Friday, March 25, 2016

sweet 16, california and counting

turning sweet 16 this week, the trip was meant to be a gift for our sarah. but without doubt, it has been a gift for me --- this weekend away with the two oldest daughters. california beaches and sunshine and the sweetness of good time spent with my girls almost all grown up.

one daughter just turned 20 and the other just about to turn 16.  these are the years not always set aside for a mother. these girls are busy with their college and their high school and their friends and their figuring out of life.

it's normal. it’s how it goes. it's what is supposed to happen.

they stop playing with their baby dolls in the next room over and they head out into the space of their own lives. it's real and it's right. and i imagine, it's the way it generally works.

but as mamas we watch it take place and we feel the pang. somedays we can't help but gasp at the abruptness of it all. one day, tiny children holding tightly to our hands and the next day those same hands are just a wave on their way out the door.  a quick kiss or a brief hug and off they go to their older-self things.

and i'm glad.

i'm glad they are finding things away and apart from me. i'm not saying it is always easy, but i know that it is good. they cannot grow up and be the women and men God has designed them to be out there without separating a little bit from me right here.

no, we're not talking about a total severing, only a tiny shift. somewhere between sever and shift there is a sweet space. a space to which they can return and a space from which they can roam. we don't always strike a perfect balance. we can’t. believe me, after twenty years in the business of mothering, i can tell you there is no perfect in parenting. it doesn't work that way. instead we dance --- around it and in it and sometimes all over it. they figure it out as they go. we figure it out as we go. it's the unspoken agreement we strike when they are first placed in our arms. there aren't operating instructions. there's no formula or road map or 100% right way.

our first morning at the hotel and wide awake ridiculously early (east coast to west coast issues) i sat in the coffee shop near a fireplace. across from me was a young woman with a book perched on the convenient shelf of her very pregnant belly. even with only a few sips of coffee in me, i couldn’t help but notice the book's title, baby wise. twenty some years ago in my first pregnancy, i, too, could have been found with this book perched on my belly. and because i have a penchant for striking up conversations with strangers, i was compelled, of course, to tell her. (--- not really about the belly thing, just that i had read the book).

the young mama-to-be excitedly explained this was her first baby and with great hope in her eyes, quickly went on to ask, "so, did this book really work?"

i thought of the two girls back in my hotel room oblivious to any time change and not anywhere close to awake. their tall bodies stretched out in beds, beautifully snoring in their deep morning sleeping. i couldn’t help but smile remembering the role of this book in my early parenting. remembering the days of new-baby-sleeping. remembering how i continuously consulted these pages as if they held every answer to the success of my newborns. by the time our family was complete, this book was ear-marked and water-marked and 100% mother-marked. the schedule, the feeding, the sleeping -- i was determined to make it work. dedicated to doing it right. and, mostly, of course, just desperate to get a little bit of sleep myself.

when you are in the throes of new mama-ness, it is hard to imagine the day when, with your daughters, you might travel to a hotel perched on the coast of california and eat fancy salads in rooms with beautiful views. when you're chasing toddlers across the sand and vigilantly hovering as they dance and dig in the surf, it doesn’t seem possible that someday your girls will sit still and quiet and content themselves with their suntans and their cell phones. (of course you'll watch them, but it will be for other reasons).  but in those early days it's downright foreign to think you might someday share makeup and jewelry and shoes and secrets. that kind of stuff doesn't quite compute when, in early-motherhood-survival-mode, we are desperately counting hours each day. hours of napping and hours of nursing.

"yes, it worked," i told her. it did. scheduling and planning and preparing ... that all does work. perfectly? no! but it works. it helps. for awhile. and then they grow up and we no longer worry about how long they nursed or how well they slept, because suddenly there are other things that consume us. other books to read. other things to count and consider. each season bringing something new.

i don’t have to count the hours in their schedules any longer, but i certainly do count the blessing of hours spent with them. and though i can’t credit any book with the sweet relationship i share with my girls, i am certain what we have with our kids does begin at the very beginning. it begins in those new baby moments when we count hours of sleep and wet diapers and spoonfuls of oatmeal. we count. it counts. every bit of it counts.

i wished this young mother the best, grabbed my coffee and headed back to the hotel room to wake up my girls. the sun was out and it was time for them to get up. motherhood might look a little different now with children who are teenaged and taller than me, but i assure you there is so much that is just the same.

in all of it, whether at the very beginning or somewhere in the midst of all grown up, we must remember the very best thing we can count is the blessings.

sometimes they even take pictures of you!


Sammy said...

Love your wisdom filled stories.

Alexandra Kuykendall said...

And there are different books to read...waiting for one from you. Because I need this. I'm right smack in between the toddler years and college years and I need you to tell me it's going to be okay. And if I trust anyone it's you to do the telling. I'm so grateful you are the mom ahead of me Jody that I can watch and learn from.

Rebecca said...

This is lovely and So True.