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Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

something made you cry and you screamed so loud,
when your tears streamed down and you fell on your knees,
when those last few words came hurling out,
when I stood my ground instead of turning to leave,
… that wasn’t me.

if you see someone facing the oncoming storm,
… that’ll be me.
if you see some toes wiggling deep in the sand,
… that’ll be me.
when the wings of self love fly high through the air,
… that’ll be me.

you got so mad with 10,000 rhymes,
did the words on the page embarrass you,
did someone ask too often for a minute of time,
did she steal your wish because she had so few,
… that wasn’t me.

on a star someone sits with all the wishes come true,
… that’ll be me.
when your page fills with words so easily,
… that’ll be me.
on the day the fog lifts and a hand is reaching for you,
… that’ll be me.

if I said “see me” more often than I should,
if I broke you down beyond repair,
if I tried too hard because I thought I could,
if that poem I wrote was as transparent as air,
… that wasn’t me.

that person still standing when the storm dies down,
… that will be me.
… that will be me.

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Why can’t I tell my daughter she’s pretty?

Will that make her believe her sole worth is tied up in the beauty I see in her face? Will it ensure that she develops an eating disorder or a personality complex or make her vain or narcissistic? Will my name come up all too often in future therapy sessions because I told her she was pretty and that somehow manifested itself into me being a mother who put too much importance on her physical looks?

I was shopping for clothes at the local second-hand store with my kids and had two simultaneous realizations that… I suppose, are very much related.

My oldest daughter (who will be 16 in a few weeks), was drawn immediately to the rows of shorts — micro-mini-shorts. I said, “no”, without so much as a look in her direction. Then, her logic hit me… with overwhelming force, as most teenage logic does.

She stared deep into my eyes and asked, “do you think I’m a slut if I wear short shorts?”

 “No!”, I vehemently denied, without hesitation.

Of course I don’t think my daughter is a slut… what I was thinking about was if others would think she was a slut. The visions of Rush Limbaugh that floated through my mind at that very moment sickened me.  

Her words stopped me from traveling down a path that too many use as an excuse to defile girls… it made me remember this post I read a while ago about the amazing Eve Ensler. Our clothes and our looks should not define how we are treated by others… but often, it does.

This realization hit me like an elephant kicking me in the gut… how easy it was for me, a strong-willed-out-spoken-independent woman to fall into the trap of blame and shame.

My other realization was with my youngest daughter (8). She is, in childhood terms, chubby. I’ve been watching her gain weight the last couple of years… I changed her diet, began telling her the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, cut back on the high calorie meals, and cut out visits to fast food restaurants. Still, she steadily has gained weight. Her clothes are too long in length in order to get them to fit the waist. I worry and plan and worry some more.

Let me not fail to mention my son (13) — he went through a couple of years of chubby and now is thin… maybe too thin. I read an article on the growing number of boys affected by eating disorders. So, now I have my girls and my boy to consider with each word and glance and misplaced sigh of disapproval that escapes my body. I have to make a conscious effort to not fall into that trap of societal pressure — am I complimenting their brains enough, am I telling them how nice they are enough, am I encouraging their creative talents… enough?

So, here I am, in the middle of the consignment shop being questioned by my oldest as to if I think she is a slut for wearing certain types of clothes, ruminating about the food that I should and shouldn’t allow my youngest to eat, and wondering if I should be concerned about my son’s weight loss.

My horror at myself came when I grasped the uncomfortable fact that I was concerned about the perception of others… in some cases people I didn’t even know and probably wouldn’t want to know. I was concerned about how all of this would look reflected on me as a mother.

Later that day, when the stress was far behind and we had all retreated to our corners of the house, I googled “the best way to help your child eat healthy”. The first thing that popped up, surprisingly, was a direct answer to that question — “the best way to ensure your children make healthy choices in life is to let them see you make healthy choices”.

Okay.

Great.

Somehow it always rolls back around to being the mothers fault.

Now I realized I needed to focus attention away from my worries about the kids and look at myself… never a fun task. I had been eating healthy for over a year, my kids don’t even ask to go to fast food restaurants anymore, we have salads and fruits and lean meats. My oldest and I are currently practicing pescetarianism… the other two aren’t far behind. But, admittedly, I’ve been lacking on a steady exercise routine — this is where I needed to focus my change.

