Let’s Celebrate

It is quite popular today, at least in the mommy blog-o-sphere, to write articles highlighting that life isn’t merely the beautiful highlight reels we display on our social media; to admit to the fact that life is hard, that it takes strength and courage to walk the path of motherhood and marriage and friendship.

I am totally in with that crowd because raising two little boys is hard.  Raising independent, loud, demanding children is a hike through the wilderness that is all it’s own.  And it does take strength, courage, grace and a lot of coffee to walk it every day.

I want to take a moment, however, to do the opposite.  I want to suggest that we all take a moment and call out those times that are beautiful and awesome.  Let’s celebrate and commend ourselves when things are going well and we are groovin’ through life to the beat of our favorite song.

Life has been awesome for me lately. Not every moment is full of sunshine and rainbows (we’ve been watching a lot of Pixar’s Trolls lately, if you get the reference) but in general, we are in an upswing. I’ve been rocking nap times and mealtimes.  I’ve been connecting with my children- laughing with them and enjoying such sweet moments of play and conversation; watching them begin to play together and care for each other.  My husband and I have been talking about the issues that matter and taking on things as a team.  We’re getting projects done that have been put off and balancing the care’s of our daily lives in a way that is comfortable for both of us.

Maybe it’s the beautiful weather.  Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve been getting enough sleep.  Maybe it’s just ok to say that life is awesome right now and leave it at that.

It’s so helpful to reach out when things are hard, and it is equally comforting to be able to speak up when things are going swell.  Life has a balance, a rhythm and the only thing that we can be certain of is change.  Things aren’t going to be rainbows and unicorns all the time. The upswing will eventually give way to a downswing before it heads back up again.  So let’s do more of showing up for each other when things get dark, when our friends and neighbors need a hand held out to them.  And let’s do more celebrating when things are awesome.  Let’s cultivate joy for ourselves and for each other when life hands out opportunity and success and be grateful for all the sweet beautiful moments.

I sure am grateful for all the sweet beautiful moments I’ve been experiencing lately.

 

Heart-full.

I love watching my three year old run.  It has become one of my great joys in life.  He runs as if it is what he was made to do.  He runs fast and exuberantly, taking off a block away from the park, knees pumping.  His run is punctuated by involuntary skips and jumps, legs pushing their limits in a rush to get to the playground.   When he glances back at me, his face is pure joy.

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He has kid legs now, long and lean. I can see the muscle definition in his thighs when he runs and jumps and stretches; his arms when he carries, throws, reaches up for me to hold him; his stomach when I tickle him.  His little body is absolutely incredible- a work of art.  God’s perfection standing before me.

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Sometimes he runs just because he wants to, because it feels good.  He runs up and down the sidewalk, through puddles, laughing with delight.  He pushes his boundaries running down our street, glancing back to see how I am reacting as he runs in spurts, farther and farther down the sidewalk.  Someday he will be driving down this same street and I can already feel the lump in my throat, the blood pumping through my veins as I push back the anxiety of letting him go.

Meanwhile, my other boy is beginning to discover his capacity for movement and I can already tell he is going to keep me on my toes, just as he did during his pregnancy.  He shows a tremendous interest in exploring our house, loves holding onto your hands as he walks, constantly.  He’s been crawling for a few weeks, quickly picking up a three-legged crawl in his effort to move from place to place and follow his brother around. He pulls himself up onto anything that will hold him; standing at our toy shelf and systematically pulling everything off it.  I love watching the determination he displays when he moves from one place to the next.  I love seeing the automatic smile that forms when he claps and waves and recognizes my voice.

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I didn’t know what it would be like to form a relationship with another child.  As an only child myself, I didn’t know what it looked like for a parent to have a relationship with more then one child, to give themselves in different ways, depending on the needs of each child on a particular day.  I didn’t know it would feel so expansive, so awe inspiring, to realize during the small moments of our day that I am forming a separate relationship with Cameron that is so different from my relationship with Casey but just as big, just as loving.  I didn’t know that it would feel so good to have a second boy who found comfort in my arms, who just wants to lay his head on my shoulder or hang onto my leg or cuddle next to me in bed, just because I am his mother.  It gives a true meaning to the term “heart-full.”

 

 

The Center Must Hold

I realized recently that I am the center of this family.  The point around which each person orbits; the axis around which this family unit revolves.  To my boys I am like the sun that lights their way during the day and the north star that leads them through dream land at night.  I am their home base- the place they run to when they are hurt, tired, scared, sad, excited, curious, bored.  I am the kisser of boo-boo’s, the righter of wrongs, their teacher, play pal and confidant all rolled into one incredibly tired and sometimes completely overwhelmed package.

