And the work, it was fun.

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image courtesy of comicpie (via Flickr Creative Commons)

 

“When you’ve finished with the mop then you can stop
And look at what you’ve done
The plateau‘s clean, no dirt to be seen
And the work, it was fun” – Nervana, Plateau

 

There’s a moment each day that exhausts and causes me to shake my head in wonder. I survey the chaos of scattered books, toys, dishes and laundry. Take inventory of lessons taught and lessons unfinished, and marvel at how much still needs to get done before I can lay my head down to rest. So much activity in just a few hours, and yet so little change from the previous day. I feel stuck on a plateau, waiting to come down the other side.

But then the end of the day finally comes, after the dishwasher is filled and the counters are wiped down. Bedtime kisses are doled out, sleepy bodies are tucked under warm fleecy blankets, and the waning glow of night lights peek out of bathroom doorways. I stand at the top of my staircase, overlooking the quiet, and smile. The careful tick, tick, tock of the office clock flirts with the soft breath of hot air pushing through the floor vents.

I listen to nothing.

I listen to everything.

I listen to my husband snoring, to the murmur of music on The Hare’s bedside table and the rustling of blankets from The Tortoise.

And I remember.

I remember the conversation I  had earlier in the day about college funds, retirement, and life insurance. I picture these rooms with less shoes or discarded clothes on the floor. I imagine hallways with no exploding backpacks or cork-board calendars speckled with concert dates and gymnastic meets. And it makes me crave much earlier conversations about wedding dates and baby names. It makes me miss overflowing diaper bags and toy boxes.

There’s a moment each day that exhausts and causes me to shake my head in wonder.

I am humbly reminded that even the work is fun.

And I will miss it when it is over.

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I want more firsts

What is it about our “first” of anything?

They linger for years.

We never really let go of first kisses, our first dance, the first time we disappointed our parents or even the first time we know we made them really proud. We hold dearly to the feelings of acceptance from the first teacher who believed in us, or the first best friend who stood up for us. First death, birth, marriage, and even divorce are all tucked away in our heart. The hard thing about “firsts”, are that they set the bar for everything else that follows, good or bad.

The Tortoise is on the left – First day of kindergarten

There are a few firsts that really stick out in my mind, like my first car or my first apartment. I’ll never forget the elation of my first publication or the relief of crossing the finish line at my first half-marathon.

But most of all, I am proud to be the mother of my first-born.

The Tortoise made my whole life a series of “firsts”.

First cries.

First smiles.

First steps.

First words.

First “I love you’s”.

I wish I had documented everything, captured more than just a memory. Because even though the next four years will be another series of amazing firsts, things like first dances, first cars, first boyfriends and broken hearts, the one first I most wish to have back is the first time I held my first-born.

The Tortoise’s first day of high school

When childhood meets adulthood

My extended family is rather large and spread out across the country. I have aunts and uncles older and close to my parents’ age, an aunt that is only a few years older than myself and cousins we are waiting to arrive just months from now.

As far as cousins in my generation though, I am one of the oldest.

My youngest brother, me, and cousin K almost 20 years ago.

My mother’s niece, Cousin K,  got married last August and I had the privilege of being a bridesmaid to support her union. I have years of memories of our childhood together celebrating holidays, birthdays, births and even some deaths. She is six years younger than I am, the same age as my youngest brother. As kids, there were only a few times that our age difference stood out to me, like early morning wake-ups when all the grown-ups were still sleeping and Cousin K would come to me singing, “Unny-nut, Emmy, Unny-nut” which simply meant she wanted me to pour her a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. Or the first years of my teen drama, boyfriends and make-up while she was still curious about Barbies and watching cartoons.

Me and Cousin K when she came to visit about six years ago.

Since neither of us have sisters, I think there is a mutual feeling of sisterly love and admiration, especially as we have gotten older. We certainly talk and relate more now. The first time she came to visit me as an adult was about six years ago, the very same weekend we sold our house. We joke that she was our good luck charm.

It’s a strange feeling when your childhood and adulthood meet. The first time my youngest brother came to visit me in Michigan, The Tortoise was only four and The Hare was just a few months old. It was probably the first time we had spent an extended period of time together without our parents. He got to see first hand what kind of wife and mother I am. I remember it being a wonderful visit for all of us, and when he left I made sure to pack him a lunch and gave him some extra money for the airport food court. I might have even asked him to please call or text me when he got home so I knew he was safe. A few days later my mom told me that my brother raved about what a great time he had at our home.

Me and Cousin K at her bachelorette party this time last year.

I think his exact words were, “And Mom, she’s like a real grown-up now.”

