“Humbly Letting Go”

There are a thousand ways to humbly let go” Ann Voskamp ~ One Thousand Gifts

It begins the moment you see your newborn with the soft downy fuzz substitute for hair, the baby soft skin, the red marks showing the struggle of the birth process on their faces, and that new-born cry that only the mom and dad can soothe. You are vulnerable. You have begun on the path of vulnerability that is parenting. From now on people will have a weapon against you that was previously unavailable: that weapon of your children.

Insults to me? These may hurt, but insults to my children? Those wound. Criticism to me? I’ll think about it and weigh the merits. Criticism of my children? That’s crossed a line – unless I’m the one criticizing. Yes, children are an extreme weapon.

And yet the path of parenting is one that demands that I “humbly let go”. I am called to humbly let go of the control I so badly want and think I need. The control of their lives from what they will eat, to where they will go to college, to who they will marry. I am to humbly let go of the desire to make everything ok for them, set their paths straight.  I am to humbly let go of the hurts that make me want to stalk their friends and scream at them “Be Kind!”  I am to humbly forgive and let go of the times when these fruits of my womb hurt me.

There are a thousand ways to humbly let go – but it’s still so hard. How do you let go with humility and peace? This role of parenting is not a role that can accommodate big egos and selfishness. It’s a role that demands that I “humbly let go”.

How is parenting going for you? Where have you struggled to let go? This mom needs you today! 

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Not Fully Baked

English: pink ribbon

“When you lose your mother at 18 years old, you’re not fully baked. That’s what we do with our daughters, we baste them,bake them and roast them.”

 

The above statement came from the Master of Ceremonies, Candy O’Terry, at the All4One Alliance “Dress for a Cause” fashion show I attended last night. It was part of her story, a poignant story about a stoic mom who had advanced stages of breast cancer. Her daughter watched her body fail from metastatic disease and sat with her in a bleak hospital room during her last four days of life. Because of this single event in her life, she is committed to a cause – that of helping increase awareness and funding for breast cancer research and support for women with breast cancer.

Watching moms at the event because of their daughters and daughters because of their moms was moving. The mother/daughter bond is a unique connection. I’m the only girl in a family with four boys and so my mother and I spent a lot of time together. Imagining my life without my mom is like imagining winter without Christmas, or days with no sunshine. She always makes things better. She always serves tea. The two seem to go hand in hand.

I was baked and roasted in a different way because of the surrogate mothers called housemothers at boarding school. Some were not very good cooks. Others were outstanding and my mom was grateful. It’s hard to give up your kitchen to someone else. Hard to let other people try their recipes that are probably not as good as yours.

Last night’s event was just as I imagined in the post I wrote yesterday – there were many hurting people in a beautiful setting. A lot of loss was represented in the room. Loss of friends, moms, daughters and grandmothers. But this was a group of women who were not going to be defeated by the death of someone they loved. They were there for a reason, for a cause.  In honor of their friends, moms, daughters and grandmothers, they came together to raise money so the rest of us don’t have to go through the sadness of losing the cook before we’re fully baked.

Having a worthy cause to fight for gives meaning during the times of loneliness and questioning “Why?”. These women were examples of true friends and warriors. They could have wallowed and wearied in loss. They have chosen to be active and live effectively despite loss.

In many ways the setting was a world removed from much of what is comfortable to me. As much as I love to dress up and go out, I am more emotionally comfortable in a village dispensing malaria medication. But both places teach me valuable lessons about living with a purpose and recognizing even the hard days as gifts.

What about you? Have you lost someone to breast cancer? Is someone you love going through the grueling process of chemo and radiation? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

A New Kind of Mommy Blog

The Myth of Perfect Parenting....

There are some great mommy blogs out in the blogosphere. There is My Baby Experience blog – A mother of one shares baby advice; the How To Mommy – Making Mom’s Life Easier One Post at a Time; there is even Mommy Adventures – a mom with two kids with her latest feature “Hannah Sings the ABC’s.  They are creative, show amazing pictures of picture-perfect children, feature moms who cook, moms who sew, moms who relay clever anecdotes about said children, and moms who make money off these stories. I am not being totally facetious…some of these blogs are remarkable. They are also a means for women to stay at home, while successfully creating a blogging business that helps support their families, and that is no small feat.

But what we need in addition to these blogs is a new kind of mommy blog. Something in the genre of Erma Bombeck. The blog that tells it like it is when those amazing and beautiful toddlers begin to dress themselves, pick their own friends and noses, say things like “you’re ruining my life!” and break their mommies hearts. Erma Bombeck is the mommy that said: “Never lend your car to anyone to whom you have given birth.” and “When a child is locked in the bathroom with water running and he says he’s doing nothing but the dog is barking, call 911.” and “Being a child at home alone in the summer is a high-risk occupation. If you call your mother at work thirteen times an hour, she can hurt you.”