When I wake irritable and cross with the world, the boys around me echo my sentiments (except sweet Cameron who is still young enough to wake each morning with a smile, happy simply to be awake again, glad just to see me and excited to begin exploring the world). The rest of them- their cranky footsteps, pouting faces and silent stares remind me that in order to teach kindness, I must be kind.  If I want a calm and happy home, then I must lead them there by managing my own anger, acting in ways that convey empathy, understanding and interest and displaying a loving and accepting self even, no especially, in those times when I would rather scream and shout and slam a door.

I am the center and the center must hold.

My husband is like a small island in the middle of this great big, often torrential sea, providing me with a place to land when I am in need of rest and a reminder of what is true.  Sometimes I lose sight of the island and become weary that we will not make landfall this day, afraid that I will be left to drift off alone in this vast expanse.  But then the tide recedes and there he is.  He is a great source of truth for me, reminding me of what is real, gently helping me to steer when I feel off course, always seeming to know what to say to reel me back to myself.  He sees me in a way that no one else does and he chooses to continue loving and supporting me day after day. There are few words in the english language which express the gratitude and comfort that I get from this.

My boys are the waves of our great ocean- coming at me full steam most days, forcing me to strengthen my strokes and take deep breaths before diving in.  But they are also the warm sand on which I rest, the sunshine that brightens my days and the heart-center of our foursome.  They give me strength even as they wear me out and fill me with joy and light even on the hard days, even when I wake irritable and cross and yell because wining doesn’t make pancakes cook faster and because one drop of chocolate milk spilled on our shirt dictates a huge laundry emergency despite the shoulders that are stiff with wiped off snot.  :::sigh:::

Choose what is most important in every moment
Listening to the voices in your head
And learn to hear your truth
Learn what feels good and what is right for you
Find ways to love those parts of yourself that have been undervalued

I see the echos of myself in my boys, in my husband and sometimes I don’t like what I see.  As the boys get older, especially Casey, it becomes increasingly evident and important to model good behavior, appropriate ways to deal with big feelings, right actions and deep empathy.  I don’t always manage to live up to my own ideal but I am learning.

I’m learning that it’s ok. It’s ok to not feel the way I think I should feel. It’s ok to feel the way I do. It’s ok to get mad, to be annoyed, to let them cry a bit, to not give in, to give in, to take alone time, to step away, to want to always come back, to want to hold on a little longer, and to grieve for the loss of a moment that just passed. It’s ok to want to just go inside, to just want to curl up and want quiet for a few moments. It’s ok to some days prefer one boy more then the other, to prefer on game over another, to get tired of playing with toys, to not get to the to-do lists. It’s ok to cry and it’s ok to laugh and to feel everything in between, sometimes at the same time and it’s ok to not know what to do with that. It’s ok to realize that I am not perfect, that I want to be perfect, that I can’t live up to this, that neither are they perfect. It’s ok to apologize sometimes and it’s also ok not to.  

I am the center and the center must hold.

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The Dance

When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor.
It’s to enjoy each step along the way.

I’m still getting used to “mother of two.”
Still learning the dance
and tripping over my feet.
Some days we waltz
we gaily trip through
Most days are improv jazz
riotous rhythms
and a staccato beat,
beat ing
keeping time
to an as yet
unknown song.

Equally surprised
by the ability to love
and the quickness to anger.
The music pulls me back.
The laughter, the tears
the screaming and shushing-
all part of the symphony
making up the soundtrack
of our days.

How astonishing, some days,
to look down and recognize
this second life
that has been added
to our company-
To look up and see
the little boy sharing
the spotlight-
To find a conductors wand
clenched within white knuckles,
a blindfold hiding bloodshot eyes.

Thank goodness for the friends who dance along beside me.
Thank goodness for the women who have already danced,
who remind me to forget about the steps and just enjoy the music.
Thank goodness for the tiny hands who hold onto mine
and the tiny feet that step onto my own
trusting me to hold them as we begin to move.

Thank goodness for the wind that carries us
and the earth that holds us up,
for the heaven above that promises us.

– for baby giggles and sweet smiles,
unbridled laughter and silly made-up songs,
late night talks and the ability to forgive,
for a marriage that continues to grow roots
and take shape, solidifying a foundation,
creating the stage upon which we dance.

The tide of parenthood.

I’ve been swimming against the tide all day today.  Each wave crashing over me, leaving me tumbling end over end, fighting, reaching for light and gasping for air.  

I felt my anger rising this morning, almost from the moment I opened my eyes.  It simmered just underneath my tired sigh as I peered at my wide awake, smiling 4 month through one eye, hoping that he would go back to sleep and knowing that he wouldn’t.  It bubbled up over coffee as I negotiated a cranky toddler and dealt with the nagging guilt of not being able to give myself fully to the baby, content in his crib.  A hesitant moment of negotiation broken by screams and shouts of “no!”  Moments of excited reconciliation ending in sighs of frustration and fierce, defiant wails.  

