Her hands have always been a comfort to me.
They wiped away my salty tears,
picked me up when I was down,
and led me in the right direction.
Beautiful and giving. Firm and capable.
These are my mother's hands. ~
Posts tagged ‘parenting’
The year was 1972. I was a shy, awkward eighth-grader at Fridley Junior High in a working-class suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It all began innocently enough when my mother sewed maxi-skirts for my sisters and me one winter. Maxi-skirts were skirts that went all the way down to the floor and were high fashion in 1972; all the cool girls wore them.
Even though my mother warned me there would not be enough of the red fabric I picked out for my skirt, I insisted she use it anyway. The skirt turned out to be more of a red corduroy maxi-tube than the full, flowing maxi-skirt pictured on the front of the Simplicity pattern envelope.
Undeterred by the fact that my stride was roughly as long as that of a Geisha’s, I wore my maxi-skirt proudly to school that fateful day. I was shuffling down the hallway in a sea of my baby-boomer classmates, school books clutched to my chest when my friend Karen swept by me and gave me a slap-on-the-back greeting. That little push sent my torso flying forward at a velocity faster than my tightly bound legs could pedal. Factor in the weight of the books and my 80-pound frame and, well, you get the picture . . . an object in motion and all.
When I tell this story to my kids I insert a little lesson about the physics of this experience just to keep it educational. “Notice how ‘Turning Point’ becomes both a scientific statement as well as an understatement in this example,” I say.
My books flew ahead of me as I slid down the hallway on my belly. To the fast-moving current of students rushing up behind me, I was a rock in the rapids. They were stumbling and lurching trying to avoid stepping on me.
All the while, the tube-like geometry of my skirt and lack of traction supplied by my fashionable, but not-so-functional, ballet slippers made it physically impossible for me to stand up. I was flopping like a fish and polishing a nice, shiny clean spot on the dusty floor as my fellow classmates began parting behind me like the Red Sea, casting horrified backward-glances in my direction. My popularity, already weak and sickly, suffered its last agonizing death-throes right there in the hallway.
Enough humiliation you say? Oh, contraire my friends, this was just beginning. In the midst of my flailing efforts to stand in this sea of inhumanity, I felt two hands under my arms lifting me up from behind. Guess what? Yes, it was the guy I had a huge crush on. (My compliments to God and his impeccable comic timing.) He was a big, handsome, popular, red-headed football player who smelled like Brut cologne, or maybe it was HI KARATE. He was the lead actor in my romantic adolescent daydreams, all of them set to a score of David Cassidy ballads. (Heavy sigh.) What? I’ve already admitted I was not cool. Full disclosure.
After he placed me in an upright position, he steadied me for a moment to make sure I wouldn’t tip over again. He then handed me my books, gave me a quick nod with only the tiniest smirk passing over his dreamy lips before he quickly moved on. I scurried, face flushed red as my skirt, into the nearest girls’ restroom and tried to figure out a way to flush myself down the toilet.
Little did I know when I was experiencing my most humiliating middle school moment back in 1972, this story would become a favorite of my middle school daughter all these years later. She loves to laugh with me every single time I tell it, which she requests I do often. I like to think I am teaching her that seeing the humor in humiliation is all about not taking yourself too seriously, or some other equally noble life lesson. More likely she just loves a good laugh at my expense.
The moral of this story, you ask? I have no idea, but my daughter seems to find comfort in it during her own awkward middle school years, and that’s enough for me. Fortunately for her, I’ve got plenty more stories I’m saving for her high school years!
There is so much divinity in the everyday.
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I was half-heartedly playing “restaurant” with my six-year-old daughter Harper one day. I was there with her, but I was completely disengaged from her and the game. I distractedly placed my order and she busily chatted up other imaginary customers. I was definitely just doing hard ‘mommy’ time, having logged countless hours playing make-believe games not just with her, but with her four older siblings over the past twenty-plus years. I was feeling, on this particular day, more than just a little lost.
As I stared off into the distance, contemplating my existence and my meager contributions to building a better world (something I do much too often for my own good) she placed my meal in front of me and waited patiently for me to notice. When I looked down I saw the special of the day at Harper’s Café smiling back at me.
I looked up into her face. She was looking straight at me with a proud smile as big as the one on she had served up on my plate. That’s when I remembered. This happy, confident, compassionate child is no small contribution to a better world. So I enthusiastically ordered dessert and left her a big sloppy kiss for her tip as she laughed and wiggled in my arms.
This Mammaste moment is for all you mammas, grandmamas, aunties, or mentors to children everywhere, women and men alike.
There is so much divinity in the everyday.
