I am learning everyday. The phrase ‘Turn the other cheek’ used to confuse me. But I am beginning to wrap my heart around it. I am coming to terms with the idea that not everyone has the same ideals, the same faith, the same moral code. I will be attacked from time to time. I am a recovering people pleaser. If someone says something against me, in the past, I would fight to make it right. But what exactly had I been fighting for? The fear of rejection? The stain on a reputation? The acceptance of someone who can’t accept? My foundation is cemented in my faith. Deciding to turn the other cheek strongly reminds me that we are all on our own path. I refuse to throw stones on someone else’s walk. I will plant some seed, and walk the path that I have chosen. I pray everyday that it is the path that Christ leads me through. I want my eyes and ears and heart to be open. I want to share my journey with loving hearts who also wander. One of the most difficult lessons of life for me has been that you cannot walk down another’s path. I have found myself desperately planting seed, tilling soil, and cutting vines to help the sun shine upon another’s walk. I surrender that to God now. Often times faith means closing your eyes and opening your heart. My hand will still reach out to others who also feel that they are lost in hope that they will find some comfort and peace. I wish that I could hold the hand of my enemy as I turn the other cheek. My God wants me that way. There is an enormous wealth of peace in such a simple offering. In the past I considered my inability to deal with confrontation as a sign of weakness. I despised my shaking voice while under attack. But I do have a voice. It is led by my heart which beats to the rhythm of MY path. My heart aches, but it still beats. I will turn the other cheek. That is where my sun is.
My five-year old son asked me the other day when I was going to get a ‘real job’. This innocent inquiry made me sad. It brought me to tears. I am a ‘stay at home mom’. I am a stay at home mom who cleans houses, sells jewelery and art, babysits and barters in order to be a stay at home mom. It was a choice. It is MY choice. It is the hardest job I have ever had in my life (and I have had many, many jobs). It is the hardest job I will EVER have. I have never felt so challenged, so tired, so judged, EVER. It is also heartbreaking to feel that often times the hardest judgement comes from…other mothers. Why are we so hard on one another? I have never looked at a mom who has had to, or chosen to return to work and looked down upon her. I do wonder how they do it. But in awe, not judgement. My circumstances at the time I was pregnant were different from some. I was working at a job that was not my career. I loved my job and still miss it and my co-workers dearly. At times I feel like I have had to sacrifice A LOT in order to be at home with my son. I sometimes feel like my life is on hold because of this choice. In some ways I suppose it is. I will be starting from scratch when I do return to work. I have lost most, if not all of my professional contacts and feel so far removed from the loop it could have morphed into a pretzel by now. I don’t get to indulge and throw myself into my art as much as I would like. I very rarely spend quality time with friends (especially ones without children). In some ways it feels like you are savagely ripped from your ‘real’ life, from society. This was by choice? Yes. I choose this. Everyday I wake up I choose it again. But don’t most moms feel that way from time to time? More often than not I feel like I am misunderstood. I’ve been called lazy, afraid, a princess, unfocused and indecisive. I have moments when I fall into that toxic line of thinking. But I also have moments when I think I am a brave, patient, loving, risk-taker. When it comes right down to it, it feels right…for us. I have prayed over this choice, I have surrendered it, I have over analyzed it and it still feels right…for us. It is not a job that gives you monetary rewards. There are no official awards. No promotions or climbing of any corporate ladders. No rule books. There isn’t even a complaint box. My house isn’t as spotless as everyone assumes it should be. When I am exhausted at the end of the day I often can’t scratch a million things off of my ‘to do list’ and am left with the nagging feeling that perhaps I didn’t accomplish a thing that day. My ego is so battered and bruised I can barely recognize my old self. But I know that I will never regret this decision. I will never regret this God gifted privilege of time. Despite all of the judgement and the bumps and bruises, I know with all of my heart that we have been given a precious gift.
I wasn’t sure how to answer my son when he asked me when I was to get my ‘real job’. I didn’t want to respond ‘well, you are my job’. That may give him the wrong impression, that he is work. But he is work, hard work. What prompted this big question from my little boy? How is it that we have come to a day and age where we are being judged because we choose to be at home with our children full-time. Woman are expected to be perfect housewives and lovers, perfect friends, perfect mothers, perfect business partners and professionals. What ARE we doing to ourselves? Can it be true that it is moms judging moms? Doesn’t it take a village? We have to stick together! Help fill in the gaps for one another. To cheer one another on. To promise to be each others biggest fans and supporters. No one will understand us like, well we do. It is time to lift each other up in grand applause. Aren’t we all on the same team? Aren’t we all striving towards the same goal?
You know the saying, ‘don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes’. Here, take mine. You can have them for as long as you need them. I’m pretty sure that if I tried on yours I would polish them up and make them look shiny and new. I would try to make your life a little easier, a little prettier, attempt to make your load a little lighter. But for one moment, perhaps we could all throw our shoes into a big pile and forget about them. Let’s have one big barefoot parade. Let’s get back to a place where we can look at each other judgement free and rediscover common ground. Let’s encourage growth. Let’s pick one another up. Let’s love one another. And when it is time to put our shoes back on, let’s just take a look at all of the beautiful choices we have. Some wear ballet flats, some red stiletto’s, others running shoes or steel toe boots…different yes, but they are ALL big shoes to fill.