Last week I read an article about an article… I haven’t read the original article that seems to have pissed so many off. It’s in the April issue of Vogue and purchasing Vogue isn’t on my budgeted list. The original article by Dara-Lynn Weiss, talks about how she put her 7-year-old daughter on a diet. My dismay (along with others, I’m sure) is the way she went about it. In her own account, she talks about berating her daughter in public and focusing most of their private conversations around her daughters need to lose weight… I did mention she was 7, right?

I’m thinking Mrs. Weiss’ name will come up in future therapy sessions way more often then mine.

But… here’s the thing.

I think my youngest daughter is pretty and I do tell her this, often… physically attractive. I tell her I see her beauty in her mouth and her nose and her eyes that always pierce straight through to my soul. I see her beauty in the way she laughs and cries and screams and flashes those looks of contentment. I also think I need to show her how to be healthy by being consistently healthy myself — not by putting her on a diet or ridiculing her in public.

I think my oldest daughter is amazingly gorgeous — long and lean and silky hair and eyes that are a color that hasn’t been named yet. I tell her this often. She is also a brilliant reader and writer, an amazingly focused student, kind, and funny, and just the perfect amount of smartass to round her out. And I don’t think she dresses like a slut, I’m not even sure what a slut dresses like… a suit and tie, micro shorts, dread locks? I don’t know. And, I’m glad she stopped me as I ventured down a path that pisses me off when I hear others venturing down it — what we wear does not define who we are nor does it invite unwanted advances or unwanted criticism.

And my son… he’s absolutely adorable — long hair, long eyelashes, a smile that makes girls faint. I tell him how cute he is all the time. I tell him how kind he is all the time, almost saint like really. He’s smart and funny and laughs loud enough to catch a whole room on fire with his charm.

So, will they need therapy when they’re older — possibly.

Will they blame a mother who focused all her attention on their outward appearance — hell no.

Back to the article… I’m not necessarily counted in the “backlash” group. I’m not sure there’s an “I concur” group related to this but I’m sure I wouldn’t belong to it either. I’m just a mother who learned from the mistakes of my past and my mothers past and her mothers past. I’m a mother who thinks my kids are attractive and smart and kind and funny — the order of those changes, as it should.

My children, like your’s, are beautiful and have great hair and gorgeous smiles and enough intelligence to take-over the solar system and enough kindness in their souls to warm the Grinch’s icy heart.

I may think I’m shaping them into the adults they will become… but, really, they’re shaping me into the mother I will become.

Why can’t I tell my daughter she’s pretty?

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Shape me…

into the girl you thought I was,

dressed in ruffles with bows in my hair.

Tell me…

that love means hearts get broken,

that being bruised is better than nothing at all.

Hear me…

when I tell you my truth,

my truth doesn’t match yours.

See me…

when I wave my hands in your face,

desperate for a gleam of recognition.

Feel me…

when I’m tugging at your sleeve,

hoping for a minute of your time.

Listen to me…

goodbyes are important to get right,

this one seems so hollow.

Look at me…

past your keyhole view,

into the eyes of a complicated being.

Think about me…

questions coming into focus,

the searching will never end.

Accept me…

this is who I am,

standing here reaching, just reaching.

Shape me…

always learning,

always becoming more.

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I want to hike the Appalachian Trail and sleep outside for weeks… alone.

I want to join the Peace Corps and end up in some far off land for a couple of years… alone.

I want to camp underneath the redwoods in California and not take a bath and not wash my hair and walk around in dirty clothes and eat cold beans out of a can… alone.

I want to sit on a blanket in the middle of nowhere until a light bulb of recognition turns on in my head and I jump to my feet and howl with the wolves and right then, in that moment, I know… it becomes clear.

I want to do all those things so I can discover who I should be, what I believe, who I can be… who I am.

But I can’t.

I can’t because I have kids and a career and a mortgage and a car payment and I have people who would think I was crazy. But, I’m not — I’m just 43 and finding myself.

So… what are my options?

How do we, as mothers and business leaders and teachers and people with our sanity, ensure that we keep our sanity in the quest to sort it all out?

A weekend excursion without the kids?

A five-mile run everyday while you listen to your favorite audio book?

A blog?

The options for those of us who have passed the point of doing all of our soul-searching before we “settle down and have kids” aren’t as limited as they seem.  We just have to be more creative with our time, more willing to parcel out our existential outings into shortened day trips or weekends away — or even a few hours locked away in our room to sweat it out with yoga.

To be stuck in a reality where you believe you are out of options is the most important battle you need to fight — stop believing, “this is it”.

