Tag Archives: motherhood

Defining a mother’s love

Yesterday my beautiful daughter asked me if we were friends. “Mothers and daughters are supposed to be best friends,” she said. I know she didn’t like my answer – no. It was so hard to put into words in that moment of her asking.

Of course friendships are important and form the fabric of our lives from an early age. But being a mother? That’s a dream that was fulfilled. It’s something so much bigger than friendship. I guess I’ve bought into the theory that the role of a parent is not to be your child’s best friend but to nurture, guide and love them unconditionally.

Friendships don’t always have the unconditionally clause built in. Friendships come and go, they can fade, they can be rekindled. Sometimes they play an important role in a particular stage of life and then they become a memory.

How do I explain to you my daughter how much your arrival meant to me. Although I love your three older brothers with all my heart too, I had become afraid to even entertain the thought during my pregnancy with you that you might be a girl. When you were born I told the doctor don’t be kidding around, don’t say she’s a girl if she’s not.

I had such big dreams and plans and ideas about what it would be like to have a daughter…matching outfits, hair ribbons, Barbies, pink, tea parties, and later shopping, trips together and the day you would marry.   How short-sighted and naïve of that 29-year-old me! Being your mom is so much more than all of that. I remember how you put your first Barbie on the floor and ran it over with a truck –I think that was the moment I knew we were in for a very different ride.  A ride I embraced and enjoyed and am so grateful for. You taught me to look beyond stereo-types and expectations; you have demonstrated such courage and determination from singing in front of your entire school when you were around 10 to setting your sights on U of T and successfully achieving the high standards you set for yourself.

Are we friends?  Hmmm. I’m guarded with some of my friends not letting them see the whole of me, trying to hide those aspects they might not approve of. And while I try to be the best version of me for you, dear daughter, you’ve seen my ugliness; you’ve seen my truth because there is a safety between mothers and daughters that extends beyond friendships.

You inspire me the way no friend ever has. When something great happens I want to share it with you, when something bad happens I know you’ll be there for me too.  I know you will be truthful when I ask it of you and also prepare myself for how brutally honest you might be as well. (You are your father’s daughter too lol.)

I still don’t know if I’m accurately putting my thoughts into words but I can tell you that to define our relationship as a friendship would be to make it so much smaller than it is. I have only one daughter, only one you. You keep me on my toes; my heart belongs to you and your brothers. To be your mother is such an honour.

I reflect on Nana. She defined for me the power of a mother’s love, that soft place to land when the world closes in. Unwavering, supportive, ever-present, unconditional – love. I can’t imagine my life without my mother and I can’t imagine my life without my daughter. It’s tradition, it’s the circle of life, and it’s my heartbeat.

Dear daughter, to put you in the category of friend would somehow devalue how I feel about you. You see, we share all the qualities of friendship, even best-friendship, but our connection runs so much deeper and means so much more to me, I cannot confine it to just that definition.

“Genevieve, I love you stupendous, tremendous, bluebendous & forever.”

mothersquotes.com

Remembering helps deepen my understanding

Sometimes it seems it wasn’t that long ago when sleep was a luxury, when slumber was constantly interrupted by the cries of a newborn or the shrieks of night terrors. With four children I think there was a span of about ten years where sleeping-in was to be celebrated, and getting a solid night’s sleep was like winning the lottery.

Then came the independence of going to late night parties, then bars and the laying awake until the knowledge they were safe at home gave me permission to give in to the enticement of nodding off.

I can’t help but reflect on the times I craved sleep but greeted them at 3 am with a comforting smile and hug and coached them back to sleep. As they’ve become adults and deal with stresses and work schedules should I commit the crime of waking them before noon I’m met with snarls and nasty text messages, slamming of cupboard doors and looks of disgust.

I remember the child that I cradled in my arms in the rocking chair for hours and I send love to us both. I remember too being the teen that became disgusted by the smells of cooking while I tried to sleep or the offense of loud voices that assaulted my ears and ripped me away from peaceful slumber. I snarled. I complained.

Cycles. Changes.

Compassion and remembering helps deepen my understanding. For me that’s one of the benefits of a good memory and having my kids fairly young. I remember what it’s like. My love is stronger than their judgment and anger. And while they can be hurtful in their reactions, things always cycle back to that love that restores my soul and reminds me how blessed I am to be their mother.