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. I ‘hit a wall’ on a regular basis…hard…like, close to concussion, self-induced coma hard. Do you remember the Shrek movie when Shrek tells Donkey that ogres are like onions, with many layers? That is exactly how I would describe parenting. As soon as you feel like you have something figured out, another stinking layer presents itself and you are starting from scratch. Layers and layers…and layers. It really CAN bring you to tears. Between my Facebook, twitter and Pinterest accounts, my visual comparative distortion can drive me to the point of guilt ridden madness. I read parenting magazines and parenting blogs. I see hundreds of pictures a week of smiling children doing smiley things. I stand elbow to elbow with the other shameless photographing parents frantically attempting to get the ‘perfect shot’ panicked by the thought that we may not have enough ‘happy childhood’ documentation to use as back-up when our children decide to blame us for… whatever, take your pick. I overhear the conversations about how so and so’s so and so is sooooo amazing and you should put so and so in touch with them if you ever want your child to be successful. When did parenting become a sport? Did we just decide one day that our children’s lives should be just as fast paced as our society has dictated ours should be? ‘Come on kids, join the exponentially growing rat race’. When is it ever going to be enough?
I came to terms with the fact that my son will blame me for something at some point in his life. I enrolled him in hockey too late, or too early. I drove him to school when he should have taken the bus and now he feels socially awkward. I should have driven him to school so he didn’t have to deal with the distraction of the noisy bus and now he can’t concentrate. If there is one thing that I am sure of it is this, I am not perfect and therefore, will not raise a perfect human. “Hello (stands), my name is Tina and I am a recovering perfectionist”. Whew! Allow the words to just pour from your mouth. There, see? That’s better. Admitting it is a great first step! I am discovering that there is a significant amount of freedom when you decide not to take yourself, and your life too seriously.
I had been thinking about buying a pair of rubber boots for close to a year and a half before I finally broke down and bought a pair. I drive my son to school every Tuesday and Thursday and wouldn’t you know it, thirty percent of the time when I drop him off it rains. By the time I would wade back to the car my socks would be sloshing a tune. I love my new boots but it hasn’t rained once during drop-off since my much thought over purchase.
I was born and raised in Windsor Ontario, and I’m sure other Windsorites would attest, we can get some wicked rain storms. It wasn’t until I moved from Windsor that I realized what a big part of my life these storms had become. When I am away from home I can actually miss them. One of my fondest memories from my childhood was during one of these epic storms. Mom got out the shampoo during a particularly loud and scary torrential downpour, opened the front door, and led both myself and my big sister out into the yard. I remember running and slipping through the rain. I remember bubbles in my eyes. I remember laughing in uncontrollable hysterics. I remember feeling free…free from fear. One single memory. One single rule ‘broken’. Such impact!
I have been making a solid effort to become more spontaneous. To be prepared to be unprepared. To expect the unexpected. To forget the ‘rules’. Last night, tub time began just as it always has. Or had it? Jess had received a squirt gun from a party bag (much to my dismay), snuck it into the tub, filled it, and began to squirt me with the half an ounce of water that it could barely contain. I mean, I had to wash the washroom floors anyway! Instead of getting upset and drying off, I declared at the top of my lungs ‘GAME ON’! Bullets turned into buckets of luke warm bath water flying through the air. Within mere seconds the whole room became sopping wet and I was soaked to the bone. On a school nite! I forgot, for one single moment that I was supposed to be ‘that perfect parent’. Eventually I would succumb to the inevitable surrender. Towel after towel I soaked the tub from the floor and it got me to thinking…I want more! I refuse to become too busy trying to raise a perfect child that I forget that I have a little person bearing witness to every breath I take. I want to throw caution to the wind! I want to make more mistakes and…move on. Tell more jokes and laugh hysterically at myself. I want to eat watermelon off of the good china. I want to open the good bottle of wine, just because. I want to enjoy a slow and unscheduled pace and not feel guilt because I haven’t OVER scheduled our lives. Put on the rubber boots, if you must. Heck, drink the wine out of the boot if that floats your boat. Just don’t forget to have fun! Remember to dance and sing and get silly in the rain. I want my son to bear witness to THAT.
I saw my’self’ for the very first time when I was about seven years old. I will remember that exact moment for the rest of my life. I was so tiny that I had to lift myself onto the ledge of the sink. I looked so deeply into my own eyes that my nose was almost touching the mirror. I can still remember that my arms were shaking from my weight. I looked directly into my very own eyes….and…time…stood…still. I was just amazed by the discovery that I was in there. Somewhere, in there…was me! The same person who woke up early to watch The Flintstones. The little girl who ran all the way to the red swing in 32 seconds flat. The same person who ate half a grilled cheese sandwich and 3 pickles for lunch.. Right there in front of me! I knew that very instant that the person staring back at me was the only person on the planet that knew, and would know every single thing about ME. I felt like I was given a precious gift. I felt like God had given me a precious gift. I felt…special.
