They hold my heart…Mother’s Day, 2016

I’ve written a Mother’s Day blog post for the past two years and wondered if I would have enough in me to come up with a third post.  Who am I kidding?  Of COURSE I have more to say about the wonders of motherhood.  I’ve been a mom for almost half of my life.  I’ve got material.

This is my first Mother’s Day that has all three of my kids stretched across the country –  Portland, Ft. Collins and most recently, Chicago.   Honestly, this mom is feeling a bit lonely for her kids…so lonely that I bought a ticket to Portland for a few days so I can spend Mother’s Day with my oldest son and his wife.  With all three kids no longer living in the area, the day has changed quite a bit for me from when they were young.  There were many years that they would ask me what I wanted to do on my very special, all about me day and my usual response was “just be with you kids, that’s all.”  That wasn’t exactly true.  I wanted to go to the movies.  By myself.  I wanted to sit through two hours of ANYTHING without interruption and eat pop corn and Milk Duds.  OK, I said it.  But how does one tell three young children who have just delivered to my bedside a tray with a stack of Pop Tarts and half-filled glass of orange juice, that they have so carefully prepared in my honor,  that I was thinking about going to the movies.  Alone.   Well you don’t.  The post Pop Tart glow would be faded by lunch time when life would get back to normal with laundry to do, meals to sort out and and fights to break up, because it was Mother’s Day and everyone wanted to sit by mom.  Sweet, but they were still fights.  That’s when 2 hours in a movie theater sounded like the perfect celebration for mom.  I feel guilty even typing that but know there may be a reader or two out there nodding yes.  Honestly, days were challenging with 3 under the age of 4 and if it truly was a day to honor mom, than did spending an afternoon at the movies all alone sound like an over the top request?  I’ll cut to the chase right now and confess, it was only an idea.  I never went to the movies on Mother’s Day.

My thoughts have changed.  I long for just a little bit of the chaos of 3 young kids because I miss them.  I truly miss them and I miss that active role of mothering.   I’ve mentioned the philosophy of raising kids with both wings and roots in posts before because it is something that I truly believe in and tried my best to adhere to when raising my own kids.  The wings part seems to have taken very well with all 3 of them.  It’s bittersweet for me, but it’s ultimately what I wished for them – to not be afraid of moving out of their comfort zone and exploring life’s options, stumbles and all.  It was me who had Emery, at the tender age of barely knowing how to read, direct us to the baggage claim on every trip we took together, because I was trying to instill a sense of confidence in her regarding travel, something I didn’t get until much later in life. And Grant… when he wanted to apply to the Art Institute of Chicago, I wanted to suggest the KC Art Institute instead,  but I didn’t.  He needed to test out those anxious wings of his and I knew that.  And finally, when after a brief return to KC to live and feeling homesick for the city they had fallen in love with,  once again it was me who told Thomas and Brooke to return to Portland because I knew how happy living there had made them. Yes, I had a hand in this situation.

When Thomas was a baby, I went out and purchased every book I could find on how to be the best parent ever raising happy, healthy, confident, kind kids who loved their moms like crazy (I paraphrased that).  I pored through those books like I had just enrolled in Parenting 101, desperate to get an A.  There seemed to be too much at stake and I didn’t want to get anything wrong, if indeed I did have that kind of control as a parent.  It was as if I was sculpting a child and was so afraid my chisel would chip away something that would leave my sculpted kid lopsided and maybe missing a piece and there I’d be, chisel in hand, surveying the damage.  Fortunately, that phase was very short lived and thankfully, kids are far more resilient than stone. 18 months later and one baby went to two and then there were three and I hardly had time to read a recipe let alone a book.  I got real.  I listened to my intuition, flew by the seat of my pants, had on the job sink or swim training and parented from the soul.  My soul.  I can’t say that I’d recommend all of my methods, but at the time, they worked.  Case in point, when someone’s name showed up in permanent marker on the back seat of the almost new mini van.   No one would confess to the crime, including the child who was given the name that was carefully spelled out on the seat.  He (or she) was also the only child who knew how to write all of his (or her) letters right side up and facing the right direction, a strong piece of evidence that pointed me right to the culprit, but still, no confessions.

“OK, kids, since no one will admit to writing on the back seat, it looks like I’ll have to dust for prints to get my answer.”

Seriously, too many Perry Mason shows as a kid and that just rolled off my tongue like I actually knew what I was talking about.  But what do you know?  I had a confession before I could leave the room to go get my fingerprint kit (which of course did not exist).  I used that rather poorly construed method countless times until one day, one kid said…. “Hey… wait a minute….”  And I was busted.  That’s what’s called parenting from the seat of your soul-filled pants and it works until it doesn’t. You do what you do and make it up as you go along.  Some things stick and others fall away and the whole process, perfectly imperfect, is called parenting.

