A Different Path

From the earliest time that I can remember, I wanted to be a mother.  But when they asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I never answered with “a mother.”  Because I didn’t think that was what they meant…they meant something real; a real job, that pays money and makes you a productive member of society.  And so I would answer with something like “a veterinarian” because that seemed plausible…I liked animals and I liked science and so I could be a veterinarian.  At some point in my little-girl life, I learned to feel that choosing home would not be acceptable.  You take classes in middle school to prepare for high school to prepare for college to prepare for work in the real world.  But there is no path to prepare for marriage and motherhood and making a home.  So you follow a path – I followed a path.

In high school I met this boy.  His name was David.  All I wanted was to marry that boy and make a life, make babies, make a family with that boy.  But that was not what I said.  What I said was Psychology.  I’ll study Psychology…I’ll be a Psychologist.  So I did, because that was the path I was on.

And when I graduated, I realized that Psychologists, especially those without a Ph.D. are not really in high demand.  So I got a job as a bookkeeper, and I waited for him.

When we were finally married, we were broke.  We argued about money.  We argued about buying little things like socks, or once I remember we argued about a broom – someone bought a broom and that was just not in the budget.  Every penny we had leftover was saved for furniture or Hokie games (priorities).  And when we had enough that we felt like I could stop working, we talked about babies.

And then we had some babies.  And that bookkeeping job morphed into more of an in-depth accounting job only I didn’t have an accounting degree, I had a psychology degree which, if you ask me, is relatively useless when you’re dealing with numbers.  But I kept at it, because it could afford us more…more experiences, more stuff, more savings, just plain more.  And around here, “more” is the path most traveled.

But I felt like there was less of me.  Less of me to go around, because in addition to all of the diaper changing and peanut butter and jelly making and book reading and potty training and preventing the untimely deaths of four little children and all that, I was working on that dumb computer in the wee hours of the morning, or late at night.

It drained me.

It drained me, because it was not what I wanted.  But my life was not about me anymore…it was about doing what was best for my family.  So I plugged away, and tried not to think about what I wanted.  And as the kids got older, and the work got harder, I worked more.  More hours during the day because they could make their own lunches and they could get themselves dressed and I didn’t have to worry (too much) about them accidentally killing themselves somehow.

And then one summer, Will broke his little arm.  And we were cooped up inside.  A lot.  It was too hot for walks.  It was too hot for shooting hoops…or playing catch…or riding bikes…or skate boarding.  It was too hot for anything, really, except going to the pool, which we couldn’t do because Will broke his arm.  So I spent a lot of time working, because that was what was best for our family.  Except it didn’t really feel that way, because all they did was watch t.v. all day until I was done working.  When I finally emerged from the den, it was time to run errands and when we got home it was time to cook and they would watch t.v. some more because the alternative to t.v. was fighting and no thank you.  And when Ella wanted to play The Ladybug Game, I didn’t have time.  And when Henry wanted to build legos together, I didn’t have time.  I didn’t have time for games of basketball with Will, or painting toenails with Kate.  I never said yes anymore.

I sat there one day that summer, wondering what happened to sipping coffee on the deck each morning.  What happened to watching the kids play outside in the evenings?  What happened to picnics and pool days and bbq’s and making lemonade and planting flowers and catching fireflies and roasting marshmallows and walks at dusk and all the good stuff we used to do?  There came a point in each day that I gave up.  I didn’t care anymore, and I just wanted the day to be over with so that I could try again the next day.

The only good thing about me working was the money.

And maybe the money wasn’t really worth my exhaustion and their boredom and me not having time for them…and me not caring…

One day this June I will spend my last day as a working mom.  I won’t work at home, or at an office, or anywhere.  It is the best thing, maybe not for everyone, but for us.

I wish I could go back in time to that little girl I used to be.  I would be the voice that whispers in her ear.  I would whisper memories of her own childhood to her, memories of her own mother…like the lemon love notes she made.  Or the bookworms she knitted, or the stairs she scrubbed and waxed or the Halloween decorations she hung or the carnations she bought when I got my driver’s license or the beef stew she made or how she used to nap on the couch while The Guiding Light played in the background or the countless other good memories I have because she was my mother.  I would whisper of the memories she made for me.  I would be the voice that tells her that being a mom is a good dream — and not to give up on it.

Dreams do come true, you know.

(Someone should be sure to remind me of this in July when the kids are all bored and fighting and trying to kill each other and I have to separate all of them to the four corners of the house.  Except for Kate, because she’ll probably be up in her room, quietly sketching horses or something…)

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A Different Path

Princess Mom

He asked me if I could just drop him off at practice last night.  Because, you know, I’m the only mom that ever stays.  I guess that is embarrassing.

