Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

momma time

September 18th, 2012    -    15 Comments

Reprinting this, because it’s about time.

Last week I received this message from a young mother. I asked if I could respond to her via this post so others would benefit. No matter what our stage of parenting, we could all use a little time out to reflect and refresh.

I have two little girls, age 3 1/2 and 1 1/2. They are wonderful and show me what aspects I need to work on as a person and a mother.

Children are indeed wonderful. They are always showing us aspects of ourselves we aren’t familiar with. One aspect, for instance, is happiness. No one has ever made a mother feel as happy as her children do. The other aspect is sadness and despair. We’ve never felt so frustrated, hopeless or inadequate. Every day our children introduce us to a completely new human being: their mother. And although she vaguely resembles someone we used to know, at times we hardly recognize ourselves. When it becomes especially tiresome and difficult, our relationship with our children sounds an alarm. We need rescued.

I have them both at home with me everyday except for four hours each week. Perhaps I’m overwhelmed but lately I’m finding motherhood to be a total drag.

Too much togetherness is too much. Every mother needs more help. The first step is to admit it; the second step is to ask for it; and the third step is to take the help that comes. You never know where help will come from. Not every angel wears wings.

When we have help taking care of our children, it magnifies the love in our lives. When either by circumstance or choice we think we have to do it all by ourselves, we scrimp on love. Everyone suffers for it.

We don’t always have the money to pay for help, so we have to rely on family. We don’t always have family nearby so we have to make friends. We don’t all have friends so we have to be brave. We have to speak up, make calls, trust strangers, invite people over, walk the street, meet, listen and console one another. Last week I called a friend who talked me off a ledge. Just by contacting me you’ve done the same thing for yourself. And look: no one jumped. read more

raising children the Buddhist way

August 19th, 2012    -    21 Comments

Last week someone asked me what it meant to raise children the Buddhist way. I sent them this:

If you are reading this post in your email and cannot see the video, click here.

If you want to learn how to meditate, come to the Beginner’s Mind One-Day Meditation Retreat on Sept. 23.

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early birthday gift

July 29th, 2012    -    41 Comments

I’m giving away a copy of the book, Preemie, by Kasey Mathews, because my daughter was born on August 12 and she will turn 13 in two weeks.

These facts were once inconceivable to me. Equally impossible for her to be born on that date, and for her to grow up so fast. Is there any parent yet who can believe his or her own eyes?

Georgia was born early. Not as extremely early as allowed by today’s medicine, but early enough for us to ask, in the haste of emergency intervention, whether or not she would be able to breathe at birth. The answer was, “Maybe.” Because of the steroids I’d been given, she did breathe, and we were lucky, and she was fine, eventually. We went home after a few weeks in the hospital, and figured out the rest one day at a time.

But there is a whole story I’ve left unsaid.

What brings this recollection near is that I’ve just finished reading Preemie by Kasey Mathews. Kasey’s daughter Andie was a micro-preemie born four months early. In impeccably etched detail, Mathews tells the whole unthinkable story of an implausible birth, the reality, the setbacks, the disbelief, denial, and fury. What she tells most courageously are those things that are so hard to say.

She was afraid of her baby.
She was afraid to look at her, to touch and tend her.
She was afraid of what she’d done wrong and what might yet go wrong, the hidden trapdoors, the other shoes.
She was afraid of what she knew and what she didn’t know, the permanent scars and looming catastrophes, the not-yets, the maybe-nevers.
She was afraid to love.

We share these fears no matter when or how we become parents, no matter how or when our children arrive, each of us unprepared, undefended and stripped naked of all our expectations.

Our babies survive our fear and failings. They outlast our ignorance, our desperate strivings, and the virulent certainty that we, and they, are somehow damaged or inadequate.

I don’t often address my daughter directly on this page, but it’s time to tell her the only thing I know for sure, the thing she’s known all along.

You have never been too early, too little, or too late. It’s only me who struggles to keep up, who labors at the pace, who resists the steady insistence of your momentous arrival.