Once our kids get to a certain age, we are confronted with the fact that they aren’t perfect, nor are we, and it is a vulnerable position. We know in our heads that neither party ever was perfect, but the way we live belies that knowledge. When we get to those stages, the idea of publicly blogging some of our stories sends chills down my spine.

I call the stories from those toddler years the “Let me go, let me jump, let me hit my lip” stories, they are cute stories without far-reaching consequences.  But when the stories become “Let me go, Let me drink, let me hurt myself” or “Let me go, let me drop out of college” or “Let me go, let me fail calculus” (and the list goes on) we are suddenly in this place of “Who is this person and what have they done with my child?” Not so easy to share those stories.

But those are the stories that need to be shared. Those are the stories that show that God is faithful and big and good and in control. Every time we are willing to open up about what’s really going on with our kids – their hearts, their jobs, their struggles, we find that we are not alone. We recognize that just as we were seemingly hopeless once ourselves, sleeping on couches with minimum wage jobs, making choices that were questionable and had far-reaching consequences, so go our kids. And God did not abandon us. And God will not abandon them.

About a year ago I read an article called the “Myth of the Perfect Parent”. While I usually scan cynically over parenting articles this one was different. From the first paragraph and the authors’ description of being “in the muddy trenches of parenthood” she had me.  One of the points made in the article was that the question “Am I parenting successfully?” needs to be changed to “Am I parenting faithfully?” She goes on to say “Faithfulness, after all, is God’s highest requirement for us”. Changing that one word changes the inner dialogue that often sends accusations, and ‘should haves’ reverberating through the brain like sounds in an echo chamber. The question is no longer about success, a culturally based fleeting variable, and becomes about our relationship with, and dependence on, God.

So about the new kind of mommy blog – maybe a blog is not where these conversations and stories belong. But they do belong with friends we know and trust.

Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures! psalm 19:90

Check out this article – The Myth of Perfect Parenting and weigh in on the conversation!

Oh to be an Ape!

Mother and baby gorilla at the National Zoo in...

I went to a 40th birthday bash celebration last night for the book “Our Bodies, Ourselves“. This book originated out of a pamphlet developed by a group of women in Boston and initially sold for 35 cents. It was a pamphlet designed as a college-level health education course to teach women about their bodies. The premise behind the project was that women want to learn, they want to be able to communicate with medical providers about best options and treatments, and they need to be able to challenge the medical world to improve care for women.

I’m not going to go into a discourse on the book other than saying it is useful to a broad audience of women because of the breadth of the subjects it covers. There are many things about it that are excellent and arguably, it offers objective and timely information. There are also things that I disagree with, but if I step back, the subjects are dealt with in a way that is free of judgment and reflective of the views of many people. I just happen to live counter-culture and not agree with all of them.

The birthday bash held at the Oberon club in Cambridge had a variety of acts from amazing hula-hoop acrobatics to professional tap dancing. Also featured were 3 different comedic acts that were refreshingly funny and my guess is, probably cleaned up specifically for this audience.

But by far my favorite was a young woman, Marcy Goldberg Sacks, who as a young mom has put a comedic twist on the joys and spit-up of motherhood. Marcy has 3 little girls under 5. She told the story of a recent trip with her girls to the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston about 40 to 45 minutes from the downtown area. As told, she was so excited to take her little ones on an outing to the zoo, particularly to see the gorilla. The gorilla had just given birth to a baby gorilla, her third birth. The similarities between Marcy and the gorilla were amazing – there was Marcy with her three girls, and the gorilla with her three girls. There was Marcy nursing her baby, and the gorilla? She was nursing her baby too! Visitors to the zoo (note – mostly moms with kids…) watched in awe as this big, hairy ape nursed said baby, with two little gorillas jumping around by her side, remarking how amazing this was, how awesome. Then a thought occurred to Marcy:  “This gorilla is big and hairy and…dirty! We’re all paying money to watch a hairy, dirty mom nurse her baby while her toddlers run around her feet and we think it’s “awesome” ….what is this about?! I want people to pay money to watch me nurse my baby with my toddlers running around my feet!”

And with that story comes the realization that life is not fair! How many of us as moms would love to have all our meals taken care of, our home provided, and to be paid for doing what we want to do anyway – care for our kids. Look at that ape, she has it made! She gets all the meals she needs, she has free medical care, and she gets paid to nurse her babies, and best of all – no one expects her to shower or keep clean….Oh to be an ape. It makes one question just how far we really have evolved….!

Loaded Phrase: I am a Mom!

