May 19, 2013 § 6 Comments
In the earliest stages of our daughter’s presence, when the idea of a second child was bundled with eager expectations for the mystery of a life newly formed, my husband and I promised to steal moments from our routines to be present with each child, individually. Careful not to disrupt the experience of parenting our son and mindfully pledging to share our time equally with someone new. Over the years we have found creative ways to borrow time alone with our children. Some days we invite them into an activity, other days we insist on their company.
This weekend my husband and daughter embarked on a camping trip with friends, leaving my son and I to rattle around the quiet. No longer easily distracted by my activities, my son is now old enough to hold expectations for more independent interests. Rather than forcibly shuffle him out the door under the pretense of preformed plans I decided to stagger through uncertainty setting my hopes for little more than time away from distractions. As a newly official teenager with an ever-present appetite, I decided to appeal to my son’s taste buds.
We began at a restaurant of his choosing. Less than a bribe and more than a concession, I wanted to meet him in a place of happy anticipation. Watching him inhale his favorite milkshake while we waited on our food I was smitten with the man-child who balanced awkwardly in his seat while draining his beverage with the sloppy, unbridled enthusiasm reminiscent of a toddler who once stuffed his order of french toast into his cheeks too eager to chew. Between bites of burger I realized I was watching my son eat pickles, onions, lettuce, and tomato without second guessing the ingredients between meat and bun. As a toddler he ate everything, but over the years stubborn expressions of self have created food boundaries that were as predictable as inexplicable. It’s funny how in motherhood something as simple as a shift in food can stir memories. I’m quite certain my son wasn’t remembering french toast as he contentedly consumed his meal, unaware I was traveling through time between bites.
Preparing to leave the restaurant I was still smiling at his loopy gait, the way he throws himself forward unaware of his surroundings, when he abruptly changed gears and pushed himself eagerly into the entryway door, holding it open for a parade of strangers. A young family entered the restaurant, the father manipulating a bulky stroller into the foyer. As an older couple made their way past my son the young father looked at me silently mouthing the word “yours” while pointing a questioning hand toward the door. As I nodded he flipped his hand into a subtle thumbs up.
This one small sign was the equivalent of silent applause for what no stranger could have realized was a special recognition. My son doesn’t always notice the people around him. His words and mannerisms can create moments of frustration among adults and peers who do not understand this child, who by all outward appearances is unexceptional, struggles to translate the world around him. The effort it takes for my son to step out of himself and juggle the multiple signals around him is exhausting at best. Only I knew that he had gone from studying the pattern of the floor, leaping from planks of wood to avoid the cracks, determined to reach a shelving structure littered with playful distractions for waiting guests his borrowed book in tow – to recognizing a need on the other side of the door. Breaking from his own momentum was more than etiquette, it was an exercise in effort that extended beyond what I could communicate in hand signals.
My husband and daughter will return today with stories of time with friends outdoors. They will settle dirty gear and smoke laced laundry as evidence of their campfire adventures to tidy for another day, but I am holding a special place in our sharing for my son’s intangible memento of our time together. A symbolic acknowledgment that he’s listening and trying, even when we are too distracted by our daily routines to see our son’s progress. Sometimes we have to spend a moment away from our expectations to allow ourselves to see something new, all the while remembering the old.
May 16, 2013 § 12 Comments
Yesterday my husband and I met with our daughter’s teachers and support staff in the familiar space of the quiet conference room. Our company was familiar. Years of similar meetings for first our son and later our daughter have created an intimate relationship with individuals whose lessons extend beyond the tiny chairs our children occupy.
Gathered around the table under the formality of evaluating growth and assessing needs for the coming school year I was humbled that our measurements began with character. Despite a year of steadfast academic growth, we acknowledged the standard of kindness, compassion, and resilience that are hallmarks of my daughter’s identity as an individual.
Stories of thoughtful acts and an eagerness to learn overshadowed the confetti of graphs that documented performance. Integrity a greater marker for success than measurements of intelligence; effort greater than ability.
This little girl, who so desperately wants to sit among her peers without her invisible differences, has yet to realize that the most beautiful pieces of her are the differences she does not see.
May 14, 2013 § 8 Comments
Over Mother’s Day weekend I captured a spontaneous moment of silliness with both children in a photograph. Sprawled across the floor, sandwiched shoulder to shoulder between my children I managed the impossible: a glimpse of contentment in the steadfast gaze and relaxed smiles of my favorite people. If I were to scribble a reminder onto the back of this image to hold it present across an unforeseen future it would say What If, Yet, and Why Not.
