I’m not sure if it was the package of Bertie’s Every Flavor Beans or the recent memory of Halloween, but when one of my daughters asked our youngest if she wanted to try a questionable jelly-bean and I hesitated, not knowing the allergens involved, I saw, for the first time, our youngest change.
She understood and was affected.
Rather than ignore, I followed her into her bedroom and quietly conversed, “Hey, how are you?”
Forlornly, she looked at me and I knew the jig was up.
There was no more fooling this three “and-a-half” year-old.
I decided to meet her where she was.
“Are you sad because you aren’t able to eat the same things as your sisters?”
It was a first admission of mine. The terrible truth almost always substituted or downright avoided.
Instead of answering, she buried her head into my shoulder and wept.
What is a mother to do?
Pancakes, muffins, cupcakes, waffles, even popsicles I can substitute.
But jellybeans on the fly? I’m out of my realm.
She’s too old to fool.
Instead, I meet her.
Yes, this sucks.
No, this isn’t fair.
Yes, you can be sad and angry.
And together, we will find your way, child.
We are more than the worst thing that has ever happened to us.
These past two months, I have felt like I am trudging through thick, relentless mud.
I haven’t had a lot to write about lately, simply because I haven’t had a nanosecond of extra time, nor an ounce of inspiration.
It’s been really hard and really ugly.
But I am here, writing to celebrate a little crack, a sliver of light that crept through today.
This past March, my youngest, Elizabeth, and I returned to mommy-and-me classes at The Little Gym. They allowed me to stay alongside with her, even though she was beyond the age three limit. They understood the impact the pandemic has had on children everywhere and that separating was more difficult than ever. This Fall, however, it was time for Elizabeth to join the independent three year-old’s class.
Lord knows, I knew this would be an uphill battle. With so many health issues, Elizabeth is more dependent on me than most mother-daughter relationships.
To her, I represent survival.
For her, I want her to experience the joy of independence.
We began in September with us sitting outside of class, watching the others play. Gradually, we made our way into the gym, with her sitting on my lap against the wall. Later, she would do a forward roll a foot away from me and then with bribery, she would run to an obstacle, complete it and run back to me. I attempted to leave the room a few times that first month to no avail; instead, biding my time, sitting inside the room, encouraging her to spend more time off my lap.
Today, for the first time in seven weeks, she completed class with me sitting outside, cheering her on through the picture window. Fifteen minutes in, I announced to the lobby of parents, “Can we just all take a minute here to celebrate this milestone?!” And they clapped and cheered right alongside me.
I have four children and every single one of them has needs, specific to them.
There were so many days that I wanted to throw in the towel but I am a mother.
And mothers walk alongside their children.
Nudging, encouraging, lifting.
Until their children discover the confidence to fly on their own.
“And yes it makes me crazy to think that my kids can go days-or maybe weeks-without me. If I’m not needed, if I’m not busy, if I’m not an overstretched, overwhelmed, underslept, (…) mother . . . What exactly am I?”
I snapped a photo of this quote from Kristin Hannah’s book Fly Away as I thought, “I don’t want to be her.”
I don’t want to be that person so consumed with her kids that she has no sense of self, otherwise.
And then I thought,
Who am I?
What defines me?
What do I want to define me?
The truth is, they are my muse.
And I have learned more about myself in the role of “mother” than I could have ever hoped to have learned in a lifetime.
I thought I knew the depth of Love’s Well once I met Emmett.
But I soon learned it ran much deeper upon the birth of our first daughter, Aurora.
I thought there could be no love greater than that of our first child,
Until I had my second, then third, then fourth.
My children have humbled me, sometimes out of sheer necessity.
Because of them, I will always fight over flight.
I don’t have all of the answers but I do have a greater will than myself to live.
Her name was Linda Houghten but I called her “Linda Hoe” because I hated her with a passion.
My mom was inherently a saver. As a child, we lived on bare minimums so that my mom could put enough away for a better future. She was the CEO of a software company- a black sheep in a male-dominated industry. She was inspirational. A badass. When business was struggling, she and my step-dad went without paychecks to keep the company afloat but her savings stayed put.
Her scrimping paid off- the business became extremely successful and so was she- a sought-after keynote speaker across the country. So, when she finally had saved enough to redecorate our 80K house, she hired the best.
Enter Linda Houghten.
The woman who wanted to change everything.
Generally, I’m not a vindictive or hateful person. I think carrying hate is more exhausting for the bearer than the target. But if I were to see Linda in person right now, I can’t say I’d give her a hug.
And it’s all because she made our house more beautiful.
My mom’s bedroom looked like a hotel room, so did our living room.
Patterns, slip-covers, window-treatments- the whole works.
I hated it all because it was change.
I’m the kid that cried when our area code changed from 804 to 757. I’m the kid that used to tape plastic containers over the ant hills when it rained because I couldn’t bear to witness their hard word ruined in a flash.
Consistency felt safe. Change felt terrifying.
So when it came to my piano bench? I stood my ground.
She wanted to cover it with a floral material.
My mom could see the hair rising on my back and knew when to fold.
No, the piano that my father had gifted me would not be touched.
Victory was mine.
I’d lost the rest of the house, but I’d won what deeply mattered to me: