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.

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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.

Happy Mother’s Day To Me

Peach,Beagle,PrincipessaDear kids,

Remember me, if you must, as the mother who bombed as the Tooth Fairy, did just okay with the Easter Bunny, and outright refused to entertain the idea of a mischievous Leprechaun.

Remember, if you must, that I ran perpetually late and occasionally showed up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Remember, if you must, that I struggled to contain my temper, cursed a little too much, and failed in the doting nursemaid realm.

But if you insist on remembering these things, remember also that I never said ‘no’ to the building of a fort, a party idea, or a wild haircut.

Remember that I encouraged you to create, even if it meant sacrificing 250 paper cups and several rolls of tape.

And know that I never lied about loving your creations – every last one- because you are a miracle to me.

You expect a lot of me, as you should; any mother worth her salt accepts this.  But she never promises to be everything to her child – only a really good someone who tried really hard.

Despite my most earnest efforts, you will complain about me to your friends, roll your eyes at me, and remind me of my mistakes in parenting.  And I will remind you that you made mistakes too.  We will laugh about it all and sit down to a game of cards, because that’s our style.

I adore you, my children, in a way that is beyond description.  I treasure what we have together.  Motherhood is the best thing I’ve ever done.  Thank you for giving me that title.

Love,

Mom

City Girl in the Country – With Chickens

On the current episode of City Girl in the Country, the Dunhams are raising chickens. For real.

Our story begins months ago when teen daughter got word that Grandpa was looking to pass on the circa 1985 incubator that I, Mother, used in high school to hatch chickens for a science fair project. Thus began Principessa’s campaign to revive the experience.

She was very clever in her approach, presenting her self-initiated research in an inflatedly responsible manner. Failing to be convinced of the wisdom of this project earned me a less enjoyable round of begging. When that, too, failed, Principessa enlisted Grandpa’s help. “After all,” he argued, “I let you do it. Why would you rob your daughter of the experience?”

Principessa echoed with “Mom, I only have two more years. Then I’m GONE.” (To college, that is.) Principessa’s new go-to source of ammunition is her impending departure from our household. She knows this pulls on her parents’ heartstrings and bends our sympathies in her favor.

The next week, I found myself clearing a space in my home office for this:

incubator metal

Home to the miracle of life.

To deny my excitement about the process would be a lie. I adore a birth story. So much so, that I became a doula after I was done birthing my own babies so I could still be part of the process. But I drew the line at hatching. We would NOT be keeping chickens.

As incubation days ticked by, Principessa and I became increasingly attached to….eggs. Which, as it turned out, are what all seven were – just eggs with potential. In poultry world they’re called ‘quitters.’ I mean, really, how insensitive! We were crushed.

With hatching fever running rampant, we decided to purchase an updated incubator and a new clutch of eggs. When we candled them at day 13 of 21 and saw definite signs of life in 6 out of 7, Principessa screamed so loudly that husband came running, thinking an egg had exploded. Instead, he found Principessa and me hugging, crying, and rejoicing for our little chicks. Husband admonished us for scaring him, shook his head and walked away grumbling about our insanity.

It was around this time that I caved in my resolve to put the chicks up for adoption. I postulated that raising chickens was much less of a commitment than other pets we’ve entertained. And besides, we love fresh eggs.

We hadn’t calculated that the chicks would hatch on Mother’s Day. So we were ecstatic when we found this:

chick 1

You can imagine how the rest of the day progressed. Principessa and I kept our noses pressed against the incubator for hours, content to watch and wait and listen to the happy sound of peeping. When husband insisted that we tear ourselves away to the kitchen for a family dinner that he had cooked, we reluctantly agreed in hopes that there would be progress in the other eggs upon our return. Not fifteen minutes later, Beagle left the table to retrieve a ringing phone and announced that another egg had hatched. Husband was duly remorseful.

I am happy to report that we witnessed three of the six eggs hatch and are now the proud caretakers of these:

chicks new

Now all we need is a hen house, which husband offered to build.  He did not promise the Taj Mahal but he did promise Fort Knox.  There are numerous predators surrounding our house, waiting for chicken dinner.  Husband is handy, yes, but not  a professional builder.  So I borrowed a book from the library:  “Building Chicken Coops for Dummies” which I asked husband to pick up on his way home.  He refused on the premise that it would be like telling a man to ask for directions.  Not happening.  So I retrieved the book myself with the intention of reading it TO him.  Won’t that be fun?

I do hope chicken-keeping will go better than vegetable growing.  We are learning as we go, but are confident that we’ve made a good choice.  Stay tuned.  And move over, Farmer Brown.  City Girl is taking the country by storm!

City Girl In The Country

On this episode of City Girl In the Country, the Dunham Family built their mother a garden for Mother’s Day.  When I, Mother, arrived home and saw this (without the descriptive sign),

I thought perhaps husband had bought a tiger.  He lovingly described his intention, “You’ve always wanted a garden.  I thought it would be a great present.”  And it was.  The most thoughtful and ambitious one yet.  And yes, I’ve long held images of me preparing a wholesome organic dinner with fresh ingredients from a garden planted, cared for, and harvested by yours truly.  But dreams and reality are very different beasts.  What  do I, a vested city girl, know about gardening?