A gray hair pops up and we panic, the pair of shorts that seemed loose last summer seems a bit snug now — I drive a Kia instead of a Land Rover. One glass of wine works like sodium pentathol. The waiter calls me ma’am. I can barely stay awake for the 10 o’clock news. Life has happened. But, I’m searching.

Searching for the me that I know I am. The me that tries to hide behind all the bullshit of life. The me that we all are, the business leaders and teachers and bus drivers and hair stylists and doctors and lawyers — the mothers. My searching is constant… my trying to be a better person is constant… my looking at myself is constant. Those times when I need to find myself somewhere at the edge of the ocean in California take a bit more planning these days — but, they still take place.

I can go on life-altering soul-searching journeys and still have my kids to school on Monday morning… as long as I set my alarm. I can sleep in the middle of the woods eating nothing but granola under the stars at night… I just have to stop at the vegan deli on my way out of town.

Possibly, my soul-searching might need to take place in Vegas… a different kind of wild lives there.

I can even post pictures on Facebook to prove it’s possible to find yourself… one weekend at a time. I can tweet my run-ins with wolves and coyotes and snakes and poison ivy. I can blog about all the possibilities and where I know they will take me — take us all who are still searching, still unraveling the mystery.

My life is just beginning to unfold. My self-actualizing-soul-searching is at its height. I am poised and ready to live among the creatures of the night… for a weekend at least.

My life is just beginning… this is going to be fun.

I’m 43 and finding myself.

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Just sleep,

I’ll sit here,

I won’t make a sound while I watch you contentedly as the night rolls around.

I’ll glance past the dark, making sure you’re asleep, I want to keep you safe… even in your dreams.

Is that alright with you?

Go play,

I’ll be here,

I’ll watch you from this chair as you turn the corner and I can barely see the shine of your hair.

I’ll squint my eyes until you’re far from my sight, I want to keep you safe… even when you play.

Is that alright with you?

I’ll drop you off,

Eyes straight ahead.

Whispering, “be careful”, before you open the door, and when you walk away I’ll whisper it once more.

I can see you lighting up the world with your smile, I want to keep you safe… even if I’m not on your mind.

Is that alright with you?

I’ll cry when you leave,

I’m sure of that,

I’ll walk past your room and take a moment or two, closing my eyes to think of you.

I’ll smile and touch your door, I want to keep you safe… even when you’re away.

Is that alright with you?

I’ll smile.

I’ll laugh.

I’ll wipe my own tears, I’m overcome with all those motherly fears.

Stand under my umbrella, it’s big enough for us both, I want to keep you safe… every minute of the day.

Is that alright with you?

Letting go is so hard,

The pain takes a seat just so it can linger.

No worries, this umbrella will keep you from harm, me underneath it with my outstretched arms.

I’ll welcome you back, I always want to keep you safe… even when I can feel your embrace.

Is that alright with you?

I’ll smile,

I’ll cry,

I’ll remember,

I’ll live.

I’ll walk away when I need to…

I’ll hang around as long as I can…

I’ll let go and I’ll hold tight and we’ll dance that dance…

under my umbrella.

Is that alright with you?

 

This poem was sparked by the incredibly talented Pam Carlson , her doodle magic and her ever sparkling, kind, lovely self.

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i should write a poem when i’m pissed off,

the words will spit fire from the page,

the images i conjure will illustrate my rage,

but writing a poem when i’m pissed off makes me smile…

and then i’m not pissed off anymore.

i should write a poem about my heart being battered and bruised,

the things i say will tear at your soul,

i’ll lay out all my pieces and you’ll try to console,

but writing a poem about my bruised heart makes the pain go away…

and then i don’t feel so bruised anymore.

i should write a poem when i know i have truth on my side,

the more words i write, the more suspicious it sounds,

even i will start to question the truth that’s lying around…

but writing a poem with truth on my side makes me question,

and then truth isn’t on my side anymore.

i should write a poem when my mind can’t settle down,

the thoughts will be jumbled and completely confused,

the words will leave you more than bemused,

but when i write a poem when my mind is jumbled…

i don’t question the clarity anymore.

i should write a poem when i’m happy and content,

the sappy words would be oh so sweet,

the sticky taste is just a deceit,

but writing a poem when i’m happy and content leaves me bored…

and when i’m bored i’m not happy anymore.

i should write a poem about the cruelty of silence,

i should write a poem about the helplessness of being misunderstood,

i should write a poem about the bravery of just being.

i should write a poem about…

 searching, finding, losing, struggling, holding on and letting go…

 falling down, getting up, being stuck and daring yourself to move…

 being depressed, being relieved, learning to lose and learning to love…

i should write a poem about how we are always always becoming, always…

i think i’ll write a poem…

i got no other plans.