What If has become my daughter’s favorite question, statement, and challenge. After reading Shel Silverstein’s poem “Whatif” with our longtime family friend and sitter, my daughter has used the phrase in moments of conflict to create reflection or to disrupt boredom with curiosity. Most importantly, she listens to the answers we share then pushes us deeper into our own certainty until we have studied a thought from a new perspective.
Why Not is my son’s manifesto. At each invisible boundary you will find him dangling into possibility, questioning authority and second guessing assumptions; he wears wonder unabashedly without apology. To borrow his own words: Adults over think possibility.
Yet is my new verbal punctuation, ending spoken and unspoken statements with the promise of the unknown. After listening to a speaker address the flexibility of a growth mindset I became enamored with adding Yet to the end of my doubts, fears, and hopes. Rather than rest in a place of complacency, I am gathering Why Not and What If into Yet to create room for a new beginning in an endless adventure.
My children exist in stories unphotographed, images unshared to better ensure their privacy. Instead we mark our journey with words. What If, Yet, and Why Not.
May 13, 2013 § 2 Comments
Last week an unsettled sadness followed me in each endeavor to embrace joy. My favorite moments were lacking a sense of peace; time with friends and joyful family routines rattled around the hollow places I could not name. Unrest for challenges I could not navigate and sadness for small aches I could not heal seemed to rob precious minutes of my days.
Each time my hands rested against my laptop I moved against the words into distraction, unprepared to collect negative moments. Instead I sought activities that brought me joy, company that centered my spirit in laughter, and tasks that lent themselves to a sense of accomplishment. Peace came slowly like an old friend, inviting acceptance.
There are so many moments we cannot control, emotions that escape our keep. This week I was reminded that each experience, however difficult, exists for the purpose of growth. Uncomfortable moments teach us about ourselves and others in ways we cannot imagine in moments of peace. Today the sunshine has washed away dark clouds, shadows are ever-present, but my heart rests in the sun.
May 11, 2013 § 2 Comments
I wish there were a way to whisper words of wisdom to my younger self that would have lent greater compassion and clarity in moments of mother-daughter conflict. I couldn’t imagine then how small my discontent was in respect to the scope of your love and generosity. I think back to the moments I was present but unaware, wishing I could do over what cannot be undone. Motherhood has gifted me humility for the heartache that fills the space between expectations and experiences; moments when we scavenge shattered hopes for the beautiful pieces that demonstrate love while mindful of sharp edges. In hindsight I can see the gifts between hurt, understanding filling the empty space between us.
Tomorrow I will count the yesterdays, measuring them as only a mother can, with compassion for the little girl who grew into motherhood and gratitude for the woman who guided me with love.
May 4, 2013 § 5 Comments
This morning you lingered in the margin of the dance studio, watching the performance of preparation among students gathering for class pictures. I marveled at the quiet, unassuming strength your casual posture belied. Each week you navigate a path into a setting that once was shadowed by the unkindness of an uncompassionate instructor.
Years have passed since the unfortunate lesson that invited harm. I honored your departure from dance, some days worried another had robbed you of a source of joy. I set aside memories of your eagerness to sit among a circle of dancers and allowed you space to chase new dreams. Still, I watched the scuffle of your feet and saw a love tucked safely to yourself.
This year I met your request to revisit dance with the humble hope to offer you a new experience to challenge an old memory. I wished you friendship in the point of tiny toes, the encouragement of a kind instructor, and the exercise of embracing joy. As we near the end-of-year recital, I am holding tightly to the smile that chases new friends and the sense of belonging you found stretched across Thursday evenings this school year.
Today I looked past the elegant costume and mature sweep of your carefully orchestrated bun to the little girl who once soared in wide circles across an empty studio. Pieces of a lifetime overlapping, an old beginning and a new ending in a never-ending celebration of a small spirit who guides me with her joy.
May 1, 2013 § 4 Comments
There was a line from yesterday’s post that followed me till day’s end and woke with me this morning, shadowing my thoughts and begging attention:
The ugliest pieces of our harm were merely reflections of emotions seeking compassion, inviting us to see one another’s needs.
Often unheralded the individual who most often holds the mirror gifting each of us clarity of sight is my daughter. Smallest in body and with an immeasurable gift of compassion, she shows us the most beautiful pieces of our spirit alongside the darkest corners of our faults.
Sometimes she stands silently, bearing witness to unrest and other times she sounds alarms with tears, challenges behavior with questions, or interrupts discord with absence. She loves unconditionally while holding us each to the promise of our best.
To my daughter, for this gift of sight, thank you.