One of my more memorable Mother’s Days was spent shopping for a couch for our newly remodeled basement.  It was not how I wanted to spend my afternoon, nor was it my idea or anything that would have even come to mind, but I did write what turned out to be one of my favorite essays about the whole event.  My kids,  husband included, were enthralled with the huge couch “systems” that had trays that came out of seat cushions, remote holders, food holders and mechanisms to make the whole thing move for your bottom and back comfort.  You had to plug it in.  Your couch.  Plugged in.  My attempts at directing the wide-eyed crew to the normal furniture failed miserably and it was Emery who noticed my discontent in the mega furniture mart.

“This isn’t what you wanted to do for Mother’s Day, is it, Mom?”

Somehow, her little bit of understanding was all I needed.  She’s the girl.  She may be in a similar situation as a mother down the road some day.  I gave her a smile and a women to girl nod of camaraderie.

“No.  Not really.  But we’re all together and that’s all that matters.”

Not the exact truth, but close.

Later that night I’d be listening to Bonnie Rait’s latest CD (my Mother’s Day gift) mingling with the sound of rain hitting the roof while I cooked dinner because who knew you needed to make restaurant reservations so far in advance for Mother’s Day and well… I was the one who knew how to cook.  And it was glorious in a very homey, this is what it’s all about kind of way and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything, including 2 hours alone in a movie theater eating Milk Duds and popcorn.  Not on your life.

Being a mom is a role that I covet more than anything else in my life.  It has opened a part of my heart to a love that I never could have imagined before and although my kids are all grown and living their lives away from me, the lessons of love continue.   Those 3 souls who have my heart, reminded me without knowing it of the beauty of simply stopping and seeing the wonder in things.  They woke up the little girl in me who colored outside of the lines, was messy, let her imagination guide her and broke a rule or two in the process (of course just the unimportant ones).  I did things as a parent that before kids would have had me shaking my head and mumbling under my breath,  “I’ll never do that when I have kids…”  Never, ever say never.

When Thomas was 2 1/2 and Grant was 1,  they ate an entire bottle of children’s Tylenol.  Obviously, this was certainly nothing I ever anticipated because I had every safety mechanism in place to prevent such a thing, but my never say never came when I left a partially packed suitcases out, while getting ready for a family trip.  The Tylenol, normally out of reach and site, was front and center for my little ones to discover.  I was on the phone with a friend when Thomas came up to me, handed me the empty bottle and asked if he and Grant could have more.  I immediately hung up and called Poison Control, whose number I had placed near the phone before I even crossed the threshold with my firstborn, never expecting that I’d actually have to call it some day.  To see my two young boys, one still a baby and the other not yet tall enough to reach my waist, throwing up because the syrup of ipecac was working, absolutely broke this mom’s heart. They were both crying and through the throwing up and tears,  Thomas, looked up at me and asked me why they both were so sick.  If I could have taken the ipecac for them to rid their bodies of the Tylenol, I would have done that in a heartbeat. A couple of hours later and they were good as new, as if nothing had happened.  Their blood tests showed that they were fine and the doctor made a special point to tell me that both boys had the exact same amounts of Tylenol in their systems.  Well what do you know?  Thomas had finally learned to share with his little brother.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t anything he should have been sharing in the first place, but that was another story.

Moms learn to multi task out of necessity, which unfortunately I’m learning is a difficult skill to “unlearn.”  I wasn’t any more skilled than any other mother when I say that it wasn’t the least bit unusual to be cooking dinner while calming a toddler in the midst of a tirade and hear the phone ring and a “Can you get that?” Of course I can.   Oh and did I mention that I was also nursing a baby?  Moms are jugglers and while we almost always get it right, every once and a while one of the balls drops (hopefully not the nursing baby) and we have to stop, reassess what is important and sometimes that most important thing is to simply sit on the floor of a messy house, with laundry piling up and dirty dishes in the sink and play… roll up those sleeves, put a magic cape on, don a fancy hat and play.  Mothering is messy.  Kids are messy, but they are also very good teachers and will help you prioritize without even knowing it.  They are also scam artists, but very cute ones.

So, to all the mother’s out there, whether your kids live across the country, down the street or down in your basement, we truly are all in this together.  The most flexible muscle in a mom’s body is her heart, and mine, having grown with the birth of each one of my children,  now stretches itself in three different directions across the country. Those three stretchers of my heart have made me who I am today and gave me the role in my life that I covet beyond all others.  Mom.

Happy Mother’s day to you all!

When you ask your kids to text a photo of them together, but don’t specify which way you want them to face… Goofballs.
Right here.  My heart.


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