The amazing, wonderful, horrible, interesting children that made me a mom!

I am a mom and that 4 word phrase is loaded!

In my case it is loaded with 5 wonderful, horrible, genuinely amazing human beings ranging in age from 15-25.

It is loaded with sleepless nights – in the beginning because of breastfeeding and in college because of life crises.

It is loaded with millions of “I told you so’s” and millions more “I’m sorry’s”.

It is loaded with laughter so hard that it makes you cry and tears so deep that you think you will never recover.

Being a mom crosses all potential lines that the general population is divided under – race, immigration status, education level, class, sexual orientation or political party.  Instead we moms divide ourselves by breastfeeding or not breastfeeding, back to work in 4 weeks post delivery or not back to work; preschool or not; private school, public school, or home school; school lunches or home lunches;school bus or drive; pacifier or thumb….I could go on and on but have so much more to say.

When I became a mom, I suddenly had a chink in my armor – armor that had served me well for 25 years.  Suddenly I had this vulnerable part of me – and we named that vulnerable part Annie. All 6 lbs 12 ounces of her sweet-smelling baby skin suddenly became the part of me that policies, people and programs could attack. This new and vulnerable part of me affected every way that I make decisions.

I have been a stay at home mom, and I have been a mom with a career outside the home.  I have lived internationally and domestically.  I have lived in the Northeast and the Southwest.  I have had very little money, and I have had more money.  I have rented and owned, I have breastfed and formula fed, I have served my kids whole wheat bread and I have served them happy meals or ice cream for dinner.  And at the end of the day  the questions I ask myself are probably much like other moms:  What do I really want for my kids and who do I really want to like me when I’m eighty years old?

So can I be so bold as to express what I believe moms need? We need to know that when we get up in the morning and find out that our 7-year-old has a fever of 103 that we can call in to work and not be penalized.  We need flexible options for working from home.  We need to not be judged for the decisions we make about our kids, about our families. We need to not have to choose between taking a needed vacation or saving up time in case one of our kids is sick or needs us for another reason.  We need TV shows of woman with real body parts and face cream commercials that say “It may not work for you!” We need to know that our children are ok at school – we need to be a part of the school.  We need to be able to take our children to the doctor with or without financial security. We need to be able to encourage them to develop values and have the freedom to express those values openly. We need to be able to say: College won’t come with a price tag of years of debt, but it will take work and responsibility.

And that is why I will never vote along party lines, but from my ‘mom intuition’ and my conscience.

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A Mother’s Day Salute

“Hi, this is Annie’s mom…” I remember well the day that my identity was defined as a connection to my child. It was through a phone call to someone who knew Annie, but not me. My identity as a mother, though begun in a birthing room, was official with these words. Through the years and subsequent children my identity was rarely Marilyn. It was Annie’s mom or Joel’s mom or Micah’s mom or Stef’s mom and finally Jonathan’s mom.

Barbie & Ken - from kitchen to shoe box!

I had only to look flirtatiously at my husband and BAM – I was pregnant. It wasn’t like the text books say with their pictures and information on eggs, fallopian tubes, and sperm. It was more like Erma Bombeck’s style of sex ed where Barbie and Ken are found in the shoe box and BAM,  Little Kristy is born (or in our case, Little Annie).

Through the years, God with infinite wisdom has given me several good friends who can’t have biological children. For them Barbie and Ken in the shoe box has held sadness and much waiting. Some have chosen to adopt, and some have been unable.  All of my friends have prayed Hannah’s prayer, their agony of longing placed in God’s hands as their lips move soundlessly. One or two have had “Samuels” born to them, but more often they have remained childless, hopes fading as their ovaries age.

Funny that just as society has criticized me for having “too many” kids, my friends have been criticized for having “too few”. The perfect two are society’s mandate. More and you risk not achieving success as defined by retirement funds, children’s education, and security. Less and you risk being whispered about as selfish, having a spoiled brat, and inflexible. No wonder I have bonded with these women. The criticism is too much to bear alone and though on the surface it seems we are unlikely compatriots, below the surface there is a deep connection. My friends have never begrudged my fertile womb, instead supporting me through the good and the bad,  sincerely interested in my children and their lives.  On my part, I have never stopped praying for them and their desires, my lips moving soundlessly on their behalf. My friends have taught me more about contentment than anyone else in my life.

I salute my friends this Mothers Day. A day marked for mothers by runny eggs and burnt toast with a card that makes it a breakfast fit for royalty. A day marked for my friends by recognition that their prayers are safe, their identity secure even as their hope is not yet fulfilled.

But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?” Romans 8:24b  

Curl up on the couch this afternoon and watch this for a humorous look at muthahood!