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What I find most profound about the magic of Santa at Christmas is this act of giving anonymously as a true manifestation of Matthew 6:3, “. . .when you give . . . do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” To me, Santa embodies the practice of giving without thought or attachment to personal recognition for what you’ve given.
I would dream of a golden light flickering between my heart and the heart of a child. It was a faint light like the one you see along the bottom of a closed door while standing in a darkened room. I had a feeling that this child was looking for me as desperately as I was searching for her. A part of me knew that if I could just find the key and unlock the door we would be connected by that light.
I know that I am not perfect, and that I will often fall short of being the person I want to be. But I also know I will be forgiven, I will do better, and that I am working hard at it every day. Exactly the same lesson I hope I am teaching my children.
I am recycling this blog from just over one year ago, because rereading it now, it seemed so long ago that I was wondering what transformation this particular transition would lead to. But only 14 months later, I am the CEO of my own fledgling company, Mammaste! I guess I stretched myself enough to grab that next thread . . . and it was not easy, since I’m definitely not as flexible as I used to be!
“Transitions are hard.” my friend says to me as we watch the orange bus carrying my fifth and last child to school pull away from the curb. “They just are.” she declares, just in case I missed the sincerity of her point. These words are from my dear, no-nonsense friend. Her remarks are in response to the tears welling up in my eyes. She is not a cajoler or a hugger but she pats me on the shoulder, awkwardly, like one would a dog you don’t quite trust. I’m surprised by this physical gesture from her. The thought crosses my mind that I must look pretty pathetic for her to attempt a comforting touch, and this thought is enough to make me smile. I love her for that.
Transitions ARE hard–those times when we find ourselves un-moored and floating in that in-between sea of change. It happens to most of us in varying degrees at some point. It can happen as a result of divorce, the loss of a job, children growing up and moving out, or any event that causes us to reexamine ourselves and the direction of our lives. It’s been over thirteen years since I left my job to stay home and raise my children full-time. I appreciate the gift of being able to choose to stay home and I have (mostly) loved it. But what I am drifting away from has defined me for so long, I suddenly feel like a stranger to myself.
I’ve been thinking about how I became each new incarnation of myself through prior experiences of change and transition in my life. Each time there was a point when I took a deep breath and began to look for that next thread of opportunity to follow. What I learned is you don’t find that thread with your head down. It is always up there fluttering high above you, seemingly beyond your reach until you stretch and extend yourself just enough to grab it.
I am smiling now at the obvious sentimentality of that last statement and how it would make my pragmatic friend gag. Reason enough for me to leave it in here. She is as frugal with her words as she is with her money and she would probably say again, “Transitions are hard. They just are, damn it.” Enough said.
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Not long ago I asked Connie, the woman with whom I have been in a serious “play-date” relationship for a couple of years, if she had any regular play-dates yet for her three-year old son. Sighing, she said, “It’s really about seeing if you get along with the other mother, and seriously, I’m just tired of auditioning.”
With Connie I’ve scored that perfect hat-trick in the play-date game. Our daughters like each other, we live only houses apart and Connie and I are now good friends. This is only my second serious play-date relationship in the course of raising five children. My previous steady and I lasted almost 10 years until she and her husband divorced and he got custody of our family.
In my current relationship with Connie I have, as one does in long-term relationships, become complacent. I have not seriously pursued other play-dates for my very extroverted fifth child, Harper. Recently I discovered Harper with her kindergarten directory on her lap, serial calling every child in her class.
What she was doing, I realized, was the modern-day equivalent of running from house to house to scare up some activity. Something every kid in my neighborhood used to do growing up in 1960’s suburbia. It was an era where children navigated the social scene without parental buffers. Long summer days were spent getting a street-smart education on how to roll with the shifting alliances of elementary school-age politics.
The only consistent parental involvement happened around dusk. Moms (with a vague awareness of the whereabouts of their offspring throughout the day) would hang out front doors backlit by the flickering blue light of the television and call their kids home. Yodeling names–oldest to youngest, holding the vowels like opera singers, or, if there had been no response after the first call, a father’s booming bass that meant business. The most devastating call, however, was the two fingered whistle from the house of the Catholic family. Whole packs of siblings’ heads would suddenly tilt like prairie dogs and half your team would run home. Game over.
I realize I am romanticizing what might have been borderline neglect, but the swing to manic management of our children’s social calendars has me longing for that place where the pendulum swings to a comfortable center between the two.
Becoming a first-time mother to an older child, I know now, is not the same as adopting an infant, or having a biological child. J~ was already a little person when we adopted her at the age of three. She had her own name and she had her own story--a history and a life full of experiences that had shaped her into the little person she was. We needed to get to know each other. It was an odd arrangement for both of us.