I can hardly believe my eyes, but you’re here already!

Kasey Mathews is offering a signed copy of Preemie to a commenter on this post. No matter where you are in your parenting journey, how old or young your children, we are all about to be born into the inconceivable, a new day and stage, and we feel frightened and unprepared. Leave a comment by this Friday, August 3 and claim your early birthday gift.

the end of mother’s day

May 13th, 2012    -    6 Comments

Someone sent me something that renders me mute with gratitude.

Blackbirds
by Susan Mitchell

Because it is windy, a woman
finds her clothesline bare, and without rancor
unpins the light, folding it into her basket.
The light is still wet. So she irons it.
The iron hisses and hums. It knows how to make the best of things.
The woman’s hands smell clean. When she shakes them out,
they are voluminous, white.

All night my hands weep in gratitude
for little things. That feet are not shoes.
That blackbirds are eating the raspberries. That parsley
does not taste like bread.

From now on I want to live
only by grace. In other words, not to deserve things.
Without rancor, the light dives down
among the turnips. I eat it with my stew.

Today the woman’s hands smell like roots. When she
shakes them out, they are voluminous, green.
All day they shade me
from the sun. The blackbirds have come to sit in them.
Since this morning, the wind has been enough.

Image above is “Clothesline,” a painting by Heather Horton.

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a dr. pepper mom

April 15th, 2012    -    13 Comments

I drank two Dr. Peppers last week. I just might have another before today is through. When I reach for one on the lower shelf of the refrigerator case of Happy’s corner convenience store, I think of my mother. My mother drank Dr. Pepper. It’s one of the things I couldn’t stand about her, so when I do it now, it’s the atonement of a fully grown daughter. It tastes pretty damn good.

I wince when people tell me they could be more forgiving if they’d had a mother like mine (or even me), a different family, a more enlightened upbringing, better genes or geography. Every mother is the mother you wish she wasn’t.

My mother drank Dr. Pepper because she was a Texas farm girl and Dr. Pepper was the state’s own peculiar brand of soda. When she still drank Dr. Pepper in the middle of the ‘60s Pepsi Generation in beachside Southern California, I was mortified. There were other things that offended me about her then. Her clothes weren’t particularly cool. She never put on much makeup. I wished she would do something about her hair. And she had big hips. She seemed considerably wider and rounder then the other moms. These other moms were the ones at home in their split-level houses when school was out, for another thing, while my mother wasn’t because she worked. She worked because she had to and because she wanted to, her work as a teacher adding both dignity and indignity to her life. She had to endure the insults of her own family for becoming the first girl-child to go to college; she had to become better educated and work longer and harder every day and night to make and save the pittance that kept my family afloat. It was less money for harder work than my father was paid, but she did it for 40 years. Only rarely did she buy herself a Dr. Pepper as a ten-ounce consolation. I can’t believe I begrudged her that.

She gave me the chance to choose a different kind of education, job and beverage, those of my own generation. Those choices weren’t much better, but they were mine. It’s taken me this long to respect her point of view on most things.

Mom, I’m buying.

What brings this to mind is the recent, ridiculous, overblown and entirely artificial discussion of mothers, (again) their work, (again) and whether we value it (of course we don’t.) When these kinds of political fabrications get conjured up, I can’t stand it. They are never about real mothers with real lives, but always about some idealized mother. We only protect and defend idealized mothers. Only imaginary mothers are served by political campaigns. Real mothers are never served by anyone, anytime. If you don’t know who the idealized mother is I’ll give you a hint. It’s not you, and it’s not your mother. It’s the one that wasn’t.

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lo it is written

December 28th, 2011    -    12 Comments

I’m posting this early because everyone likes to have their fortune told.