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This is the second poem of the three I’ll be publishing this week. You can find the first one, “this is about you”, here. If you haven’t read it, I hope you will after you read this one… this one is for my son.

.

You’re taller than me now,

you stand there and laugh as your eyes are able to look down on me.

I step back and remind you that I’m still older, I’m still in charge.

We laugh.

You sit next to me on my bed and tell me to listen to that song, the one I don’t understand the words to, the one I know if I tell you I don’t understand the words to you’ll walk away and I’ll be counted as just another parent who doesn’t understand… so I listen, and I smile, and I sway to the rhythm and we share that moment.

I know these moments will become fewer, these times when you jump on my bed and want to share your music and your books and your YouTube videos that I don’t understand either and so for now I don’t dare move off this bed.

I look at you and I see the man you’ll be, he’s already shown himself in this teenage form that he now occupies. He stands up in class and assertively tells the teacher she’s being a bigot, he gets in between the big kid on the bus who’s picking on the little kid on the bus, he tells that girl she’s pretty and he likes her. The man you will become has already introduced himself to me.

I wonder how you got so brave, how you became so fierce and fearless in just 13 years. I think about how much you teach me, how I feel more fierce when you tell me your stories because I think a part of me must be in you… a part of me must be beating in your soul, making you fierce. I think I must have some of that in me too so I breathe in deep and I face whatever comes… because you showed me how.

I dread the day when you bring that girl home… the one who sees the man you are, my man. The one who climbs into your heart and nudges me out-of-the-way… just a bit. I’ll smile anyway — I’ll share that space… your heart can expand so wide and I’ll be comfortable there in that corner and I’ll continue to take up space, even when we’re far apart.

I know this because right now, when you come sit next to me on my bed and you tell me to listen to your new favorite song — I will. I’ll stay right there in that moment and I won’t care if the phone rings or if my email dings or if the perfect poem is forming in my head… I’ll stay next to you and I’ll sway to the rhythm and we’ll smile at each other without saying a word and I’ll breathe in the stillness of that moment… claiming my corner of your heart.

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I see you… standing there on the corner.

A cigarette hanging from your mouth, your fingertips are yellowed by the repulsive habit. Your hair is dirty, there is no color… just the color of alone, empty, left-over. You’re clothes are disheveled. I imagine you sifting through the pile of used clothes, strewn across a cold concrete floor –piece milling your outfit together, hurriedly before anyone else joins you. Then you pick out your mat and place it in a spot close to the bathroom, you think you have a better chance of sleep with the faint light creeping under the door — the complete dark of the large room scares you.

I know this about you… I can see it.

Once your mat is in place you sprint to the front of the line for food… you know you have a better chance at seconds if you’re at the front, you know this because you watched the others those first couple of times and the power of osmosis gave you the knowledge to survive these nights. When you have your food, you pick the table closest to the front… closest to the line. You can gauge the quantity of food left and when you need to get back in line. Your eyes dart back and forth between the line and your food only you can’t even see your food — you don’t care. It’s hot. You eat. You look right through your plate to the memories of a life you think must have been lived by someone else.

I know this about you… I can see it.

I can see the baby being held by a mother — love in her eyes, a smile on her face. Her hair falls gently past her shoulder and tickles your cheek as she sings Van Morrison and there you are… into the mystic. Dancing around in her arms, clinging to the warmth of her breath, inhaling the sweet scent of her dreams — the dreams she had for you. The report card she knew she would frame, the touchdown she knew you would catch, the college she knew you would attend… she knew you would have her gypsy soul. And she danced and she twirled and you closed your eyes and…

I know this about you… I can see it.

When the morning comes you gather your things… a backpack with clothes, a toothbrush, a marker, matches — your cigarettes. You stand in the line again, waiting for your breakfast and the sack lunch for later. You put it all in your backpack and you wait outside for the van to leave and carry you back to this corner — this corner where I pull up to everyday and I watch you put that cigarette to your mouth and I see your yellowed finger tips and I wonder if anyone ever held you in their arms. I wonder if you ever knew the hope of someone who believed in you. I wonder if anyone ever gazed down on you while you were sleeping and wished you dreams of unicorns and bunny rabbits and clouds shaped like hearts. I wonder if anyone ever stood up for you — I wonder if you remember.