I remember when they were littler, and I was not embarrassing.  I was pretty and smart and wonderful.  Like a princess.  I was a princess mom.  And they lit up when I walked into a room.  They ran to me.  They hugged me and clung to my legs so that I almost fell over.  And my love for them was not embarrassing.

I zipped my coat all the way up on the way out the door so that no one would see that I looked sloppy when I picked him up from practice.  I sighed a little as I glanced at Ella, dressed for bedtime in her light blue snowman jammies and leopard print raincoat.  I hoped he wouldn’t notice.

When we arrived, a boy was handing out cupcakes that his mom had sent for his birthday.  On the ride home, I told him that I could make cupcakes for his birthday, too, if he wanted.  But he said no.  I guess that would be embarrassing, too.

I liked being the princess mom better.

Princess Mom

A life without a story.

There often seems to be no point to my writing, which is I guess why there is so little of it these days.  If I write about the good things, I feel like I’m bragging.  If I write about the bad things, I am complaining.  What is left is the plain old nothing to tell days.

I have a cold.  It is not terrible, but it makes everything feel exhausting.

I spent the entire morning on accounting, and then I picked Ella up from the bus stop.  We had to go grocery shopping.  We have had so many football and basketball games in the last couple of weekends that just filling our bellies was in itself an accomplishment, forget about grocery shopping.

When we got home and got all of the groceries unloaded and put away, it was time for the boys to get home from school.  William came home with an attitude.  I don’t know why.  The boys got ticked off at each other and it went downhill from there.  The attitude.  The defiance.  The hateful words.

I am trying.  I am trying to be a good mother.  I am trying to feed them well, and teach them well, and be a soft place for them to fall.  But it feels like an argument all day long.  Why can’t we get this cereal, why does everything always have to be healthy, why do you have to care so much.  Why can’t I have safari, why can’t I watch this movie, why can’t I play on the ipad for 4 hours today.  Why do you have to care.  

Because I care.

I forgot today was the day my children were supposed to bring a flower to their teacher.  I am trying so hard to remember everything, but I always forget something.  My inability to accomplish the list of things I assign myself is a constant downer.  There is too much to do, so I pick the immediate needs…what can we not live without?  And the rest gets left for another day.  Only that day doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to arrive.  I look around and feel a little overwhelmed at what needs doing around here.  I try to ignore the dust, and the fingerprints and the crumbs.  Some days I convince myself that I did enough…I give myself the pep talk that I’m doing great.  

Some days I don’t.  And this was one of those days.  The words didn’t roll off my back.  They were absorbed.  They feed the worm inside my head — the one with all the insults.  The one that tells me I am never going to be the mother I wanted to be.  How can I be?  How can I ever be the perfect goal I had set for myself?  I have the Hallmark version of motherhood in my head, when in reality, I am a mom sitting in an 11 year old car (which is not smelling real good at the moment), in an old pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, with makeup that is half cried off, a dog on my lap that is howling at the passers-by and feeling rather beat up by this cold I have.  

I must look like a train wreck.  Do they notice?  Do the kids notice that their mother is a mess?  Some day they will.  Some day they will see.    

I go into the den to get my computer, and there are love notes from my boys.  I keep all of these notes.  Sometimes I read them…they’re tucked safely in my purse…in the zipper pocket…in my calendar…in my bureau…in my drawer filled with love letters and special cards and things I never want to lose. Some of them just say “I love you.”  Some are drawings.  Some tell a story.

Maybe I save them because they make me feel like I’m not such a bad mother after all.

They love me.

A life without a story.

Little Red Haired Boy

Henry Beach 2 NST

December 19, 2012

Dear Henry,

There are so many things I could say about you…your kindness, friendliness, and confidence.  Your adorable nose, or your freckles, or your eyes.  Or your hair, and how when it flips a certain way it takes my breath away, and I swear you could be an angel.  But what is in my heart tonight is how you are growing up, and how I seemed to turn around for just one second, and there you are, a strong, sweaty, somewhat smelly boy — not my chubby, soft little baby.

I remember when you were little — how I would lie down with you until you fell asleep.  I can still see your silhouette in the moonlight…that big round belly under fleece snowman jammies, soft red curls and button nose.  I miss those nights.  I miss being there with you as you drifted off.  I miss your little, round cherubic self.  But then, children must grow up.

I guess that is the burden I bear…I cling desperately to those memories of little you.  And you, in typical childhood fashion, race as fast as you can to leave them behind.  In my mind I scramble to remember things, to remember what your hair felt like, or how you smelled, or how it felt when you snuggled into my neck, or what your tiny voice sounded like.  And when I reach that memory, my heart hurts.  The beating of my heart hurts.  For you have outgrown the memory, but I haven’t.  And I suppose it is natural that someday you will outgrow me…but I will never outgrow you.

