the barefoot parade

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.

Compose Your ‘Self’

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.

And then…

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. 

Unconditional Surrender

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.

In A Galaxy not so far away…

It is 9:30 am and I am just now falling into this chair in front of my computer. I have had an aching in both my mind and heart to begin to write about these ‘misadventures’ I call my life. The ego always gets the best of me and will furthermore be referred to as ‘the bully’. It plucks endlessly at my wounded confidence and rarely shows signs of exhaustion. Speaking of being tired…pffft forget it. I would only be accused of speaking in tongues…ppthhhhffffttt…now that’s tired.
Let’s review…it is now 10:35 in the morning. So far today I have delicately cut crusts from a PB & J sandwich (all the while ‘the bully’ screaming at me that if i really was a good mother I would serve dinosaur shaped sandwiches). I have managed to run out of purple vitamins. I saved a TonTon from the frigid winds of the ice planet Hoth (ahhhh but Mommies of young Jedi’s will all learn these very basic starwars survival techniques). I was forced to wash the kitchen floor after overactive terrible 2 year old dog tracked the wet back yard into the house while dragging a soaking wet, long lost, dug up from the depths of hell old squeaky toy (oh how ‘the bully’ loves to remind me that that is what I get for allowing my 3 year old son to name our new puppy Shoeshine) onto my prior ‘not so bad’ kitchen floor. I also included a slap happy tap dance this morning (no really) as I attempted to demonstrate that I, in fact am just as fun as dad…epic fail…or so I’ve been told. I have also been asked to define what community is: 1) A group of interacting people, living in some proximity (i.e., in space, time, or relationship). Community usually refers to a social unit larger than a household that shares common values and has social cohesion. The term can also refer to the national community or international community, and, my personal favorite 2) A community is a group or society, helping each other. Which leads me to…oh, excuse me for one moment…have to wipe up ‘gross sticky stuff’ from couch (how many times can you get away with simply flipping gross couch cushion, yea, that’ll be once. Only one flip!) Which leads me to this…and YOU…AND ONLY ONE ‘FLIP'(I am positive that I have over used that one). So this is me, reaching out (before I flip out!), like many of us do. I long to be a part of ‘interacting people…larger than (this) household…helping each other’. Wiki continues to define community as, ‘In human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks, and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness’. Let me tell you something I know,  I know that I am in here. I know that YOU are out there. And I know the ‘risks’ that the ‘conditions’ can induce!  In conclusion, WE HAVE GOT TO STICK TOGETHER!  Let’s create a positive and nurturing, beautiful and loving space for not only our children, but for each other as well:) Let’s leave ‘the bully’ at the door shall we?  Because if I discover that I don’t have you, I may just take my TonTon and ride off into another dimension…and get some much needed sleep.