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Happy Mother’s Day

It’s hard to admit, but I remember a time when I wondered if I wanted to be a mother.

 

I thought I lacked the natural maternal desire.

 

It just didn’t grab hold of me with the urgency and excitement I thought I should feel.

 

It didn’t help that I grew up in the women’s liberation era when motherhood was characterized as the most unsatisfying job on the planet.

 

Women spoke of motherhood as drudgery, and the common belief was that there was more to life than just having babies and staying home to take care of them.

 

Who would want the mind-numbing, old-fashioned role of mother when the doors of opportunity for women in the workplace were flinging open, inviting us to experience true fulfillment, intellectual stimulation, and real success?

 

We could “have it all,” so why settle for be strapped down by crying babies with runny noses, ear infections and chicken pox?

 

Surely my life would not be limited to that!

 

But, after I married Doug, I felt like having a family was the next natural step.

 

It just felt right like when you set out on a path and your feet just naturally move.

 

Even though my feet were moving in that direction, I had no confidence in myself as a mother.

 

After Sara was born, a friend asked me how I liked being a mother.

 

I said, “I feel totally incompetent!”

 

She kindly said, “How can that be? You are one of the most competent women I know.”

 

“Not as a mother,” I said. “I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s actually a relief to go to work every day because at least I know what I’m doing in an office. I feel totally out of my element at home with a baby.”

 

As time went on, I became better at it, probably because every time I looked into the face of that baby girl, my heart expanded to a new capacity.

 

Every time I cuddled her, and smelled her powdery body, my worldly skin molted a bit, and my confidence in my ability to be a good mother grew.

 

Actually, my confidence grew because my love grew.

 

After I had Annie, my mom came to stay with me to help.

 

One afternoon, Sara was sitting next to me and I was holding our new little Annie.

 

“Laurie, do you know how much you’re loved?” My mom asked as she watched me with my two children.

 

IMG_2223

 

“Yes,” I said, feeling grateful to know how much she loved me.

 

“I don’t think you do,” she responded, surprising me. “I don’t think you’ll know how much I love you until you are my age and your babies are grown up like you. Then you will know because you will have loved them for a lifetime. That’s when you’ll know how much I love you.”

 

I see what she meant by that now. Just when I think my heart can’t get any bigger, it does.

 

I’m glad she taught me that while my heart expands to new capacities, it also contracts to new depths as my children experience the challenges of life.

 

When I had cancer, my mom embroidered a pillow for me that said, “Always remember, I am the rock in your garden. You are the blossom in mine.”IMG_2263

 

I try to remember that, hoping to be the rock in Sara’s and Annie’s gardens like my mom has been in mine.

 

I can’t believe there was a time I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a mother because I can’t imagine my life without them.

 

Being a mother has made me a better woman in every possible way.

 

I don’t care what the feminists of my era said, motherhood is the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had.

 

There is a level of satisfaction that comes from career success, but it can’t compare to the joy I’ve felt as a mother.

 

So, as Mother’s Day approaches, I will celebrate being a mother, having a mother, and knowing that the voices of my era were wrong.

 

Motherhood is not stifling, unsatisfying, and unimportant.

 

It is the opposite of all of those words.

 

While I may have believed I lacked the maternal instinct, I found it,.

 

And, I discovered it was more than an instinct, it was a divine part of my identity as a woman. It just got a little buried in the mire of all my other ambitions.

 

It is the essence of who I am.

 

I am proud to say I am a mother. It’s the most ennobling, dignified, and important job I’ve ever had.

English: jkklglh
English: jkklglh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Mother’s Day. I would love to hear your thoughts on motherhood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family

And then there was the Playboy story

First of all, here’s the update on Kelly and his whiskey.

Mom felt guilty and called to tell him his moonshine was really vinegar.

Oh, the disappointment.

“So, why is it that when I tell someone a secret in this family, nobody keeps it a secret? But, you can all keep secrets from me,” he said.

His daughters pulled up my blogs to show just how many people were in on the secret about his fake Virginia moonshine.

“So everybody that reads your blog knows too? Great. What are you trying to do? Write a book about me on your blog? I can’t believe you broadcasted my moonshine story to the world! I’m surprised you haven’t told the Playboy story yet.”

Oh, the Playboy story!

Thanks for reminding me…

Logo of Playboy
Logo of Playboy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After this Playboy blog, I’ll stop writing about him for a while.

Maybe.

But, this Playboy one is just so good…

Actually, it’s really more about my mother than my brother. But, he does have a starring role.

Call it family history.

When Kelly was at that awkward pre-teen age of about 11, my mom took his nicely folded laundry up to his bedroom to put it away in his chest of drawers.

As she organized his stacks of clean clothing, she felt something slick at the bottom of the drawer.  She rummaged around to see what was beneath his clothes, and she pulled out a glossy Playboy magazine.

Her response was epic, unforgettable, and perfectly in keeping with her fiery personality.

She took the magazine downstairs, opened it up, and tore out some of the naked lady pictures, including the centerfold.  She found some construction paper and cut out little circles of paper and taped them over the most revealing body parts.

Later, she called us all to the dinner table.

“Supper’s ready,” she innocently called.

We all trailed in from various parts of the house and sat down for dinner.

I always sat next to Kelly.

I noticed his face quickly turn bright red, nearly purple.

I looked around to see what made him look so shamefaced.

Then, I saw my Dad’s eyes darting from the wall to Kelly, across the table to Mom, and back at the wall.

That’s when I noticed the pictures of the naked women plastered all over the kitchen wall above the dinner table.

We were speechless, motionless.

