An unexpected summer shower in the evening. I just happen to look up from my computer screen, that powerful vortex that sucks away my time and sensory experiences. I look out the window, and there it is! I breathe deeply, thinking, “I could have missed it altogether!” I decide to close the computer, fix myself a glass of hot tea, and read a chapter of a wonderful memoir in the comfy chair by the bay window. In Anna Quindlen’s latest book, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake , she looks back on her 60 years, many of it spent parenting 3 children. I benefit from her retrospective wisdom as a mom. I love her honest, funny writing style and learn a lot from it. I am also inspired to keep doing what I’m doing with this blog as a way to help women like me not feel so alone in the struggle and emotional roller-coaster of it all!
Speaking of emotional roller-coasters, this particular chapter is called “Mortality”. Sounds depressing, but in the end, “mortality” is what makes me want to be a good parent NOW, today, this minute. What I know for sure…If you take the time and are brave enough to consider it, mortality can be a great motivator: for doing what you really want to do in life, for reaching for that dream, for keeping a healthy perspective on “the small stuff”, for remembering what really matters. Mortality, the fact that I won’t be here forever, is what makes me want to be with my kids, want to bottle up their giggles and breathe in their smells NOW, today, this minute! Want to wrap my arms around their little bodies, and whisper loving Mommy-messages….”You are my beloved child with whom I am well-pleased!”…”I love you to the moon and back!”…”I’m the luckiest Mommy in the world! Thank you for being my little sunshine boy.”….”I think you’re such a special child of God, and I’m so glad you are my daughter!“…But my kids are at their grandparents.
My kids are at their grandparents, and that is the only reason why I even have these quiet minutes to read and reflect. If they were here and we were going about our normal business of the bed-time routine, chances are that I would not be having these lovey-dovey thoughts for them! I might even be having thoughts similar to the ones I was having just this morning when we were running late for dinosaur camp (aka. Mommy’s “coffee and computer camp”), when I had discovered a stopped-up kitchen sink and broken disposal, and was dealing with two grumpy uncooperative children who had been up too late the night before. Thoughts like, “That little jerk is driving me crazy!” and “Just choose some ****in socks already!”
I realize the gift of this time I have, and I know many of you envy me it. That is fair – it is enviable. Thanks to my parents, I have had it all along my parenting journey, and not only is it what has kept me (mostly) sane, it is what has kept me “in love” with my children. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and from the very beginning, I have been intentional – because of mortality – about reflecting on my parenting and my children during these short absences. Much of this reflection has become this blog. I believe that thinking fondly of our children helps to strengthen our relationships with them. I have been intentional about reflecting on the little “good things”, the precious transient moments that I don’t wish to lose to time and tasks and lists. So I’ve journaled, recorded the memories for myself and posterity, and now you, in the hopes that someday I can share them with my children, and re-live them myself. And I’ve discovered a gift for myself through this ritual: it helps me to re-focus on what is important in life – on relationships, connection, laughter, love, and TIME shared. It helps me to re-focus on the goodness in each of my children instead of our current battles, struggles, and frustrations. I wish this kind of time for every parent who wants to be a “Parent with Purpose”. I wish you the time and space to reflect. You need it to find and connect with your own purpose, every now and then.
Mortality – I actually felt its looming shadow earlier today as I rocked Ellie, age 3, before naptime in our rocking chair. I told her about how I used to rock her like that when she was a little baby, but now she’s a big girl. She said that she would rock me someday when I was little. Then I watched her face change as she considered this impossibility, and said, “Mommy, you already were little.” “Yes,” I agreed, “and I am too big for you to rock now.” But I told her that someday she could rock her own baby if she wanted to be a Mommy. She looked at me as if I’d suggested that she might someday be a toad. She looked concerned, and then I knew why the thought made her uncomfortable. It was “mortality” – well, the growing up part of mortality – the change, the passage of time, the strangeness of “someday”. I acknowledged, “You like being my little girl!” She nodded, and I told her I liked her being my little girl, too!
But for now, Time, slow down, and let me savor these gifts…these moments with my children. For too soon, they will be gone:
- playing footsies under covers and piggy-back rides to bed
- underwater kisses and lots of ”one more hug and kiss” at separation
- “Good nightie-noodles”, morning snuggles and smiles
- watching my little ones hold hands at the pool – what a pair! Big Brother as Ellie’s safety net in a new situation.
- Hearing their little voices sing lullabies to each other, witnessing their deep love and affection for each other, thankful they will have this bond beyond my existence.
Life, World, step aside, and let me linger in these moments… these precious memories made, the little “good things” of my day:
- these love notes scribbled and finger prints framed
- these bandaids on boo-boos and “make it better” kisses
- these afternoon story-times with little heads resting on my bossom
- this rough and tumble play on dirty carpet
- these made-up songs and silly rhymes
- that precious naked Ellie belly, protruding out and leading her way, messy hair, Nutella face, chipped tooth, more beautiful in her fullness of spirit than I could have imagined: “I’ll eat you up I love you so!”
- watching the beautiful face of my son as he naps next to me breathing quietly – his gorgeous long lashes and little blonde head – that busy brain finally taking a rest – what could he be dreaming of? Dinosaurs? Some new invention or entrepreneurial enterprise? or maybe even me…
- and, the fact that I am their whole world – NOW, today, this minute…it won’t last much longer, and I don’t want to miss it!
Back in the rocking chair, I think of The Ruanaway Bunny (a favorite book that my mom used to read to me in that same chair, and I have read to my children). The bunny, wishing to grow up quickly and gain independence tells Mother Rabbit that he’s going to run away. With steadfast love and reassurance, she replies, “If you run away, I will run after you, for you are my little bunny.” Would that I could become the wind, the gardener, the tree, the rock climber like Mother Rabbit, always there to protect and retrieve my child, bringing her safely back to me. I can not, but she doesn’t know that yet. So I tell her, “Aw, shucks. You might as well stay here and be my little bunny. Here, have a carrot!” And I tuck her into bed.