This summer my Cousin K and husband came to visit for a week. We were all excited about spending time with both of them, carefully planning the itinerary. It was like our childhood all over again, only this time, it was my children we were entertaining. One afternoon I had both of my girls in the car, one of their friends, and Cousin K. A favorite song popped on the radio, causing the three girls in the back seat to belt out stage quality performances. Of course, I had to join them, complete with head wobbles and arm extensions. After all, I am the karaoke queen.

Me and Cousin K this past June

MOM!” shrieked The Hare, “SERIOUSLY?”

“What?” I asked innocently.

“That is so uncool!” she said, rolling her eyes.

Cousin K immediately started to giggle.

“You too?” I said.

“I just never thought I would see the day someone thought you weren’t cool. You were always the coolest kid I knew growing up,” she said.

“Oh great,” I sighed, “the truth has been revealed. I hope you’re not too disappointed.”

“Actually,” she smiled, “now you are one of the coolest moms I know.”

Conception of Motherhood

I couldn’t imagine life without either of my girls – regardless of how they became my children.

I don’t know much about my conception, other than the knowledge of how babies are born. My mom reminded me for years, still does, that my dad was her one and only. They court each other every day. I know the love that created me, because I see it in their stolen kisses in the kitchen or my dad’s hand brushing across my mom’s backside. I hear it in their voices when they talk about each other, still reveling in the awe of one another.

I liked sex more as I got older. I like it the most now that I am married to DW and I can honestly say that my youngest child was conceived out of the love and passion I have for my husband. It’s more than passion, though, it’s an unbreakable bond built by mutual respect and adoration. But not my oldest. My first-born was conceived out of my need to be needed, and a need to be loved unconditionally. I wanted her more than I wanted anything else in my life, with the hope that having her would be enough.

Motherhood finds us, I think. It wasn’t something I ever dreamed about, or sought out initially. My inability to take care of myself made it rather impossible to picture me taking care of any one else. And yet, I jumped all in with The Tortoise, even in the midst of chaos, when really, I should have been climbing out. Circumstances changed by the time I was ready to conceive The Hare. I was a more mature woman, more capable of being a role model and dedicated mother.

There are women in my life that are suddenly facing motherhood unexpectedly for the first time, or years after they thought they were done parenting little ones or even contemplating adding a child to their single life. No matter how motherhood is conceived, what matters the most are those children and our commitment to them. What matters is how we love them once they are in our lives, because they won’t remember their conception either.

They will just remember all the years after.

Mentor Moms

The word mentor immediately makes me think of the people who influenced my artistic life, like my oboe teacher Mr. Herbert, my beloved high school English teacher Mrs. Johnson and of course award-winning author Heather Sellers, who was my absolute favorite college professor. Each of these individuals had a profound effect on how I viewed my abilities in a relatively short amount of time. I gained creative perspective, learned to respect my strengths and trust my instincts. Each of these amazing teachers captured  my heart as much as my mind and ignited passions that are still burning strong.

However, as I drank my coffee over Facebook this morning, I laughed out loud at a friend’s posted picture. Staring me in the face was a reminder that one of the greatest influences and mentors in my life was, and still is, my mom.  And it doesn’t really  matter how inaccurately I sometimes remember my childhood, which she is quick to point out occasionally, because who I am is a combination of all the things I remember and all the things I feel and experience.

I felt loved and cherished.

I felt important.

I felt safe.

I felt like my parents were the happiest people in the world.

I felt silly and I felt smart.

My love for cooking, hospitality, writing, friendships, parenting, community and family all stem from my relationship with my mom. Her strengths are the things I admire and want to emulate. And even in her weaknesses, I find her honesty to be the best example of humility, teaching me to not be afraid of being more transparent. Everyday I find that I understand and relate to her a little more, which helps me to understand myself at this stage of my life. Every day I am a better person for knowing her.

Perhaps the best mentors are the ones that slowly influence us, make us believe in ourselves and help us strive for excellence in small simple ways just by existing and being themselves, day in and day out.

It is scary and overwhelming to think about how much influence I have over these two little girls I am raising that will someday be women, wives and mothers. I am their mentor too. The environment and relationship I create now will effect their futures and the people they will become. That is a huge burden and one that I just can not dwell on. I don’t want to over think every situation, conversation or emotion because I might miss the simple things. I don’t want to worry about making everything a “teachable moment” because sometimes the lesson is just time together being ourselves.

I don’t ever remember saying to myself, “I think I would make a great mentor someday” but I do remember thinking, “I believe I can be a great mom someday” because I had a wonderful example.

 

Do you have a mentor, or are you a mentor for someone else? Today’s writing prompt from  Write on Edge asked us to link up a personal experience and show what that relationship means. The word limit was 500.