Mom let Kelly (and the rest of the family) sweat and squirm for a few seconds, and then calmly said, “Kelly, I found those lovely pictures in a magazine in your dresser drawers today when I was putting away your laundry.  I thought that if you enjoy them so much that maybe you’d like to share them with the family so that we can all enjoy them.”

Kelly stared straight ahead of him, not focusing on anything, but maybe the clock above the stove that suddenly seemed to have stopped ticking.

Then, in a firm voice, Mom said, “From now on, nothing comes into this house that can’t be posted on the walls for the world to see.  If you are embarrassed about it and have to hide it in your drawers, it doesn’t belong in this house.”

In his humiliation, Kelly managed to say, “Can we take them down now?”

“Be my guest,” Mom said, “and put them in the garbage where they belong.”

Trying to move past the uncomfortable embarrassment of the moment, Dad casually said, “So, ah, pass the casserole, why don’t you?”

When I told Kelly I planned to blog about it, he said, “Hey, I never looked at another one the rest of my life! That cured me good. And, porn never became one of my vices. I never wasted another three bucks on anything like that ever again!”

Well, at least there’s that…

Some family memories just can’t be forgotten.

Change, Family, Parenting

Letting Go

As a mother of two college students – one of them only two weeks away from graduating –I am continually asking myself, “What would my mom do now?”

I want to be the kind of mother she’s been.

The area that needs the most improvement lately is trying to be a better listener.

Sometimes, I am more of a fixer than a listener.

When my daughters call and tell me their concerns and problems, I instantly, naturally want to fix everything.

I get worked up in my here’s-what-we-need-to-do speech, and then I think of my mom and an inner voice yells, “Shut up Laurie! They only want you to listen, not try to make everything all better! Think of Mom.”

Annie called a couple of weeks ago to tell me that she’s going to Uganda for a service mission with HELP International.

http://help-international.org/uganda

African child

It was an awkward conversation as I felt this rising, confusing objection, and wanted to say in a scolding mom voice: “Ah… no, you are not going to Africa. You are coming home, getting a job, sleeping in your bedroom down the hall from me. You are going to sing in the shower, bake cookies, have parties, and    scatter your clothes all over the floor, and play the piano for me. …just like you’ve always done.

I stammered a bit and kept thinking of my mom, and what she would do.

Just listen.

I calmed down as the conversation went on, and I told her she had to be patient with me as I got my head around her new, exotic, and oh-so-foreign-to-me plan.

In a moment of weakness, I blurted out, “Annie, I am just not ready for you to be this grown up. I know you have an adventurous spirit and I am trying to be supportive, but I am fighting some powerful mom instincts here that make me want to fling my arms around you and keep you close to me forever. I still see you as a little girl, not as a world traveler and humanitarian!”

I reminded myself of Steve Martin in “Father of the Bride” when his daughter, also named Annie, told him she was in love and wanted to get married. He looked across the kitchen table and saw those grown up words coming out of a little girl’s mouth.

While it’s a hilarious scene, it’s also painful to realize I’m Steve Martin.

I’m not transitioning well from seeing my daughters as my little girls to seeing them as independent, adventurous women whose passions are taking them in directions that feel further and further away from me.

Cover of "Father of the Bride (15th Anniv...
Cover via Amazon

And, I know they need me to listen more than advise.

They need me to support more than protect.

Yet my adviser and protector instincts are not easily tamed.

In my conversation about Africa with Annie, I vacillated between being supportive and curious and treating her like she was 10 years old, when I would have said, “Well, you certainly are not going to Africa. Now, finish your homework so we can get you bathed and ready for bed.”

As I navigate the new waters of parenting adult children, I think of my mom constantly and wonder how she did it.

I call her often and say, “Mom, really, how did you do it?”

I’m still trying to figure it out.

I think the real answer is that she did it a day, and a conversation at a time just like I am.

I hope my daughters can understand that this “letting go” part of parenting is not easy.

help letter annie

But, of course, like me, they will only really learn it when they become parents.

Then,  I hope they’ll call me for advice and say, “Mom, how did you do it?”

Family

My Empty Nest

My empty nest.

No more back-to-school-nights, field hockey tournaments, spirit packs, and games.

No church youth meetings.

No sweaty girls lounging on the couch and eating snacks after field hockey practice.

No black bits of turf field ground into the carpet.

No jerseys, UnderArmour, and uniforms drying all over the house.

No team dinners.

No Bachelorette!

No waiting up on weekends for kids to come home.

No Homecoming float to build.

No Homecoming banner to carry in the parade.

Very little laundry.

No junk food.

No Annie singing in the shower.

No Sara watching Law & Order.

Fewer dirty dishes.

Quiet.

Clean bedrooms and bathrooms.

No school lunches to make.

No Friday night and Saturday night parties at our house.

No teenage angst and energy.

But, it’s all okay.

Really.

The empty nest life is not all bad.

I’m returning to other things in life that bring me joy

like writing, teaching, and spending time with my husband.

(A wonderful marriage helps immensely.)

I used to feel completely immersed

in all the details of my girls’ lives —

where they went, who they went with, when they would be home.

It was my job to teach, protect, and actively try to shape their lives for good.

Now they live 2,000 miles away.

They do their own laundry, make their own meals (or eat in the cafeteria).

And, I miss them every day.

I miss their physical presence in my daily world.

I even miss their dramas.

I miss their hugs the most.

But it is surprisingly, refreshingly okay.

Some days are too quiet, and their phone calls come just in time.

But, overall, living in this empty nest is more natural than I imagined.

There are moments and days when I ache for them to be closer.

But it is right for them to be where they are, doing what they’re doing,

which means it’s right for me to be without them…

for now.

I remind myself everyday that I’m still a mother.

I just have a different job description now.

And, it’s really, truly, wonderfully okay.