Thursday, July 28, 2011

More on Nothing and Everything

A couple years back, well before pre-school friends and a baby sister, Josie and I spent a ton of time together. I was so fortunate to only have to work part-time and we spent a lot of time at the Cincinnati Family Enrichment Center where we met a lot of really incredible women that remain close friends. One of the women I met there was "Miggy" - the hip mama of her NY-transplanted family who landed in Cincinnati for awhile. Miggy and her sweet daughter (known in the blogosphere as "Princess Sparkle Pants") took the same parent/child art class that we were in. I instantly liked her in a "now that's the kind of mom I want to be" sort of way - for all the "wrong" reasons (dang, that girl has an incredible sense of style) and all the "right" reasons (wow, you can just see how connected she is to her daughter within a few minutes of being in the same room).  So, fast- forward to years later. Miggy and I both disappeared from the Center at about the same time. I later found out that we both suffered similar complications in trying to have our second children. (And you'll be happy to know that she got her "happy ending" too. Just wait 'til you meet sweet little "Lamp.")

While we didn't see each other at the Center anymore (and well-intentioned playdates never quite came together) I kept up with Miggy's blog which I found (and continue to find) incredibly refreshing in its honesty and candor. She puts it all out there - courageously and poignantly. And I've been so grateful for her blog and the way she has shared the story of her beautiful family many many times.  (If you've never clicked on the link to her blog over in my blogroll, I dare you to try to read a post and not find yourself going back time and time again for more. Don't be surprised if you learn a few things in the process. And get ready to fall in love with her two sweet girls...and her mad sewing skills.)

So all of this is the long way of saying, this morning I read her post "Nothing and Everything" and it resonated so much with me that I just had to share it.

She says:
It's easy to define ourselves by what we do, but those things don't always accurately portray who we really are... I think my children have done more to chisel away at my ineffectual exterior revealing a truer and better me...Of course there are many days where it doesn't seem that way, many days where I feel like the worst version of myself and wonder who gave me stewardship over two human lives in the first place...but it's there.  The subtle changes, the small and large sacrifices, a little-bit-better me.  In one sense those helpless, beautiful creatures have given us absolutely nothing.  Instead they have taken almost all our time, energy and mindshare, not to mention a fair amount of our financial resources.  And because of that, they have somehow given us everything.

Now that I have been fortunate enough to get to do this parenting thing all over again, it has really caused me to pause and reflect on what it means to be a mother.  For example, I remember when Josie was about Bea's age I started spending evenings making pureed baby food. It struck me as the strangest way to spend my time. How funny, I was actually being a parent. One night in particular, it hit me: "Whoa - I'm a mom. This is crazy. I used to spend my free time doing lots of other things and now I'm staying up too late making homemade baby food. This is insane." For a long time, it felt as though I was "playing mom" and it was a totally common occurrence to joke with friends and family about how hilarious and strange it was that we had a baby. And I'm not sure when it happened exactly. The slow evolution from that to now, where life before Josephine & Beatrice seems like a distant memory.  There are glimpses into that former life, but our new life as parents is largely unrecognizable from our lives before it.

I guess what I am putting out there is this. It's not as though I've been struggling lately with wanting that old life back, because I really don't. And while it would certainly be nice to have a little more "me-time" in theory, I'm not quite sure I'd find it as fulfilling as it sounds once in practice. I guess the reason Miggy's post struck such a chord with me today is that her epiphany acted as the catalyst for my own. To paraphrase the C.S. Lewis quote she shared - at some point, we start separating breaks from our former life as interruptions of that which is "real" or our "own." At some point we realize that those "interruptions" are our life - all of them - the good, the bad &  the heartbreaking, the mundane, the blissful & everything in between. And quite thankfully really there is no going back.

And that was the thought that hit me as I got to the end of her blog post this morning. And the post, like so many she has written over the years, has been bouncing around in my head all day where it has grown and evolved substantially and, like most good thoughts, raised more questions than answers.

So Miggy - thank you. In my growing pursuit to be more present in my life, you continue to give me (and all of your readers far and wide) the enormous gift of your genuine and authentic reflections on raising a family.

And to all of you - those that read our blog and click up the tally on the blog visits - those of you who are new friends and old friends, people I talk to every day and people I haven't talked to in years, those of you who keep reading for the reason unique to you - thanks for being part of this new life of ours.

Maiden Voyage

This morning Josie road off to a Day Four of Nature Camp in her new big kid booster seat. The transition was tear-provoking for us as Lou removed her carseat to make way for the booster. The cow carseat, which will soon become Bea's, is the one that we brought teeny tiny, brand new Sweet Baby Josie home from the hospital in almost four years ago. (And such a sweet memory of it taking a full half hour to do a ten minute drive because new dad Louie refused to go above 25 mph.) Josie is over the moon about growing up, but I can't say we share the same enthusiasm for the idea.
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