A Successful Launch

It has been a whirlwind of a summer. I spent 11 weeks doing an intensive chaplaincy training program at a hospital while my son, recent college graduate, found employment, moved, and settled into his new life. I had little time to contemplate the implications of his new independence, and little time to feel the feelings that go with it. But my intensive unit is done and my boy has settled in and now I find myself facing the undeniable reality that my job as mom has nearly come to an end.

Before you tell me that the job never ends, let me say how accomplished I feel to have gotten to this point with my son. It is our job as parents, as best as we are able, to get our children to a place of full independence and functioning. It is our job as parents to help our children to see their purpose in the larger world, a purpose that brings joy, contentment, and responsibility. And so I celebrate my son not needing me very much any longer. That is what I was supposed to do – ween him physically, emotionally, and mentally. I am supposed to move him from a place of needing me in his life to (hopefully) wanting me in his life. While he still calls with questions about things such as benefits or banking, the reality is he can reach out to a number of folks to get those answers too.

I celebrate his adulthood. And I grieve it just a little too. To deny that grief might mean I’m unhealthily holding on in a way that prohibits his full independence. I grieve openly and honestly because it is difficult to go from being the center of one’s universe to being just like everyone else, even when we are given years to accept it. And periodically I feel myself trying to be that center again. I guess that is natural. But when I feel myself wanting to be needed by him, I recognize that is more for my benefit and to his detriment.

I think the best thing I have done as a parent is to never stop learning how to be a better parent. I listen to my husband as he shares his observations. I listen to those who know me and my kids well. And most importantly, I ask my kids questions and listen to what they have to say. I know there is still learning I have to do as I figure out the new normal for my adult son and me. And no matter how much I have screwed up, I take comfort in remembering that parenting is about the cumulative effect. We always have the opportunity to improve the quality of a relationship. We make mistakes as parents. How could we not? But if we don’t forgive ourselves for the mistakes made, we can’t be our best selves in the here and now. I look at my grown son, and I see how we have all grown to get to this place in which we find ourselves.


To My Sweet 16 Baby Girl

In some ways, I can’t believe this day has arrived. In other ways, it has been a long time coming. You have been growing and changing and forming and challenging and pushing and loving and doing all sorts of other -ings as you are becoming the grownup you are meant to be. And I’ve loved nearly every minute of it. Well, at least a solid 80% of it. 🙂

A few years after having your brother, I remember thinking how much I wanted my second child to be a girl. I am not suggesting that your brother was a disappointment though I know that is how you would like to interpret it. I always figured I would have two kids and I unapologetically wanted one boy and one girl. Since my boy was already present and accounted for, I longed for a girl. With a 50/50 chance of that happening, I decided to wait until I was ready for whatever gender the baby turned out to be. That took about two additional years.

Finally the time arrived where I felt ready for child number two, any child. I was feeling pretty nonchalant even about getting pregnant. “If it happens, it happens” I remember thinking, and actually meaning it. Consequently, thanks to the flu and a few other factors, I didn’t realize I was pregnant until 11 weeks along.  What a gift to learn of your presence just as the fun part of the pregnancy was beginning. No longer was I suffering from morning sickness or fatigue, which I had mistaken for ongoing flu symptoms. I was carrying my second child.

I felt pretty relaxed about the pregnancy. I was also keenly aware of each milestone. I had taken those milestones for granted when I was pregnant with your brother. Six years later and having witnessed the loss others had experienced, I was more aware of what could go wrong. This didn’t make me nervous. It made me grateful. Each milestone felt like a gift. At the ultrasound appointment, the tech checked off her list. Everything about you was looking good, healthy and on track. I was thrilled. She then looked at me and asked, “Do you want to know the baby’s gender?” “Yes” I said as I held my breath. I knew that I really would be happy with whatever your gender was because I had learned you were healthy and well. “It’s a girl” she said. And I began to cry. “Are you sure?” I asked in disbelief. “Yes” she said.

When you arrived, on your due date no less, the doctor announced, “It’s a girl.” “Are you sure?” I asked, with tears filling my eyes. “Yes” she said. You were cleaned, wrapped, and placed in my arms. I know I loved you from the moment I learned of you. But that love was sealed the moment I saw you. My sweet little girl had arrived.

And now here we are 16 years later.

Liv & me

We’re both older and maybe a bit wiser. And I can’t imagine life without you. I’m not sure why my longing for a daughter was so strong. Maybe it wasn’t  just for a baby girl, but it was for YOU my heart longed. I have treasured the time I have had with you. I look forward to your transition into adulthood, needing me less as a parent and hopefully enjoying me more as a companion. You make me laugh and cry. You have turned some of my hair grey. But they provide some nice highlights in my darkening blonde hair so I don’t mind. Thank you for being you. And happy sweet 16!