I ran off to go do something or other. And I’ve been running ever since.
The reason this memory has come to surface? As I’m blow drying my hair, (a mundane something or other mindless task that on most days means absolutely nothing) I’m almost run over, spun around and knocked down. My son Jesse, bursts into the washroom. He grabs the green stool from beside me and pulls himself onto the sink. He makes no mention of my presence, leans deeply towards the mirror, looks into his very own eyes and…smiles…bigger…BIGGER…and just like that, he whirls off again. But the moment lasts much longer for me. I wept. I felt like I was given a precious gift. And I was! I felt like God had given me a precious gift. And He had! I felt special…i’m still working on that one.
Why do we grow to be adults who can shake a firm hand and look a perfect stranger in the eye, but we cannot find the time to look into our own? What have the heaviness of the years done to us? After all, I am still the only person on this planet who knows every single thing about me. I am still that little girl. I am still in there, aren’t I? I have seen myself through many adventures, many moments…my life. Have I become too busy to know myself?
I have been making a special effort to look my ‘self’ in the eyes on a daily basis. To ‘check in’. An inventory of sorts. Jess and I will often make silly faces in the mirror and laugh at each other. I want him to feel secure enough to explore. To ‘dig in’ to his one precious life. To know the freedom of discovery. To understand what makes him feel ‘whole’. To discard the things that don’t. To trust himself and to stand proud in his life. To look himself in the eye every morning and night…and smile.
The expression ‘compose yourself’, a demand to ‘pull yourself together’ comes to mind. To compose is, ‘to make or form by combining things, parts, or elements’. To take a breath? Our lives are ever evolving compositions. We combine different parts and elements to form a ‘whole’. But sometimes our busy lives can result in the loss of sight into our sense of self. And slowly but surely our stories can be hijacked by other ‘authors’. Minutes turn into hours, days to years. Until we wake one day and find that we are unrecognizable. We know our children better than we know ourselves.
Parenthood is a constant reminder that ‘time flies’. Watching someone grow right before your very own eyes can throw you into a panic, make you feel old. Can we get too caught up in the raising of our children that we forget that we are also still growing, still becoming? ‘Selves’ who are learning and yearning for new ‘parts’ or ‘elements’ to make us whole. Let’s try to make a promise to ‘check in’ with ourselves now and again. Take a moment to remind our ‘selves’ that we are still in there! While we’re at it, perhaps we could choose to travel a little lighter and throw some of our ‘luggage’ on the belt and just watch it float away. Take just one moment to re-compose.
I love music. I have listened to, danced with and sang along to music everyday for as long as I can remember. I can still close my eyes and in an instant be flipping through my mother’s record collection. I loved that sound…flip, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, flip, Van Morrison’s Moondance, flip…and the smell of a new record being pulled from its sleeve…how the vellum would stick to the record as you slipped it from its case. I can get lost in the sounds, the words, the meaning, and the dancing…miles and miles of dancing. Music means A LOT to me. So naturally I have a collection of music that has carried me through well, my life.
It seems that I have passed this appreciation to my son. When I was pregnant with Jess I would blast music in the apartment and dance and sing while I rubbed my belly. Now WE listen to music everyday. Jess and I have living room ‘dance party date nights’ which include singing at the top of our lungs, daring acrobatics and lots of laughter as we test some ‘new moves’. I can retrieve most of my fondest memories in the sound of a single note. Turns out, music has taught me one of the most important lessons on parenting…to surrender.
That’s right folks I now proudly wave the universal parenting flag of white. Alright, so some days it is more of a frantic, exhausted and defeated wiggle of the ‘giving in’ to a hostile take over…I surrender!
Prior to becoming a Mother I was a fanatic when it came to my CD’s. Do you remember that Friends episode, ‘The one where Joey doesn’t share food’? I was like that with my CD’s (and my food, but more on that later). No, I will not lend you this CD! You can listen to it here. If you feel the need to peruse my music, handle the CD properly! And DO NOT put the wrong CD in the wrong case…I may ask you to leave.
The other day Jess and my niece are listening to music and a stack of CD’s (not put back in their case) cascades from the shelf…ffffffftttttttt…down they go all over the floor. Now, don’t get me wrong, I did sweat a bit and run over to pick them up…but I didn’t have to demand they vacate the property. See? Growth. I am now a mom to a sticky fingered, music lovin’, five year old AND finger printed music. Jesse has taught me not to sweat the small stuff. It isn’t always easy though. In fact, sometimes it’s even down right painful. Change=growing pains.
To surrender means, ‘ to yield (something) to the possession or power of another’. And to yield is to ‘give way’. This does not mean that I always give Jess his way. But it has allowed me to step back. To get outside of myself. To live in the moment. To forget my ‘rules’…and well…let love rule.
My love for Jess was unconditional the moment I discovered I was pregnant. I am still learning to give up power, to ‘give way’, to yield. Sometimes I have to surrender ten times a day. But each time I do…well, those are the moments of growth. I strive everyday to be a better mom. To master the skill of unconditional surrender. To allow possibility. Oh and how I have discovered, that is where all the good stuff lives…the treasure lies buried within …the sweet surrender.