A Moment In Time

When my first baby was born, my father would come to visit so I could ‘get things done.’  He would sit for hours, rocking my infant daughter to her heart’s content – and his.  I would dash around them cleaning, cooking, and running errands.  Knowing that my baby was loved and cared for, I reveled in my productivity.

I cherished these stints of freedom to catch up – until the day I stopped for a rest and really saw the two of them.  Plopping down on a couch next to my baby and her grandfather, I noticed the joy between them.  With nowhere to go and nothing to do, the pair of them were free to just love each other – to experience the peace of a moment spent together in silence.  I envied my father as I convinced myself that this was a benefit reserved for retired grandparents and not for busy mothers.

Several years and a couple of children later, my youngest daughter, now 8, finds me lying on the floor stretching a tight muscle.  Quickly noticing a rare opportunity, she throws herself onto the floor next to me and sneaks in for a cuddle.  A previous version of me wants to peel her off and set her back on track for the harried morning routine.  But the ‘Live Like You’re Dying’ version of me cuts off the drill sargent in my head with a reminder, ‘Enjoy it! You may not get another chance!’

So I sink into the moment.  Wrapping my arms around my sweet girl, I whisper, “It’s so easy to love you.”  She squeezes me tighter and plants a kiss.  A flood of love engulfs us.  We lay like this in suspended animation.  Time becomes irrelevant.  Life becomes only this moment.

Eventually, voices of the family remind us that the clock has not, in fact, stopped and the school bus waits for no one.  Searching for a delicate way to break our bond, I say to my daughter, “If we stay here coveting each other then all the people who were meant to benefit from our presence in their day will miss us.  They won’t get to share the gift of you and me today.  We need to spread our love around.  We need to do what we’re meant to do.”  Without pause, without doubt, my daughter trumps my logic with her own wisdom.  “Mom,” she replies, “THIS is what we’re meant to do.”

Yes, baby, it is.  How are you, at eight years old, so wise?  And I, at the tender age of 42, am just learning these lessons that you know so well?  With regret, I review the scant amount of times I’ve stopped long enough for a child to slip into my arms.  I feel actual pain in my chest when I recall visions of me dragging a child by the hand with quickening steps.  I shudder as I hear scripts play back in my head, ‘Let’s go. Not now. No time. HURRY!’

I could drown myself in sadness over lost moments.  Instead, I vow to change.  Never a day will go by that I don’t offer a hug or ask for a kiss or speak the love words.  Never again will I be unapproachable to a child.  Never, will I miss the fullness of a moment spent in stillness.

Saved By the Son, Again

I may have misrepresented myself in a previous blog about my management of a busy schedule.  Given the fact that it was only the first week of a ‘mind-numbing’ schedule, I was still in possession of a sense of humor when I wrote about it.

Four weeks, and many mess-ups later, that sense of humor vanished and my brain exploded.  It was one of those days when you wake up feeling almost as tired as when you went to bed.  The insane busyness had finally caught up with me and stripped me of any reserve energy. 

This particular day involved three trips between home and a town 30 or more minutes away.  I won’t bore you with a math problem, but let’s agree that it equaled a LOT of time in the car, especially for a Mom whose personal fuel tank is on empty. 

So when I arrived at a sports field and found no one there, I snapped.   Immediately I knew it was my mistake.  Why wouldn’t it be?  Hadn’t I botched the schedule twice already this week?  I had shrugged off the first mistake, felt annoyed at the second, but came unglued on this, the third occassion.

Having a car full of children (not all my own), gave me pause.  I was actually proud of myself for pre-determining “Will anyone be scared if I start yelling?”  When they assured me that they wouldn’t be emotionally scarred, I unleashed a string of PG-rated curses against calendars and schedules, and no one in particular, that lasted longer than a few breaths.  Then came the tearless whimpering and stomping of fists on the steering wheel.  It was a full-on adult temper tantrum.  Like an irrational two year old, I couldn’t stop myself, until…

A hand reached across the front seat – the hand belonging to the same son who recently pulled me from the clutches of despair with his heartfelt sentiment.  This time, he employed quick wit to rescue me, and a car full of kids, from the Mommy breakdown that threatened to ruin the lot of us.

With feigned seriousness, my son began reciting Ricky Bobby’s irreverant dinner table grace.  “Dear little four pound baby Jesus….”  That’s all it took.  The entire car erupted into fits of laughter.  My son continued ad libbing a mock prayer sprinkled with requests that his ‘Mama regain her sanity.’

Though I’m not a fan of blasphemy, I felt that maybe even Heaven was laughing at the site of this car full of lunatics.  What an amazing remedy humor is!  Once again,  negativity was transformed by a sensitive, humorous, loving 13 year old boy. 

The ride home was uproarious.  We opened the windows, blasted the tunes, and sang at the top of our lungs, effectively releasing all tension that had accumulated in the past month.

Despite the fact that I’d secretly like to claim dominion over my emotions, I openly admit that I can be as vulnerable as a small child when stress crosses my path.  But again, I recognize that where the vulnerability of an adult meets the love of a child, amazing things happen.  Children have a special brand of magic that imparts perspective on life. 

So although I’ll do my best to remain in command of my faculties, I suspect I will forever be the colorful, emotional, unpredictable mother that my children enjoy saving.

Saving Seven Lives

I’m drowning in thoughts of murder.  No, not  me.  I don’t want to murder anyone – today.  But it seems that plenty of people do.  Which makes me wonder, like the Black Eyed Peas do in their song, ‘Where Is the Love?’