Finding Neverland within

I grew up in a fairly large family and from the viewpoint of my siblings was spoiled. As long as I can remember though, there was loneliness.  In my fantasies I’d be rescued to a life that was safe and calm. As I grew older and was married I longed to be a mother. I wanted to build my own family that would accept me for who I was and love me and who I could put my whole soul into loving. So was it really acceptance I longed for that was disguised as loneliness? I wonder. I also wonder if the acceptance I crave is of self.

Like the words in the song Lost Boys by Ruth B, “I promise that you’ll never be lonely,”  I suppose my kids then, were like my lost boys. We played and we imagined. We told stories and sailed on great adventures building a world of our own. Sometimes I think those things are lost but every once in a while they emerge in a laugh, a memory or the twinkle of an eye and my heart sings.  ”Run, run lost boys, they say to me, away from all of reality.” I admit Neverland holds so much draw for me. And my kids are my pixie dust that transports me to that place where I realized, ‘I finally had a family.’ Perhaps we are all just lost boys wanting to stay and play but knowing life and responsibility is calling. Torn between expectations, responsibilities and the memories of what it feels like to be immersed in play.

Are they still running? Am I? Is it Captain Hook I run from? Is Captain Hook my growing old? Am I like Wendy in Hook when she sadly turned towards Peter and said, “Peter, I’m ever so much more than twenty?” Or maybe it’s the crocodile with the ticking watch sending shivers down my spine as I consider the pace at which time passes. Has my story been told? In the end will I walk the plank or just evaporate? Am I living the greatest adventure or squandering opportunity?  Run, run lost boys… have I forgotten how to run? Has reality swallowed me up? Have I forgotten to play? Have my lost boys?

“Peacefully my feed hit the sand.”  I smell the fresh breeze as it escapes the woods. I breathe deeply. I close my eyes. My kids, myself, I remember. Was it ever real? Did we tell stories in tents? Did we have picnics on the living room floor? Were there ever crafts, giggles, pudgy fingers wrapped around my neck? Did we actually play hooky and take ‘unprofessional development days?’ Did we ever draw pictures and tell jokes? Was it ever real? Did they ever accept me as one of them or was it a grand illusion?

Sometimes now I feel like I’m on the outside, no longer enveloped in the acceptance I crave. Am I the kind of mother I wanted to be for my kids? Am I the woman I wish I could be? And is there still time to be whatever that is? Is it worth the effort? Is there really a Neverland?

I’m going to keep believing in Neverland and in the joy we can create for ourselves. I’m hoping I can believe in me too and believe that adventure is still possible and maybe it’s not just in Neverland that we can live the life we choose and be who and what we want to be.

Looking forward when today feels too hard

Many times, I just need something to look forward to – a promise that there will be a better day, a happier, less-stressed day.

When my kids are feeling pain, and struggling, I don’t know how to not allow it to affect me. Even if I could turn off my concern, I wouldn’t. It’s how I’m wired; it’s how I love. Whether it is unemployment, break-ups, mental health struggles, health or university pressures, there’s so much coming at them. I’d love to tell them it gets easier, that things get better when you’re older. But that’s not been my experience. Life is hard. What I try to emphasize is having something to look forward to – whether it’s a goal or a vacation, starting something new, fun with friends or just a movie coming out they’ve been looking forward to.

For me, there’s a Bahamas trip in April and a family week at a rental cottage the end of June. I go there in my imagination sometimes and when things are particularly challenging I can at least look forward to those times.

My mom used to say, “This too shall pass.” And there is comfort in those words. There is the promise that troubles don’t last forever but there’s also the reality within those words that good times too will pass.

I’ve seen life plans, hopes, dreams, a future, simply erased by one person’s decision – and all of it replaced by a broken heart.  I can only hope that broken heart – will also not last forever and will one day heal to love again.

Some dreams die, but I look forward to new ones taking their place.

Some days seem like they’ll never end, and some days I wish wouldn’t.

While experiencing pain, struggle, loss, heart-break it feels like an eternity.

While recently celebrating our 28th anniversary, my husband and I returned to the location of our wedding reception for dinner. It was all too apparent how quickly those 28 years passed.  I feel a bit like that scene in Hook where Peter comes back and when Wendy turns to him she is old, “I’m ever so much more than 20, Peter,” she says.

I can’t think too much about how fast the time has gone, or how quickly it seems I’ve grown closer to the age of 50. On the inside I don’t feel my age. On the other hand, I feel I’ve earned the grey hairs and if I could go back, I don’t think I would.

I know I can’t hang onto yesterday, anymore than I can make today’s hurts speed away. But having something to look forward to helps me focus on the promise of a better tomorrow.

Corfu
Sunrise Corfu Greece

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.

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.