Mother’s Day-cation

I am alone at the lake on Mother’s Day weekend. It’s supposed to feel good to be away, rejuvenating. And it does – sort of. I’ve escaped the mayhem of a spring weekend full of sports events, social obligations and chores. Who could complain?

Peach felt personally wounded that her mother would want to be away from her on Mother’s Day. I assured her that I did want to be with her – for the part when I come home to a clean house and a cooked dinner. But that it was also important for me to remove myself from motherhood for a moment so I could get a good look at it.

So here I sit, at a house that once upon a time, bubbled with the activity of a young family. Little voices squealed at the break of dawn, begging to go swimming. Bigger voices chased them around, lit campfires, and made nature bracelets to pass the time. They would roast smores together and give sticky hugs and kisses. They would kayak and count stars, play cards and hike mountains.

Those days are gone. My babies are growing up and our time as a family is coming to an end. It sounds melodramatic but it’s true. Five in one room is a thing of the past. I’m trying to pretend I’m not sad; trying to avoid that cliche about it going so fast. But hot damn, it flew by and I’m gutted that it’s almost over.

I know I won’t stop being a mother when the kids leave the house. And yes, I’m grateful that they’re reaching their expected milestones. So I try my hardest to avoid silly tears. But when I stumble upon a forgotten baby monitor while Spring cleaning our lonely vacation house, I bust open. I couldn’t bring myself to move the toys that I found under the bed. I remember buying them for my 2 year old.


When I was a stay-at-home mother, I made a promise to myself to maintain an identity. I feared the thought of becoming one of ‘those’ mothers whose lives were so entwined in their children’s lives that they fell apart when they were no longer needed. Unachieved goal, that one. No matter how much I’ve accomplished outside of mothering, nothing matters more to me than loving and caring for my little people.

Sometimes, I actually wish I didn’t love them so much. Because it hurts to let go. This is the dichotomy I’m stuck in.

Celebrating the milestones while mourning the foregone moments.
Dreading the work yet embracing the job.
Wanting my children close to me but craving peace and quiet.

It’s tearing me apart, this motherhood thing. And yet, it’s the very thing that makes me whole.
I can’t know if I’ve made the most of mothering. But mothering has definitely made the most of me.

Is This Goodbye?

handsDear Child,

We are standing at a crossroad.  Before us are two choices.  The first would keep us on the familiar path we’ve been travelling.  It’s the one on which we walk together, sometimes stopping to notice a wondrous bug or a rainbow, sometimes jumping in puddles or stomping on shadows.  This path is full of adventure that is meant to be shared and we’ve done just that.   We’ve held hands while skipping, chased each other in a game of tag, and collapsed in a heap at the side of the road laughing ourselves silly.  In everything, we’ve been together.

But now, the road is splitting.  I want to stay the course – the familiar one.  You are drawn to the other road.  You assure me it’ll be fun, an adventure like nothing we’ve seen before.  ‘I’ll go first’ you say, for the road is too narrow to walk side-by-side.  You beg and plead for me to drop your hand.  You’re old enough, you declare, to take the lead.  ‘Let me show you the way,’ you suggest.

You want your wings sooner than I’d like you to fly.  Fear tempts me to clip them in order to keep you close just a little while longer.  I even try to guilt you into spending more time with me – a weak move, I know.  Your earnest face reminds me that love does not hold on.  It trusts in the flow.  Real love is able to let go when it’s time.

I have been your human guardian this many years.  Now the time has come to trust the work I’ve done and to let you go on ahead.  It’s time you had your own experiences without being weighed down by my presence.  I will not be your ball and chain.  I will not stifle you.  But I may cry a bit trying to keep these promises.

We used to play that game, remember?  The one where you said, ‘I love you, Mom.’ And I’d reply, ‘I love you more.’  We’d debate back and forth trying to prove who loved whom more.  It was always a stalemate.  You’ve stopped playing that game with me, which makes me think that maybe I do win – that I do love you more than you love me.  Well, even if it’s not true, it feels that way when you barely glance in my direction or refuse to answer my questions with anything other than grunts and groans.  Deep down, beneath my insecurity, I know this is simply the way of it.  The natural evolution.  And you do love me, more than you’re willing to admit aloud.

This is an opportunity to be the kind of mother I can be proud of.  It takes all I have to shut down my protective instincts and loosen my grip on your precious hand.  I know that the moment I let go, you will slip away.

Perhaps you’ll return once in a while to check in.  If I leave the door open, you can pop in from time to time and share a story or two about your new adventure.  I’ll be here, following behind you a pace or two, in case you need me.  I’d follow you anywhere, my child.

Go then, quickly, before I change my mind.  And take my blessing with you.  May you find all that you need and enough of what you want.  And may you never forget that I love you.  More.



Same Mother, Different Drama

scene1CRASH – SCENE 1, TAKE 1

Feb 17, 2012

When my thirteen year old son texted me from the ski slopes that he needed a new helmet after crashing, I handled myself very well – at first.  From my seat in the lodge, I calmly texted back a list of head injury symptoms to check for.  Instead of a return text, my cell phone rang.  It rang!

(In case you missed the significance of this, modern teenage practice dictates that only ‘old people’ use the phone.  Kids text.  Always.)

My worry meter escalated when I heard Beagle’s shaky voice asking me to pick him up on the other side of the mountain.  “I can’t see out of half my eye or hear out of my ear.”  Crap.  ‘At least he can talk and walk,’ I say to console myself.

Kindly First Aid people recommend a trip to the hospital. (Ya think?!)  They offer an ambulance for two, one seat for Beagle and one for the poor soul with the broken leg.  Strangely un-comforted by the thought of medical personnel escorting son, I opt to take him myself, unwilling as I am to let him out of my sight.