A Rock Star for a Song

We were invited to celebrate a good friend’s upcoming 50th birthday. Mutual friends/fellow invitees secretly learned from his wife that when alone, the birthday boy loved to rock out to Bon Jovi’s 1986 song, “Wanted Dead or Alive.” No surprise he would want to keep that secret. So naturally our friends decided to perform the song at his party.

My husband and I were hanging out with these mutual friends/fellow invitees. When they mentioned their plans to do the song, we decided to collaborate. While I’m not a Bon Jovi fan, I’m a huge fan of both surprising and embarrassing friends. The men would play their acoustic guitars and the women would sing. Note that I am not a singer. But it sounded like fun so I decided to ignore my lack of talent.

I had two parts in the song that I took very seriously. One was the echo and the other was the final verse. (This would be a good time to stop and watch the video. For those of you who remember, it’ll be a nice stroll down Big-Hair-Glitz-Rock-80’s-Bands-Bad-Rock memory lane. For those who didn’t live through that era, it’ll make you appreciate it all the more. Although before you get too judgy, remember your own musical embarrassments. Every generation has them.)

The echo was a vocal strain but required commitment. The final verse, well, with these lyrics you either have to go all out or risk looking ridiculous. “I walk these streets, a loaded six-string on my back. I play for keeps ’cause I might not make it back. I’ve been everywhere, still I’m standing tall. I’ve seen a million faces, and I’ve rocked them all.” If you don’t sing it like you mean it, you’ll look like a joke. But singing with conviction just might make it appear you are in on the joke, and thus look very, very, very cool. Except to my kids because I am never cool to them.

The four of us practiced together and I sang the song on my own. A lot. I sang it on my way to work. I sang it at home. I sang it in my head and I’m pretty sure I sang it in my sleep. I was determined in spite of my limited musical ability to own my performance like I was meant to be there. Admittedly I questioned my participating, but I never wavered on my desire to do it and I never stopped having fun along the way. It helps when you are willing to look like an idiot.

The party night arrived. The ShuPots rehearsed ahead of time. (Yes, we named our band.) We arrived and settled in for a bit, wanting to allow everyone to get a drink or two in them before we did our song. The time arrived and we performed our hearts out. I could see the birthday boy’s face, which looked thrilled, mildly horrified by his secret being exposed, and touched by our gift to him. The crowd was gracious and sang along. Thankfully there were no videos taken which allows me to remember our performance as nearly perfect.

Happy 50th, AB. I know it’s still early, but I’m hoping our performance will go with you as you near that big day.

Blowing Up Mother’s Day

I had a wonderfully relaxing Mother’s Day. My oldest came home from college so both kids were there along with an attentive husband who took care of nearly all the day’s details. I relaxed. I received a beautiful gift. We ate. We laughed. We enjoyed being together. Or at least I enjoyed being with them. I didn’t ask if they enjoyed being with me because it was my day to not worry about what they wanted or needed.

While I indulged in being the center of attention, I couldn’t help but think of those I love who no longer have their moms around to hug or call. I found myself wanting to gather them together, to acknowledge their loss and give them the opportunity to say and do what they needed for this Mother’s Day. I wanted to do something fun with them to celebrate their moms. I wanted to laugh and cry and reminisce with them. But I didn’t want to invade their space or take from them what they needed in the day. Admittedly I can overdo something. It doesn’t take an elephant in the room for me to speak up. Even the anticipation of an elephant causes me to want to talk about it.

As I held myself back, I started to think about even the casual friends and acquaintances I know who no longer have a mom around. And I was surprised by how many there are. When did this happen? Why have I not thought of this before? As I processed my revelation, it wasn’t that I didn’t know. But I hadn’t thought what Mother’s Day would feel like for someone else.

What about the women who aren’t mothers but wish they were? The women who are mothers but with major regrets? The people with terrible mothers? The women and men who are mothers by way of their love and nurturing, but without the official title? The seemingly innocuous holiday began to scream out for more than a sweet card and dinner out. I found myself wanting to embrace the motherless, apologize to the abused, hold the unloved, laugh with the lonely, cry with the mourner, and celebrate with all the men and women who are surrogate moms. The mom in me wanted to do this not only for the children young and old, but for the moms who couldn’t. Or wouldn’t.

While I am all for being celebrated, Mother’s Day isn’t just about me. It is for my family and extended family. It is for my friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Mother’s Day should be a celebration of love and support. It should be a reminder that family can emerge anywhere. Moms are so much more than biology, legality, or gender. I think it is time to blow up Mother’s Day.

Of course this could all just be in my head. I might be trying to fix something that isn’t broken. The good news is I have a family who loves me in spite of my crazy ideas. If I find myself hosting an open house next Mother’s Day, I’m sure they’ll go along, if only because it is Mother’s Day.