I see you… standing there on the corner.

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“Be that girl they sing about”,

I tell you, but only so I can hear.

You’re sleeping, your hands tucked under your cheek as if they were placed there for a painting. Your tattered blanket wrapped gently around your soft brown hair. Your worn stuffed bunny flopped across your feet.

I stare.

I listen to the rhythmic breathing — in, out, repeat. I bend down and I inhale a lung full of your freshly shampooed hair. I press my lips to your cheek and I want to bury my heart right there, forever. Breathe in, breathe out, repeat.

I whisper into your ear, “Be that girl they sing about.”

I stand in your doorway, just looking at you breathe. It’s so strong and sure and alive. Your eyes twitch from the dream you’re having… bunny rabbits or unicorns or maybe, you’re dancing and singing. Maybe you’re walking on the beach in search of the perfect heart-shaped shell. Maybe I’m with you…

I stare.

I whisper before I leave, “be that girl they sing about.”

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Her brakes squeak loudly as she continually pushes them in the halting traffic. She turns the radio up just a bit so she can pretend she doesn’t hear them as she rests her arm on the rolled down window. It’s hot out. Too hot for the window to be open but running the air conditioner will use up more gas and she already put her allotted money in the tank this week. She knows she needs new brakes but it isn’t to the point of emergency yet.

She looks in the rearview mirror at her daughter sitting behind her, she smiles as her daughter pushes her tongue through the empty spot in her gums where her tooth used to be. Yesterday her daughter was crying because the cavity had gotten so big it hurt almost continually. But today, the hole is there where the pain used to be. She used the emergency fund to take away her daughters painful tooth.

She moves her glance back towards the halted traffic and starts thinking about her brakes again — they’re the next emergency. That’s how she categorizes all the things that need her attention, the things that will cause her to re-do the budget for the month… again. The emergencies get taken care of first and today her daughter’s cavity is the emergency, not the squeaking brakes.

The traffic stops again, the same spot every morning, she thinks. Right under the billboard that changes every few days to announce that someone else has just become a millionaire. Someone she doesn’t know and someone who doesn’t deserve the money as much as her and someone who will never need to categorize the expenses by emergencies.

She stares at the sign. Her eyes fixed to the amount, $56 million today. She thinks of that cavity, the tennis shoes she needs to buy for her son so he continues to not suspect anything is wrong, the name brand laundry detergent she wants to splurge on… just once. She sits there in the stopped traffic and thinks of all the things she wishes she could afford — all at once, not needing to space it out in between paychecks. She wants to be that mom that just goes and gets the materials for the class project without adding up the amount in her head at the cash register and hoping it’s less than the amount in her bank account. She wants to place her items on the conveyor belt and talk nonchalantly with the cashier about the weather and the shrimp that are on sale instead of holding her breath hoping to get the “transaction approved” sign from the debit card reader.

She lets her gaze stay on the sign just a bit too long as the traffic moves a few feet ahead. She knows she isn’t going to win the jackpot that’s flashing on the sign above her head because she never plays… and she laughs at the thought of it, for a moment. She knows the five dollars she would spend on her “winning numbers” will pay for her daughter’s lunches that week at school. She thinks someone with fewer priorities will win, she knows it’s not her.

She breathes in deep, her lungs slowly filling with the stale air of this stagnant life, the life where priorities take over — the struggles, the empty bank account, the loss of laughter, the facade. She knows that winning the lottery would screw up the alignment of this life. She struggles to convince herself that she isn’t deserving of this sad but she knows that anything making it better wouldn’t feel right.

She looks around at the other cars stopped in traffic with her. She can pick out the people who think they don’t deserve anything better, who think the lottery will be won by someone else — they look like her… pretty hair, discount clothes, a fake smile — those are the people who think they deserve to be sad.

Still, she looks at the billboard and she wonders. She plans her budget in her head — millions for the kids, a million here and there for relatives, new furniture, a carpet for her dining room, a vacation. She smiles and allows herself to let out a small laugh, then she remembers her daughter’s cavity, her son’s sneakers, the school lunches. She curses the billboard as she finally passes it by because she knows it made her forget about her priorities.

She glances at her now sleeping daughter once again in the rearview. The traffic breaks apart and she continues home. She places a call to the bank to check her account. This months emergency fund will take care of her daughter’s cavity, maybe next month she’ll get a rug for the kitchen. Maybe next month her priorities will change.

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