I’ve been reading the Hunger Games trilogy in which murder is a main theme.  Then there’s the daily disturbing news coverage of murders like the one of the man who killed seven people.  Couple this with the re-telling of the Passion of Christ this Easter season in which the crowd shouts, “Crucify Him!” and you understand how I got to this unsettled place.  Still, I surprised even myself when I burst into tears at Mass.  My children, unaccustomed to Mom crying, giggled nervously and whispered to each other loudly enough to draw attention to my spontaneous unraveling.

An explanation was expected on the ride home.  But how to articulate my despair?  Is it wise to expose my children to my darkest thoughts?  Mother is supposed to be a beacon of hope and strength and comfort.  Yet, she is human and desires that her children witness that truth. 

So she begins, delicately, trusting that her children will rise to the challenge before them.  She tells them that she feels weak sometimes and powerless against the evil in the world.  And when she stands before God in His house and spills her heart out to Him, she feels like a child who needs to cry about what she can’t do and can’t have – like world peace and safety for everyone.  Mother chokes up again when she proclaims how unfair it is that a person can decide to kill seven people and just do it.  But another person, like Mother, can’t decide to save seven people .  It’s easier, it seems, to kill people – literally and figuratively – than it is to save them.

The children, desperate to patch up Mother’s wound as she has done so many times for them, offer their wisdom.  The son, usually silent, speaks first.  With his story, the son pulls the mother’s pain out of her in the same way that Androcles plucked a festering splinter from the lion.  Here is what he said:

“Once there was a boy who was walking home from school.  Some bullies gave him a hard time and all his books spilled out of his backpack.  Another boy saw this and came to his aid, picking up books and helping the boy up.  The Samaritan asked, ‘Why are you carrying so many books?’  The boy answered, ‘I cleaned out my locker because I had intended to kill myself today.  I’m sick of being bullied.  I thought no one cared about me.  But you helped me.  And now I know I was wrong.  Thank you.'”

By the end of her son’s story, Mother is crying again, but for a different reason.  She is humbled by her son’s wisdom and compassion.  She feels hope and joy in his story.  Fearing that Mother may have missed the point, the son explains, “You never know the effect that kindness has on people.  You’ve probably saved a lot of lives, Mom.”

…..

There are moments in life when my heart fills so unexpectedly and so completely that I wonder how it remains contained in my chest.  The heart that only moments before was shriveling in despair, is renewed by an extended hand of compassion.  In an instant, I am transformed like the Grinch on Christmas morning: 

And what happened then?  Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.  And then the true meaning of Christmas came through and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches plus two!

A little love from little beings brings big love to big beings.  Beautiful.

.

A Female Prerogative

If I had a dime for every time someone has described my little girl as ‘sweet,’ I’d be able to pay for her college tuition.  She owns sweetness.  But there are moments when sweet turns salty.

Return with me to a scene in my kitchen seven months ago….Eight year old daughter is throwing a tantrum worthy of a Terrible Two.  She slings accusations of treason, threats of mutiny, and plenty of parent bashing.  My crime: signing her up to play fall Lacrosse.  By the magnitude of her reaction, you’d think I’d told her she was committed to prison or to an orphange.

In my most delicate and patient Mama voice, I reminded Miss Sweetness that I signed her up for this session months before – when she was enjoying lacrosse.  “But I DON’T love it now and I WON’T do it and you CAN’T make me and….” screamed the angel with her halo on fire.  The tension escalated when I told her definitively that she would be honoring her committment to the team – i.e. I’m not throwing away hundreds of dollars in fees.  BUT, no worries, Peach, I wouldn’t think of signing you up again after this season.  You’ve made your wishes clear.

Periodically, the tantrums replayed themselves.  Each time, husband facetiously pointed out, “We’re gonna miss this.”  When emails reminded me to sign up for the upcoming lacrosse season, I confidently hit delete, delete, delete.

Enter Peach on the opening day of Spring lacrosse.  “Mom?  I was talking to my friends today and decided I want to play lacrosse.”

Silence.

More silence.

I was livid.  And speechless – which turns out to be a very lucky (and uncommon) thing.  Lucky because I’m certain I would have regretted a word or two.  Visualize me, if you will, a cartoon character – face beet red, steam shooting out of its ears.  A multi-dimensional “Oh?!#$%” escapes my lips.  “Yes,” she replied guiltlessly.  “And I’ll need a new mouthguard and shorts.”  Off she skipped, blissfully ignorant of the fury rising within me.  Admidst the brew of poisonous thoughts in my head, a glimmer of admiration popped up.  Imagine, after what she put me through, she has the nerve to declare that she simply ‘has changed her mind.’

How frequently I’ve commiserated with girlfriends who refuse to change their mind or admit a wrong choice for fear of inconveniencing or angering another.  Why, and when, do we lose the courage to speak our truth without fretting over what others will think?  Might it be best, then, to honor this courage in a young girl instead of stamping out the fire with a vengeful reaction?

I coach myself against the desire to make my little tigress suffer in kind for previous infringements on my sanity.  Still, I reach deep in my pockets for a reason to deny  her new whim.  I even consider how she will compensate me for the late fee I’ll incur.  (I can hear Yoda assessing me, ‘The need for justice is strong in this one.’ )

Failing to justify the need to reap revenge for revenge’s sake, I return to the fact that my daughter is just 8.  I can’t hold that against her.   In fact, I can learn from her.  I just hope I can muster her level of courage when I need it.  If I’ve made a committment to you, be forewarned, I may change my mind simply for the practice.

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