Dear You,
If there’s anything I’ve learned about mothering in the six short (eternal) years that I have been involved in the endeavour, it’s that mothering is so huge, so baffling, so beyond the ability of words or descriptions to come close to its reality, that it’s very hard to even talk about the experience. We can talk around it, describe the fatigue, the oatmeal on the floor, the sound of giggles or sobs. We can even share tears or laughter or silence in the face of it, but there’s no way of knowing if my experience as a mother is in any way like your experience as a mother. Like grief or sex or headaches or labour, it may share some external characteristics, but who’s to know if it feels for me like it feels for you, or if my struggles, fears, joys, desperations will be the same ones you will feel. Chances are that some of them won’t be, or at least we won’t find the right words to make the connection that they are. But it is exactly this possible uniqueness- the terrifying thought that maybe we’re all alone in this, that every other mother is united in some universal experience while we sit alone and isolated, paralyzed with fear or drowning in despair- that swamps us by a weight that we just may not be able to bear.
And so we need to try, to sit near one another in that swamp and reassure one another over and over with the brave and saving words, “me too.” Me too, me too, me too. Again and again. You’re so tired that your bones ache and your lungs have forgotten how to expand and you stumbled against the wall of the shower? Yes, me too. The sound of your baby’s crying is so piercing and infuriating that if it doesn’t stop soon you’re afraid you might squeeze him too hard or drive away. Or both? Me too. And also…when you watch her sleep and her eyes move beneath her eyelids, thin and transparent like a baby bird, your breath stops and your heart breaks and you know you were never made to withstand this much beauty? Me too. And after one good nap you forget all the weeks of despair and even the shaky feeling in your skull just this morning and you smile at your coffee, thinking you may have found enlightenment? Me too.
This really is how it feels. This scary, exhausting, gorgeous, despairing, hopeful fluttering in the soul they call mothering. Why did no one ever tell us?

Love,
Me.

This morning I found a copy of a document I needed, had been begging for to any benevolent force that might be listening. And when I found it I was thankful, felt like my prayers had (Deservedly? Finally? Lovingly?) been answered. But this morning my sister-in-law’s cousin woke up to find his 21 year old son dead. An entire universe shattered to dust. What prayers are that family saying, will they say then they can breathe again? How can any deity hold both my petty beggaring for a convenient photocopy and the death gasps of a parent destroyed by grief? How then shall we live? Lord have mercy. All the same cliches uttered through the centuries, and still our only recourse. This world is too difficult for us. Who can survive this humanity?

Today things are not going well. Not on any grand scale of lumps on CT scans or terrorist attacks, just on the very puny scale of lost paperwork and messed up scheduling. And yet, it’s enough to leave me frustrated , swearing, petty and teary as though I’m being elaborately and wrongfully mistreated. What a waste of these precious hours- not the events of the morning, but my response to them. All that groveling and fuming and storming around with my fists clenched as though the world depends on my paperwork.
And now the morning is over, and it was such a beautiful one, so many birds flew by my window that I missed completely, so much silence in my home, earth beneath my feet, breath filling my lungs. I missed it. These are the easy days- the ones where all mostly still feels right in the world and I still have my lungs and mental capacities. Why not save the groveling for the real doozies coming my way, and instead practice all the great truths now while I’m mostly still in hardship Kindergarten. If nothing else, why not notice what’s in front of me- fresh coffee, majestic hornbills, wild red poinsettias. Why not turn off the annoying commentary in my head that manages to ruin just about every gorgeous moment and clear a space for reality. Oh God, forgive my tiresome whining, my constant judging, complaining, categorizing. I’d so much rather be open, clear, standing wide eyed and silent before the world as it really is and leave the judging to some other sucker. This life is too good to miss.

Here I go. The next stage of life. For almost ten years I have been home tending to little ones, feeding, consoling, entertaining, scolding, guiding little ducklings under my wing. I have read books, painted pictures, done puzzles, gone for walks, pushed swings, made snacks, wiped messes, wiped bottoms, sung lullabies. I can barely remember those early days with M, blurry like someone else’s life. Crying while she cried, long mornings rocking her in the rocking chair, trying to get her to nap, nursing for hours, sleepless nights, walks around campus with her tucked into the sling. So many years of mothering all day all night. Some of it was impossible, exhausting, frustrating. I scolded too hard, cried long tears. But I don’t think I regret any of those years. I loved them so dearly. Believed so completely that this work of fostering love, gentleness, playfulness, those hours and years spent on the floor with stuffed animals, or humming in the rocking chair were serious and significant work.
My only sadness about all those years is that they’re over. I’m still a mother of course, my children still need me, but that beautiful eternal season of tending to the little world within my walls is over. This morning all three girls ran up the stairs ahead of me, eager to run beyond my borders to find their own worlds. Even my little P now has a life that I am not witness to, relationships, interactions, mistakes, triumphs that I will not see or know. Oh my precious babies. Go with God, with love. Remember how I love you, but fly free on your winged path. I bless you and I miss you and I believe in you and I admire you. You do not belong to me, though I’m so honoured to know you.
This grieving, these tears, this is the reality of now, of what it means to move from one season to another. I spent so long in this last one I’ve forgotten how that grieving feels. And now there’s no going back. I knew it all along, I reminded myself daily to savour the present, to remember it would be fleeting, so I think I did it well, but there’s still no preparing for the actual end. The permanence of change. The never going back to little toddlers running around the house, little babies crying in their baskets, morning coffees with the girls on the porch, long afternoons of picture books. It was such a beautiful time. I miss it already. I will try to grieve well, to close that chapter with honesty and grace, and then, as the tears dry, to move into the next one, with strength, courage, presence, gratitude. Oh Life you are too beautiful.

Today people keep coming down the front yard stairs, other moms, some familiar, some strange, dropping off witchdoctor salves or releasing young children down the sidewalk. Part of me raises barriers, grumbles at strangers’ forthrightness, meets them on the sidewalk to keep them from entering my home. And part of me admits from behind the stony walls that this is exactly what it means to be open to what God brings me, this is what it means to let love flow through my doors, to welcome the divine spark in each human God guides down the stairs. Who am I to know that the nerdy needy ones aren’t the angels? That these aren’t the people placed gently like treasures at my doorstep if i can just have arms to receive them.?When did my love become so conditional, so unwilling to sacrifice a few minutes of solitude? Since when is my home a possession to guard with avarice? Lord forgive me.