this and that and the other thing. But now I’m on the other side of the fence and I know why parents say no and not yet and because and because I said so. I remember what it was like to be you, but I haven’t yet figured out how to be me, mothering you.

In reality, you and I have been in negotiations since shortly after you were born. First it was figuring out the eating thing and then the sleeping thing and then the not jumping down the stairs and the graspingof the concept of no and on and on it went. Our relationship seems to be a series of very short term contracts in which as soon as we finally figure out the terms and learn to live by them, we end up back at the bargaining table.

Your brother is very different in that respect. ‎Whereas you and I are a work-in-progress, he seems to have arrived with a long-term contract already in place. There is very little discussion of terms or roles or clauses. I’m sure the time will come but for now I’m glad I can focus my energy on you and I.

I feel the pressure to get this right; the fear of not screwing this up hangs over my head and keeps me up at night. I fear that one wrong word, one wrong look, and you will turn away and not turn back. And yet, in the heat of the moment, all I can seem to say are the wrong things. It’s only after that I find the words that would have been so much better.

I only hope you know how much I’m trying. I hope you can ‎see how much I want to give you what you need while still keeping what I can’t give up. I can’t let go, I don’t think I will ever be able to, but I will try to loosen, to lessen, to listen.

This mother-daughter thing is tricky. If I take a minute to look at it from a different perspective I’m probably still renegotiating my relationship with my own mother, and her with her mother, and on and on we go.
And maybe it’s because it matters so much, and we so much want it to be perfect, that we end up tweaking and twisting and bumping up against each other so much.

But I can’t promise that it will ever be perfect, all I can promise is that day after day I will get up and meet you at the table, ready to take on whatever is coming next because the stakes are so high and there’s no giving in, no giving up.

You’re just too important.

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‎I just finished a book and when I turned the last page I sighed a sigh of disappointment, as I often do. I wish I was disappointed because the book was so good and I didn’t want it to end but sadly that was not the case.

I like to think I read a wide range of books but if I being honest to both myself and the more book-knowledgeable people in my life, I tend to gravitate to a certain type of book. I like books about people, people with lives just dissimilar enough to my own so that I can feel like I’m experiencing new things, but not so dissimilar that I can’t find a piece to relate to. I like story lines that make sense and are at least somewhat based on reality; I can imagine certain things, but my logical Virgo brain can only be expected to bend so far. And, I like a little love. Not Harlequin love or Danielle Steel love or Fifty Shades love, but a little romance, a few wistful glances across the room and a little work along the road to the happily ever after.

‎But more and more I find myself dissatisfied with the endings, happy or not. I get to the last page and I feel cheated, short-changed, bamboozled. I find myself asking, what now, what next, what happens after?

And I’m slowly beginning to realize that maybe I feel that way because that’s where I am now, in my own life. I’m in the ‘after’ and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do next.

What happens after you find the guy and fall in love and buy a ring and buy a dress and get a house and pee on a stick and bring home a baby and ‎fantasize about a full nights’ sleep and clean up spit and clean up toys and pee on another stick and bring home another baby and get a bigger house and send one off to school (finally) and breath a small sigh of relief and clean up more spit and more toys and then send the other one off to school (finally) and then sit down and look around and realize you’re now in the part no one talks about?

They have books about what to expect up to a certain point, but not for the ‘now’ that I now live in. Where’s the ‘what to expect when your kids are pre-teen and spend most of their day rolling their eyes at you’ and ‘what to expect when you’re neither a miss or a ma’am’ or ‘what to expect when you have 30 more years until retirement.’

I get that, in theory, the answer is that I can do whatever I want, that the book doesn’t end on the last page it’s just up to me to figure out what to write but I’m tired and lacking in imagination. I feel like there is a plan for the first part, and a plan for the last part but the middle is just a vast, open space for me to wander through aimlessly, putting in time.

I blame myself completely because I know I’m the one who put myself here. I know it’s my own fault for planning only far enough to get me through to here and not having the forethought to extend the plan further, but it pointing the finger isn’t helping me find an answer.

I just feel like I’m now too tired to plan any more; that the very act of getting to this point has taken all of the imagination and initiative I could muster and that now it’s about maintenance. Just stay the path, don’t rock the boat, bounce from minor crisis to minor crisis and keep your head above the water.

And I feel like no one else is having this issue. I feel like we’re getting better at talking truthfully about the difficulties of motherhood and how our lives change when kids arrive, but now I want to have a conversation about what happens when it gets a little bit less difficult and how our lives can change now that the kids have been here for a while, but I can’t find anyone having that discussion. It’s like the early days of motherhood when I felt I was the only one. I eventually realized I wasn’t and I hoping that’s the case again. As Dear Sugar would put it (much more eloquently than I), I am once again looking for my tribe.

‎I’m ready for the parent-tot groups that focus less on the tots and more on the parents. I’m ready to sit down and read a story that doesn’t end with happily ever after but digs deeper, goes further, looks harder. ‎I’m ready for someone to take my hand and help me find what comes next, and to show me the way to what happens after.

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‎The place is so quiet that I can hear the clock ticking. The clock has been in the wall the whole time we’ve been here but with four kids running around it’s usually much too chaotic and loud to hear the tiny sound of a ticking clock.

But the kids are out for now, up at the pool with the dads and so the house is quiet and I can hear the clock ticking. I went to the pool yesterday and the day before but today is overcast and cool and I barely get into a bathing suit when the weather is scorching, let alone when the sun is hiding and my body is covered in goose bumps.

My friend is asleep on the couch. She will wake up in a few minutes and claim she was not sleeping and, in fact, was only resting her eyes but I know the truth. ‎Her kids are younger than mine and so she is still in the stage when days start early and nights are never uninterrupted. She deserves to grab sleep, any sleep, wherever she can find it. I, on the other hand, feel somewhat guily napping when I had a full nights’ sleep last night (and the night before and the night before). I know she looks at me and wonders of she will ever get here, to the other side, where I now am. I remember being her and hating people who told me this phase will end, so I say nothing and just sneak quietly from the room so she can rest her eyes for a bit longer.

‎I should probably fold something or pack something or tidy something but I tell myself I’m on vacation so I don’t have to. Chores still exist on holidays, especially those with children, but I take the position that they become optional rather than mandatory. Whatever gets me through the day. We go home tomorrow so soon enough there will no longer be an option.

I sit here and look out the window, expecting to see the rag-tag bunch trudging down the hill from the swimming pool. They will be cold and tired, although they will admit neither. The quiet will be broken and there will be showers to run and soaking wet bathing suits to wring out and stories to listen to about who dove in and who swam the fastest and who stole the beach ball and wouldn’t give it back.

I will feel both happy and sad to see them. Happy for all of the reasons I’m supposed to but also sad because quiet time is done, and perhaps I’ve wasted it. Time alone is so precious that I feel I should have accomplished something amazing, although what that would look like I’m not sure. Instead they will return and all I will have done is pinned a new muffing recipe on Pinterest and written this post. Amazing? I fear I will once again have fallen short.

I look out the window again, and again no sign of them. It’s almost as though I don’t know what to do when I’m sitting here without them, without a constant list of things to do. Apparently I’ve lost the ability to be left to my own devices. When my kids are present I don’t know what to do with them, and yet when they are gone I don’t know what I’m supposed to do without them.

But soon enough they will be home and it will again be loud and chaotic and all of those other things that kids bring along with them wherever they go. And I will love them for it (at least a little bit) and I will fondly remember my time alone, when it was quiet enough to hear the sound of the clock ticking.

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