Monday, May 30, 2011
How much I love you
I love you deeper than all the oceans combined
I love you farther than the sunset
I love you past the clouds and back
Finding words to describe my love for my children is not easy. It is a love I never knew before and nothing I read or heard gave me even a sliver of a sense. Each time I was handed one of my children, either after giving birth or in a transition house in Addis Ababa, I was overwhelmed with the same emotion that took my breath away.
As my children grew, now 14, 10 and 3, my love for them evolved. Having my children spaced apart in different stages provides a unique vantage point. I remember my 10 year old as a 3 year old when my 3 year old passes a new milestone. I remember my 14 year old as a 10 year as my 10 year anticipates the end of grade school. What a difference a few years made -- nearly a foot taller, feet almost as big as his father’s and a voice that deepens by the day. My teenager scolds me, “Stop using my sister (or brother) for life lessons.” This usually occurs after I told him something like, “When you pout, you looks just like your sister throwing a tantrum . . . just bigger and more ridiculous.”
When they were infants, I loved their sweet, innocent angelic versions. They were completely dependent on Michael and I for survival. I found this terrifying. . . each and every time. My love was mixed with much worry .. . are they eating and sleeping enough, too much, are they developing normally . . .
As my kids became toddlers, they developed the gift of language (which they all have in spades) and began exhibiting their independence. This push to become their individual selves, I found both exhausting and exhilarating. I also gained a glimpse of the adults they will one day become.
With both my biological boys through the years, I had the sense they were “mine.” I knew intellectually they were their own people but my heart felt them as extensions of my husband and me. When we brought our daughter home from Ethiopia, I was forced to rethink this comfortable assumption. Here I had another child who was bound to my heart. Yet, I knew her biological mother was a very important piece of who she is and will become. Could she still be mine then . . . I pondered?
After considerable soul searching, I realized I was thinking about it wrong. None of my children are “mine”. . . although the connection is so visceral and deep it is hard to get enough distance to see this with any clarity. They are mine to love, to raise, to guide, to teach and to nurture. But ultimately after I give them what they need, I must let them go to make it in the world on their own.
My heart breaks just a little each time they push me away and pull a bit more for themselves. My 3 year old’s version is, “I do it myself, Mama.” My 10 year old’s is, “I don’t need a ride. I will take my scooter.” My 14 year old’s is, “I am going to hang out with my friend’s. Sorry I can’t go with you.” I know it is good and right but it still gives me a little pang.
The poem above was written by my 10 year old to me for Mother’s Day. Yes, I teared up as I read it. He has a gift with the written word as I shared before. As he described his love for me, he also described my love for him (and his brother and sister) perfectly in a way I never could. He also gave me the gift of knowing that the depth of love runs both directions. My three awesome, goofy children are pictured below enjoying each others company . .my heart is full.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Do You Need to be a Mother to Appreciate Your Mother . .. . or Does it Take More? - - - - - Happy Mother’s Day to “The Best Mother I Ever Had!!”
I blogged before that my mom and I were close when I was a kid but a gulf grew during my teen years. In my early adulthood, I also put physical distance into the mix. I moved to another state to go to college. When when I didn’t know “what I wanted to be when I grew up,” I dropped out and left the country. I checked in occasionally but my primary motivation was to visit my little sister. My mother and I were cordial. But there was a brittleness.
When I had my first son, I gained a different, eye opening view. Before, I had a sense my mom should know most everything and somehow be immune from youthful insecurities. However, I did not feel at all competent when I became a mom. I was more than a little terrified to leave the hospital. It seemed ludicrous I couldn’t drive a car without getting a license. But I could be handed my innocent, helpless child and allowed walk out without showing any evidence I was up to the task of raising him.
After my son’s birth, my mom wanted to come and help. I was unsure; I didn’t want our complicated relationship to color the pure, simple love I was experiencing. I didn’t know if I had the energy to navigate that complexity as I adjusted to my new role. I asked my elder sister to come first and my mother later. As I watched her soak up her new grandson, a window opened to a different relationship – mother to mother. Her validation of me as a mother was a defining moment.
I had a dear friend then who was my mother’s age. I talked to her about the distance that persisted even though we could connect about my son. She explained how she felt about her four daughters and gave me the “mom of grown-ups” view which helped me to see things from my mom’s vantage point. Over the years, we became closer. There were still pieces held back but they mattered less.
When my son was seven, I received a serious diagnosis requiring surgery. My mom again wanted to help. I thought I would be fine with assistance from local friends. Many lent a hand. The friend I mentioned drove my second son to day care every day. My mom insisted on coming a couple months later. She gave me a piece of her mother's vintage jewelry. I knew this was a deep sacrifice. My grandmother shared my love of the sparkly (although ironically I am named after my other grandmother). Her pieces were a special connection for my mom since her mom passed. This gift told me more than the words she couldn’t always find. After she left, I wrote her a letter sharing how much I admired her even if we did not always agree and how touched I was she shared a piece of her memories with me.
This exchange seemed to take down the remaining walls. My mother wasn’t perfect but then neither am I. I enjoy getting to know her more deeply as a woman, a mother and a grandmother. She has wonderful stories from her days growing up with five siblings in the Netherlands. My mom recalls interesting moments about my early life that for me are buried in my subconscious. She sent my baby book at one point which let me see her as a young mother with the same joys and insecurities I had.
My kids adore their Oma (Dutch word for grandmother). And they remain the primary topic of our conversations. My mom recently asked if I could bring Leyla, our youngest, for a visit. My boys spent lots of time with my parents. My mom admitted she was concerned Leyla hadn’t gotten that chance. And as my mom gets older, I see her not taking time for granted. I found a weekend where the two of us could travel. My daughter is shown here giving my mom one of her special “Leyla hugs” – which make you feel like the most loved person in the world. Looking at that closeness, I hope I can use the lessons of our mother - daughter relationship as my daughter and I go through the normal ups and downs in our relationship.
Happy Mother’s Day to my wonderful mother . . .and thanks to my three awesome kids (and amazing husband) who make me feel cherished even if it is expressed as my son Damian once said “You are the best mom I ever had”.