Finally, I couldn’t fight the tide any longer and I let the next wave carry me under.  A final kick (to my shin) and my anger burst forth ferociously, uncontrollably. I yelled with the voice of a mad woman, so loud my voice cracked with rage and tears began to leak from the corners of my eyes.  I yelled with all the rage of a hurting heart; pushed past my breaking point, I lost my self-control.  I was tired of being kicked, tired of being defied at every turn, tired of having to say everything 5, 6, 7 times and still not have it done.  I couldn’t take any more and I let the waves carry me.

It is not a good feeling to let your anger get the best of you and act out towards your child. Even when they are hitting you and kicking you and they don’t stop after you ask again and again, it does not feel good to act in anger towards a tiny being who is as much an extension of you as your arm.  It’s as if, in that moment, you can see their light dimming in front of your eyes.  And in the back of your mind, even as you are gasping for air and fighting the urge to hit back, to throw something, to just start running and keep running until your lungs burn and your legs give out beneath you, you know that their behavior stems from being over tired, that if you could just have a minute to calm down, everything might be ok.

I got both boys secured in their car seats and they were asleep within a block of our house. And when I was finally able to take a breath again, it came out in sobs.  I cried so hard that I almost had to pull to the side of the road to keep us all safe.  But each mile that passed allowed me to breathe deeper and gave me the space I needed to forgive myself, to begin to understand, to allow the waves to settle and the sea to calm.

Their lights are so bright, my boys.  I never want to dim that.  I want to be their home base, the one they run to when they are hurt and tired and in pain.

Having children opens your eyes to the areas of yourself that need work, the areas that are strong as well as those that are weak.  As Casey navigates these new waters of big emotions and increased autonomy, I sometimes find myself wading in muddy waters, trying to figure out better ways to handle my own big emotions, trying to identify the places where I need to exert more control and where I can give a little.

It’s not easy, this mothering thing.  I am not perfect.

When he woke up from his nap, I got down on his level and apologized to Casey, told him that it was mommy’s job to help him when he felt angry or out of control, instead of becoming out of control myself.  I gave him a cake pop from Starbucks.

“Thanks Mom,” he said as he reached up and wrapped his body around mine, resting his head on my shoulder and sighing with release.  I felt his light then, felt the brightness return. Children forgive so easily and so completely.  They give themselves so entirely to us when we allow them to.  My job now is to forgive myself, to continue to work to allow Casey to give himself to me, to accept him and guide him in his every step.  It is my job every day to work to turn myself towards the horizon and move with the eternal rhythm of the tide of parenthood.

Brotherhood

I lay still as I listen to him breathe 60 calm, even breaths; as I take in his face and the feel of his soft hair beneath my fingertips.  My baby is becoming a little boy.  Some days I can barely keep up.  He pushes me to my limits as he tests all of his- physically, behaviorally, emotionally.  His favorite word is no and sometimes he screams and covers his face when he doesn’t get his way or someone says something he doesn’t want to hear.

But he is still my muse.  He has always been my muse.  My first born who helped me to find my voice and unlocked the dam to a million words.

And now there’s another boy who is slowly stealing my heart, beginning to inspire his own words.  Poetry seems slow to come these days, overshadowed by the inelegant daily concerns of figuring out how to meet the needs of two little boys.  As an only child myself, I am winging it.  I don’t know what it’s like to grow up with a sibling, to share that bond, to share the attention of your parents.  I find myself overwhelmed a lot by how to give myself to both boys without feeling as if I am letting one down, without feeling like I am being ‘mean’ or ‘bad’ in the mom realm.  I am plagued with questions and guilt about whether I am giving Cameron the same attention and opportunities that I gave Casey.  One of the hardest things is realizing that their first years in this world will be different from each other and that that’s ok.

Just when I am plagued by this whirlwind of thoughts, I catch a glimpse of their brotherhood- Casey running to get a toy for Cameron before he goes to bed so he can give it to him in the morning, helping me find a pacifier, showing Cameron his trucks, telling me why he thinks Cameron is crying and telling me to go take care of “my brother” when he fusses.  Cameron unable to take his eyes off his older brother, fascinated, laughing and cooing when Casey talks to him, grabbing onto his hair or his shirt or his hand when he sits close, laying still and watching him as he plays.

Cameron is growing so fast. I forgot how fast they grow. He is rolling over both ways and will be sitting up in the next month or two.  He is already so aware of his surroundings and I can’t wait to see what it will be like when he is able to begin “playing” simple games, when he is able to begin to communicate with us.  I can’t wait to watch these brothers grow together.  As my own comfort level with raising siblings grows, I have hope that poetry will return but for now my words will serve to simply document our days and keep track of my running thoughts so they don’t spin out of control.

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