Stifling my panic and premature thoughts of failure, I smiled at husband through clenched teeth.  Poor thing, he looked so enthusiastic and optimistic.

He may have conveniently forgotten my history of city-girl-itis.  There was the time nature boy husband was away on business and I found the ugliest little animal swimming in our pool.  With its matted grey hair, absent eyes, and what appeared to be a ‘sucker’ for a nose, it resembled a mutated mouse.

Convinced that this unfortunate creature had been exposed to hazardous chemicals hidden in my yard, I  scooped it into a bucket and marched it to the bus stop for show and tell. A country neighbor – without the courtesy to stifle his amusement – set me straight, informing me that this mutation was, in fact, a common mole.  Scraping for self-respect, I argued that it didn’t look like any cute picture of a mole I’d seen in my childhood books.  And we most certainly did not see these in the city.  Hmph.

Then there’s the time husband took me to Maine for the first time.  We sat on a deck lined with red flowers.  A hummingbird (an exotic bird by city-girl standards) appeared from nowhere and stopped to suck nectar from the flowers.  I exclaimed, “Oh, look how cute!  She thinks the flowers are a hummingbird feeder!”

Several seconds of stunned silence followed when husband realized that his Summa Cum Laude wife was serious.  Gently and slowly, as if I might be having a stroke, husband asked, “Honey, which do you think came first?  Hummingbird feeders or  flowers?”  Recognizing my grave error, I chuckled nervously and left to make a sandwich.  You can take the girl out of the city, but….

It’s been several years since I’ve moved out of the city.  I now understand the difference between septic and sewer and why we have no well water when the electricity goes out.  (Which it does on a ridiculously predictable basis in the woods.) Yes, I’ve adjusted to the country  life.  But the city is in me.  Gardening is not.

I don’t think husband should have been shocked when he had to instruct me to cut the broccoli – which had grown without my help, by the way.  (I love a self-sufficient plant.)  When I argued that I couldn’t find a pair of scissors, husband retrieved the kitchen shears and said, “Use these.”  Too quickly I protested, “But those are for food.”  Husband shouted, “AND WHAT DO YOU THINK BROCCOLI IS?!”  Oops.

Husband carried on for a long while about city brains and packaged food and grocery stores and cold eggs.  Geez, it’s not like I’ve ever claimed to be Farmer Brown or anything.  Cut me some slack.

Out I went in search of broccoli.  And I returned, proudly, with this:

My very first crop.  (Pause for admiration.)

I held that broccoli high, like a trophy.  I couldn’t have been more proud if it had sprouted from my own ears.  I’ve incubated, birthed, and raised three children, but this…the growing of a vegetable…this is a miracle.

After admiring the broccoli as a centerpiece in the kitchen all day, I did eventually cook it.  Eight year old daughter deemed it ‘Not as good as store-bought.  But you’ll get there, Mom.’

Yes, darling, I think I will.  There’s hope for me yet.  Though I doubt the producers of this life of mine will be cancelling the longest-running sit-com in history any time soon.

Stop The Wind

My three year old son and I were playing at the lake.  I watched, amused, as the plan for his boats unfolded.  With an intense look on his face, he set to work on his fleet.  The wind was strong that day, repeatedly interfering with my son’s plans, tipping and scattering boats at the shoreline.

I could see my son’s frustration mounting.  Finally, he turned to me and demanded, “Mom, make the wind stop!”  I chuckled at the notion that my son thought I possessed that kind of power.  The would-be hero in me wanted – really wanted – to have that power.  An image of Deb Dunham, goddess of nature, waved her hand, effortlessly righting every wrong.  The longing to grant my child’s every wish, heal his every hurt, and protect him from every harm is my raw desire – unwise and impractical, yes, but very real.

I recall my baby’s first night at home.  A tiny, innocent, vulnerable little being in a too-big crib, in a too-big room, in a too-big world.  Too big to protect him from.  How would I ever keep him safe?  How would I keep my own heart from breaking when he suffered the inevitable hurt?

It occurred to me that this is the price a parent pays for the purchase of a love this big.  The amount of pain I would endure would be in direct proportion to the amount of love I feel.  And yet, I am willing to take that risk.

As the years go by, I am learning to rely on the natural balance of life as a stabilizer to keep me grounded, reminding me of the benefits of my limitations.  When I can’t be a perfect parent, my children learn tolerance for imperfection.  When I can’t do everything for them, they learn self-sufficiency.  The truth is, it is in not giving children all that they want that they receive all they need.  Rudolph Dreikurs said, “We cannot protect our children from life, therefore, it is essential that we prepare them for it.”

When my children are grown and re-inventing parenthood, I will empathize with their struggle to be everything to everyone.  And I will remind them to be gentle with themselves – for their benefit and mine.  After all, I will still be their mother, and they will still be running around with my heart.

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