So many memories of you, Henry.  So many beautiful memories.

So many more to come.

Happy birthday baby boy,

-Mama

Little Red Haired Boy

Reflections

Came across this today on Ready…Go…Get Set…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taDqKWWPDAY

…and thought about what I would tell myself, if I could go back to me, just before my first child was born. This is what I would say…

 

 

…You will fall in love

 

 

…She will be just like you

 

 

…He will challenge you

 

 

…Be patient

 

 

…Perfect doesn’t exist

 

 

…You can’t do it all

 

 

…Some days will.be.hard.

 

 

…Trust your instincts

 

 

…It will be okay

 

 

…You can do this

 

 

…Sing to him, even if he can’t hear you.  He can feel it.

 

 

…He will surprise you

 

 

…Wait a little longer to give away all that baby stuff…

 

 

…Four

 

 

…Your life will be beautiful

 

Reflections

This is it?

There is a line in a song called Fifteen that says something like

“this is life before you know who you’re gonna be…” 

I heard this song today and I realized, heavily, that I am probably already “who I’m gonna be.”  I wondered if there was more. 

I wondered if there is more for me.  Am I going to do something considerable someday?  Something significant?  Or will I remain in this small corner of the world…in this small house…unknown as I am.   Is this it? 

And then I reflected upon my life as it is… 

Yesterday, I bought groceries. 

I did homework with a 5 year old boy. 

I diapered and clothed a two year old little girl.  Several times.

I fed children.  Many times. 

I cleaned up after children.  Many times.

I paid out allowances.

I worked on accounting.

I dusted.

I cleaned the shutters in the kids’ rooms.  (That was gross, and sorely overdue.)

I helped organize my daughter’s room.  (Also sorely overdue).

I trimmed the plants in the yard.

I helped my son and daughter with their homework after school. 

I filled and ran the dishwasher.

I cooked a warm, nourishing meal for their supper.

I read them books and tucked them in bed.

And then, exhausted, I too drifted off.

This is it for me? 

This is it.  I am their mom.

It is dirty at times, and it is mundane at times and it is thankless at times.  And it is nothing that millions of other women haven’t already done before me with their own children. 

The rewards are intangible, and they are known only to me.  I am paid with the feeling of a small hand clinging tightly to mine.  I am paid with red ringlets and wispy blonde locks. 

I am paid with the perfume of little boys that have been playing football outside….I am paid with their ruddy cheeks and their skinned knees and their freckles.  

I am paid with the drawings of a little girl.  Depictions, always, of her and me, together.  

I am paid with their laughter and with the breathtaking view of them as they sleep.  I am paid with the warmth of a child in my arms, his breath on my neck, the sound of his voice in my ears. 

I am paid with the smallest child, asking simply “Play…me?” 

Here in this little house, I am sculpting human beings

I am molding little hearts

I am forming little minds

I am responsible for the very lives of four small people

Is there truly anything bigger than this?

This is it?

Sometimes

Several  years ago, I sat with him and together we worked on a preschool project.  We were constructing a “family pennant.”  It was to be a display of his family.  We carefully went through old photos, and we cut out the members of our family and he glued them on his pennant.  When he said he was finished, I told him that “someone was missing.”  I figured he just forgot.  But he said, “I know, but there isn’t enough room for you, Mommy.”  Even the dogs–one of whom was deceased–made an appearance on the pennant.  In his eyes, I was the most disposable member of the family.  I simply said, “okay” and slipped into the laundry room where I silently fell apart.  I’ll never forget those words…there’s not enough room for you Mommy

This morning, he handed his dad a Valentine’s Day card.  One that he made at school yesterday.  And he said “I forgot to put Mommy’s name on it.”  And inside the card I could see where he erased what he had originally written, and wrote in my name, too.  His card was meant for Daddy.  He wrote inside “You are the best Dad in the [whole] wide world.”  I’m sure his teacher, or one of the “good moms” at the school noticed he had forgotten to add my name and had him correct it. 

And again I sat this morning, silently shattered by this Valentine’s Day card that forgot me.  And I wondered why I haven’t yet earned his love.

I have made my entire life about him and his brother and his sisters.  I have  given up every little part of the person I used to be, and I am now their mommy.  I wanted that with all my heart.  I have everything I ever wanted, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like I thought it would.

Sometimes, it is hard. 

Sometimes, it hurts.  Sometimes, the weight of my heart is such that I find it difficult to breathe. 

Sometimes, I cry myself to sleep because the day was so damned hard.

Sometimes, I am not the mother I dreamed I would be. 

Sometimes, I am tired.  Sometimes, exhausted.

Sometimes, I feel heartbroken.

Sometimes, I feel like I am failing in everything I do.

Sometimes, I fear that there will never, ever be enough room for me.

Sometimes