Frolicking in the Autumn Mist

I brought them strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff

I have no doubt that if I was called to anything in this life, it was to motherhood. There isn’t a moment that I don’t count myself lucky to be blessed with my four kids.  I cherish the memories we have created together.

Being a relatively young mom, and having a clear connection to my inner child, we created together, we played and learned together and we grew up together. If I allow myself, I can put myself back in the red glow of sitting cross-legged in their play tent on the front porch of our Victorian home. We would take turns making up and telling stories and the tent was filled with a very special magic. Even in those moments of story-telling there was the realization that this unique experience between the five of us was such a small snapshot of time that would soon be outgrown. But I loved that red glow on their faces, how their eyes were alive with imagination and how they giggled and went along with my silly ideas.

We ate egg salad sandwich picnics on a blanket spread on the living room floor. I introduced them to dirt bombs and when we couldn’t afford a kiddie pool or air conditioning I filled the bathtub with cool water transformed with food colouring. In winter I put Red River Cereal in boxes and found their sandbox toys. We painted and did crafts, we cooked and created. Once I even hung donuts with strings from the clothesline. Blindfolded, they laughed as they took bites.  We played princess, Barbies and trucks, Ninja Turtles and hide and seek.  We invented our own games and with my husband introduced them to camping.  We enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner on a picnic tables under a canopy of amber leaves at Awenda Provincial Park. We roasted spider dogs and snake bread. We joined Cubs and had adventures, explored and learned. We sang campfire songs, the silly songs of childhood, and nursery rhymes. We learned the ones sang by Fred Penner, Eric Nagler and Sharon, Lois and Bram and some mornings I woke them up for school by blaring Born to be Wild by Steppenwolf.

overlapping hands of childhood
all for one

I often think those days, like the ones in Puff the Magic Dragon, were destined to cease. They were magical days limited only by our imagination. We were free to be ourselves. I think I knew we were frolicking in the autumn mist as eventually those activities became no longer cool and could not compete with the bonds of friendship as children grow into teens and adults. Like little Jackie Paper I no longer bring them strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. Still, I hold so dear and treasure in my heart and memories of the days we ran barefoot in the grass, had adventures and scheduled ‘unprofessional development days’ where we played hooky from school and work.

Those moments have enriched my life and allowed me to love beyond anything I could have imagined. My kids were my purpose. But even as I call them mine, I wonder, did they ever really belong to me? I aspired to raise children who were individuals and I can say I’ve achieved that. When I remember their childhoods I feel like those days of wonder were a gift and the child-version of them that I adored were on loan to me. Parenthood is not ownership. I no more take credit for their successes than I accept blame for their mistakes. It is my phenomenal pleasure to have lived alongside these children who have taught, loved, entertained, tolerated, frustrated, frightened, challenged and propelled me to become a better version of myself.

It’s fun to visit memories and spend a little time immersed in the magic and joy and it’s a privilege to witness the adults they have become.  Peter Pan said, “To die would be an awfully big adventure.” But parenthood is a bigger adventure still. Every now and then, there’s a glimmer, a spark, a twinkle of the magic that connects us still.

I am Blessed to be their Mother.

Asking how I’m doing

When I’m going through a tough time, every so often, I’d like for someone to ask me how I am doing and be interested in the answer. More often than not, when people ask how you are, they don’t really want to hear any response other than great, or fine.

I’m not naïve enough to think that being without a job is the end of the world, and of course, I can imagine dozens of scenarios that would be a lot worse. Still, it takes its toll. Days become weeks, weeks become months. Enthusiasm wanes, hope begin to fade and self-worth and confidence are under attack by the thoughts that bounce around my ‘self’.

Expectations, whether they are my own or others’, seem to persist that I should have been working by now; let alone I should be positive and hopeful, I should be faith-filled, upbeat and encouraged. And I am all of those things. But in the silence of a still moment when the quiet is all that I hear, the reality crashes over me threatening to draw me into the despair and swallow me in its darkness. I fight to stay on the edge of the fear holding on with all my might so that I can be supportive to my family modeling a positive frame of mind for them.

Once in a while though, it would be nice for one of them to ask me how I’m doing and be interested in the answer. Perhaps, though, the answer is something they don’t want to hear lest the ground under their feet might start to crumble as well.

It does tug at me, mostly in those quiet moments where my eyes and hands are not busy, whether ego or fear, starts speaking to me and the tears that are always threatening to appear start to burn my eyes and spill down my cheeks. Besides the obvious lack of income, I also miss the social interactions of friends at work, the exchanges that contribute to a working day. I miss accomplishments and the satisfaction of earning.

Ask me how I am and I want to say, I am sad. I am crumbling. I am disappointed. I am afraid. But I’m more likely to smile and say I am fine.

While the stress, hurt, worry, frustration, sadness and struggle for hope in this experience is very real, isn’t it a privilege in a way? Aren’t I completely Blessed to be feeling at all? For along with these emotions I am also bestowed the ability to feel love, joy, wonder, and the connection of kindred spirits. Perhaps it’s a sort of penance for past transgressions – too Catholic? Perhaps it’s a reminder that I’m still alive. I’m here, I’m feeling and I’m living. Hopefully, I’m learning too.

Then judgement comes my way. Is it my self-judgement projected on others? Is it only perceived? What people think is a factor, although I suppose, I should not care. I wonder though if the questions I hear in my head – am I doing enough, is there more I should do, why don’t I get a part-time job while I’m waiting – are these the questions of others or myself? I’ve been consciously trying to be less judging of others lately and have discouraged my family from judging as well. Yet, is it hypocritical if I continue to judge myself so harshly? Ahh, self-judgement is something I slip into so easily like an old pair of comfortable slippers. The familiar phrases, shame, the list of inadequacies, the short-comings, the many ways I could be a better me easily flood my thoughts and the rescuer in me bravely steps forward and reminds me that I am a unique child of God with values and talents that have worth beyond my dress size, the number on the scale, the lack of university degree or the job I don’t currently have.

Last night in a dream my father visited me. We walked. Then we sat and he put his arms around me. He was dressed in light colours. He asked me how I was and he was interested in the answer. His strong, comforting embrace renewed my hope and reminded me that love is the richness in life. Those protective arms represented strength, acceptance and caring. Maybe that wonderful feeling is something I can learn to give myself.

tree trunk