Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me

Sometimes, although I completely celebrate and appreciate the blessing that motherhood is, the responsibility can overwhelm me. The bulk of the day-to-day parenting role in our family is mine. And I am completely honoured and humbled by the joy and learning that it has brought to my life.

No matter what age you are when you start planning your family, no matter how practical you are, I doubt you could ever really anticipate the depth of love you feel when you hold your beautiful new child in your arms. How could you possibly know how many times your heart will break for your children when they experience the harshness of the world around them? How would you comprehend the ongoing, far-reaching connection that never dissolves?

As my children experience struggle in their life, I’m very much aware of how that struggle will shape them and how even if I could protect them from every challenge – I wouldn’t. I know how life can kick you down but there’s so much empowerment and self-worth derived from picking yourself back up, of weathering storms, of relying on your faith, of taking action to make your situation better.

I have never been over-protective, in my estimation anyway. I have been accused of being too lenient with my children. I remember before even becoming pregnant reading a book called, Your Child’s Self-Esteem. I tried to do everything right. Don’t we all have the best intentions? I think the one ideal I set for myself as a parent was to encourage my children’s individuality. Cookie-cutter children without imagination were not my hope. I tried to build them up, to be their champion, to have their backs but I did so acknowledging their responsibility in situations and trying to be real with them. When a child brought me their scribble-drawings I focused on something I liked about it, the colour they used or how they filled the paper, but I avoided saying it was the best thing I’d ever seen. I didn’t talk baby-talk to them but I did sing them lullabies.

Now as all but one of them are in their 20s, I’m surprised by how strongly I’m still affected by their choices and by how they are living their lives. I kind of imagined they’d all be independent by now and my role would be more of just love and encouragement. I’m not complaining. I’m happy to be needed and consulted and to be their mother. But sometimes, when I’m up to my eyeballs in my own stress, my own problems, and I feel as though I’m drowning it’s hard to provide what they need. Is it selfish to think this way? Perhaps. I always love them, I always feel honoured to be their mom and to be invited into their lives. But how do I throw them the lifeline when I’m having trouble treading the stormy waters myself?

My children
My Heart beats

Maybe all they need is someone to hear them and understand. Maybe they don’t need me to solve their problems but just to listen and to believe in their abilities to rise above, to move forward, to actively choose for themselves the life they want, and maybe my role is to let go of the life I dreamed for them. Happiness, independence, joy, comfort – I’ll always wish these things for my children. I’m sure each one will walk their path uniquely and I will trust God to guide them and I will trust them to learn what life will teach them along the way.

So maybe when I’m drowning in these stormy seas, the one thing I can do is show them faith. Perhaps I need to be an example of peace. And when I do become upset, perhaps I need to show them that I can forgive myself for opening the valve and letting some of the frustration go. Perhaps my best option at this point is to show them the dignity that exits in being vulnerable, making mistakes and dealing with the challenges that seem to pop up like hurdles. We can trip, fall down, even cry but if we get up and get over that hurdle, maybe the next one won’t stop us in our tracks for as long.

I’ll probably always wonder if I let them down as their mother, if I taught them all I could, if I was and am who they need me to be. One thing I am sure of, my children all know I love them with all my heart and I hope that’s enough for there to be peace.

Finding my voice

As far back as I can remember I loved stories. Before I could read or write I memorized story books to pretend that I could read the words on the pages. Perhaps it was grade two or three when the teacher would take pictures from magazines, glue them onto construction paper and set them along the dusty ledge of the chalkboard along the front of the classroom. I liked the way she spaced them evenly along as she slowly set them down. My eyes would dart across them quickly at first and more slowly. A nervous energy would tighten my stomach. After a few minutes I’d settle on one of the pictures. The idea was to write a story about what was happening in the picture. What an adventure! Often I’d get lost in my story and my hands wouldn’t print out the story as fast as my brain wanted them to. I had a vivid imagination but would sometimes simplify my ideas to avoid the pains of printing it all out. My printing and handwriting was always scrutinized and criticized by teachers for being messy. However, I loved writing those stories. Again I’d become nervous waiting for the teacher to call me up to her desk and give me the corrections. I’d stand beside her and look down at my paper with the red-ink evidence of my mistakes. My letters didn’t fit the red, blue, blue line format like her samples on the board. I’d forget some punctuation and in my hurry to get my thoughts down, I’d sometimes miss bits here and there and would often have the dreaded offense of including a run-on-sentence! Even with all that, I knew, I had the ability to tell a story. I also remember in grade one my best friend, Debbie Humble, and I would make up stories as we walked to and from school.  These stories may have looked like lies but both of us knew they weren’t true.

My childhood involved keeping secrets, things you just didn’t talk about outside of the home, things related to my father’s alcoholism. It’s almost as if there were so many things I wasn’t to talk about that I was bursting to talk about anything else. I was a very talkative child and I remember, as the youngest, often being given tasks to distract me from bothering my siblings or parents with my chatter. We had a green Pontiac car that was parked in the carport and as a child on a tricycle I’d go out and talk to that car. It listened to me without sending me away. Our poor neighbor was building a fence once and I talked with him hour after hour – like it or not! I often was disciplined at school for talking when I shouldn’t. One teacher even sat me with the ‘bad’ boys at the back of the classroom thinking that would stop me from talking, but it didn’t. Once, my brother put me in his closet with his tape recorder and told me to pretend I was on the radio. I did a whole show! Amid the “don’t you ever shut up” and “don’t you ever think before you speak” criticisms from my dad, I somehow managed to retain some shred of confidence in myself.

Even though I’d be sick to my stomach before public speaking I did well and enjoyed winning several school competitions. I looked forward to presentations knowing that once I began speaking the nervousness would melt away.

Later, in high school English, I began to learn to write how particular teachers wanted to receive the work. By the time I got to Journalism, I learned to take editing – even when it was brutal. In my career I learned to write for particular audiences, adjusting content and tone and using the colloquial words or expressions of specific groups, industries or workplaces. While I enjoy using my communication skills in my employment I felt I was missing the freedom of just writing in my own style about things that are important or meaningful to me.

This blog is my attempt to free my own voice and to write from my heart. It’s funny though many of the things I’ve written I hesitate to post for fear of offending family members. Hurting people’s feelings is the last thing I’d want to do. Someone once told me that I have the ability to teach others through my writing so I’m meditating and opening my heart to that. I’m not sure where exactly it will take me but if along the way I write something that is painful to someone, I can only hope they will forgive and understand, and maybe someone else will also learn or be inspired by those same words.