On the way to the hospital, I remain stoic on the outside and desperate on the inside.  I begin bargaining with God.  First, I offer my gratitude for life and health.  ‘Thank you, God, for sparing my son’s life in this accident.  I know you’ve got his back.  But I want to buy some extra insurance to cover him from the damage that has been done to his brain.  What can I give You?  How much will it cost me to insure my son’s well-being?  Take anything from me in exchange for his health.’

For a moment I actually believe this is possible – to sell myself to God in exchange for complete protection of my baby boy.  Prayers offered in earnest shift quickly to threats as doubts of my power to persuade God creep in.  I confront Him with my demands, desperate pleas, acts of contrition…in short, my LIFE.  If only He can give me a guarantee.

None is offered.  The swap shop isn’t doing business it seems.  I am left holding a heart full of fears, unsure where to turn.  So I turn back to Beagle, lying on the seat beside me, who is trying to block out the light from his overly-sensitive post-concussion eyes.

‘Be okay!’ I command silently.  ‘Please.’  I feel meek and helpless.

My son’s thirteen years flash before me – joys, sorrows, worries – always the worries.  It’s a cruel revelation when a parent realizes that the immense love she feels for her child is balanced in equal measure by fear for that child.  The more I dare to love, the more I risk the hurt.

A solid 48 hours passes before I begin to breathe freely.  Son was given clearance from the doctor to return home with caveats.  It’s not until Beagle starts fighting with a sister that fear loosens its vice grip on me – normalcy in any form is welcomed.

Beagle has all but forgotten the incident within the week.   But I, still shaken from my first head injury experience as a mother, continue to treat Beagle like a prized possession who narrowly escaped death.

Feeling that I should pay up on my answered prayers for Beagle’s recovery, I promise that I will never take a child’s health and well-being for granted again.

So much for promises…..


scene 2CRASH – SCENE 2, TAKE 1

February 17, 2013

(Same ski mountain, one year later)

My one day off from kid duty began uneventfully.  By mid-morning, with chores complete and tea brewed, I sat down to a novel. Simultaneously, my cell phone buzzed – a text.  I considered ignoring it but felt compelled by nothing more than curiosity to check the message.  It was from husband:

   HUSBAND: Teen daughter fell while snowboarding and bumped her head.  Probably has a concussion.

ME:  LOL.  Very funny.

It is exactly one year to the day of son’s incident.  Funny joke, husband. I’m not falling for it.

HUSBAND:  No joke.  Meet us at first aid.

A feeling rolls through me erupting in a howl.  Nooooooo! My one day off, ruined by another trip to the hospital! 

I kid you not – irritation is what I felt.  Surprising, and difficult to justify, I know.  As it turned out, I would spend the better part of a day trying to defend my lapse in compassion.

It wasn’t as though I was heartless.  On some level I knew that Principessa would be ok.  The tone of the text maybe.  Or mother’s intuition.  Or perhaps it was a deep-seated lesson learned from the experience with son last year – I could fall apart by worrying and praying my way through the next several hours of medical emergency (as I did with Beagle), or I could see it for what it likely was – another unfortunate, though not tragic, incident.  What couldn’t be anticipated was the level of chaos I was about to walk into.

Husband phoned to say that ski patrol had called an ambulance, advising that Principessa not be moved.  What?!  “Do NOT let her in that ambulance until I get there!”

Visions of insurance denials for expensive and unnecessary ambulance services flashed before me.  (In my defense, I had been apprised of the events and symptoms – which gives me about as much credibility as the average Grey’s Anatomy viewer, I know, but still.)

I stormed in, ready to take charge.  “What happened?!” I demanded.

Later, I learned that husband had predicted my entrance.  “In a few minutes a small Italian tornado will be coming.  That’s the mother.  We’ll all be okay, but brace yourself.”

By the time I showed up, Principessa was hysterical, trembling all over while an over-reactive medic held her head still and collared her.  He seemed surprised when I questioned his motives, requiring a justification for panicking my daughter.

Having done a quick assessment of my own, (I do have a level of medical training beyond that of the average mother,) I postulated that Principessa’s signs of shock were indicative of an anxiety attack caused by the drama, not by a spinal cord injury. If only I had gotten there sooner, I could have calmed her down and avoided this scene.

While husband and I weighed the options and potential risks of driving Principessa to the hospital ourselves, First Responders charged in with enough equipment to sink a ship – namely the one I was trying to captain.  It was too late, I couldn’t keep it afloat.

By the time we arrived at the hospital via flashing lights, Principessa had calmed sufficiently to bring her vital signs, and her senses, back to normal.  She laughed at my jokes and complained about how uncomfortable the backboard was. A CAT scan confirmed what I already knew – Principessa had an expensive headache.

I suppose this scene could have ended badly, in which case I wouldn’t be writing about it with self-deprecating humor.  But it didn’t, which gives me leave to assess the whole drama in contrast to the one that took place exactly one year ago.

During my recovery from trauma #1, it appears that I both gained and lost something of value.  On the positive side, now in possession of a thicker skin, I was able to keep my nerves in check when a child was injured.  Being desensitized can be a valuable asset.  The flip side is, I’m desensitized, which rendered me a bit harsh in a situation that called for compassion.  I all but attacked the very people who were trying to protect my daughter from the unknown, whilst I brazenly denied anything other than what I wanted to believe or suspected to be true.

All this to say that motherhood is Chaos with a capital C.  I could analyze it until I’m blue in the face, trying to glean scraps of clarity from the experience; I could promise to do better or different;  but no matter what, chaos will continue to sneak up behind me and change the rules, giving me yet another new experience to toy with.  All I can say is, God help me.  And God help the next kid who gets injured on my day off.

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