You will bribe her with french fries
storm the gates of the forbidden
amassing a mortuary
of happy meal toys
and extra ketchup packets.
Join the zoo, the aquarium,
and the natural history museum,
surrendering the educational mission
for another stuffed animal at the gift shop.
Buy an army of Barbies.
Throw good money after bad.
Throw caution.
Throw fits.
Ante up to the American Girls.
One hundred dollars a pop.
Thank heaven for doting relatives.
You will overspend on school fundraisers
for mixed nuts, note cards, and candy
packed eight lousy pieces to the box.
Buy two cases of girl scout cookies
enough to enter winning territory
for a beach towel she’ll never use.
You will overpraise recklessly,
overjudge relentlessly,
underestimate entirely.
Give in on the cell phone.
And the next.
Awaiting her text.
You will go overboard at Christmas,
blow out Hanukkah,
host the birthday party from hell.
You will  exalt in her naptimes.
Cry in the shower.
Bide your time.
Bite your tongue.
Release her to the sleepover.
The trampoline. The mall.
The crush.
Scream your fool head off.
Or worse, or worse, it can always be
worse.
You will squander the good days.
You will, you will, you know you will.
You will fail her
and you will forgive her,
failing only to forgive yourself.
You will start over, verily, over again.
As it is written
in the year 2012 AD.

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that backward step

August 9th, 2011    -    10 Comments

I remember her voice, her self-introduction, so needless and formal, on the answering machine. “Karen, this is your Mom.” I listened quickly, so I wouldn’t hear what I was hearing. How long had she been announcing herself to me that way? All along? Not to disturb, not to impose, not to assume any rank or power in my all-together independent world? Mother to mother, I could recognize something now in the subtle way she stepped back and let go, even on an answering machine. Just love. — Momma Zen

On Friday my daughter turns 12. These are the days of the backward step. I do a lot of stepping back — out of her way, off of her back, to the other side of a newly closed door — but it’s still not enough. Give me a little more time, baby, to learn to let you go.

Today someone said to me, “It seems like only yesterday.”

“Not really,” I said. “It seems like forever.”

Love.

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to jacqueline’s mom

May 25th, 2011    -    21 Comments

When bird passes on –
like moon,
a friend to water
– Masahide

It’s the final week of rehearsals before the fifth grade song and dance revue, and since my daughter is sidelined on crutches, she sits wallflowered in the front row every afternoon until I come into the auditorium to fetch her. I’m none too cheery when I get there, since the sight of a hundred kids cavorting to Katy Perry makes my eyes sting. It’s like a stage show of all that Georgia has missed in this long year of hurt feelings, hard knocks and disappointments – a cruel season, to be sure, and not quite over. Today at dismissal the teachers called all the kids into small groups and handed out letters. The letters ran out before Georgia could get one, but she returned and told me what it said.

“Jacqueline’s mom died last night.”

I stood in that sludge of disbelief that comes with information you can’t yet receive, the noun and verb colliding in violent disagreement.  It can’t be. No. Yes. It is.

Our two girls had shared a second-grade class. There was not much that passed between us moms at first. Jacqueline’s mom was a single mom, working, with two kids and no other family nearby. She had moved to California for a job and had since left a husband. We passed one another at pickup, and she was hurried, private. By spring she had spoken, or emailed, I can’t remember, and she came to the house. We talked. I gave her a book. She was searching; she was ready. She came to one of my retreats where she won the door prize: a kitchen timer. She felt lucky.

Afterwards, we always greeted each other across the grass, waiting for the kids to ramble out from school. She passed me quick updates: she’d quit smoking, changed jobs, started therapy and worked out the family issues; she was getting better, reading books, loving her kids, taking her time, and nearly ready. I’m using the timer, she told me. One day she handed me a plastic shopping bag with something inside.

“I saw this and thought of you.” I waited until I was in the car to look inside. It was a 2011 Gift of Zen wall calendar that is hanging in our kitchen right now. We’ll be turning the page soon. Looking at it my eyes sting.

I feel lucky.

I feel lucky I was a friend.

To Jacqueline’s mom.

 

to the teachers

May 18th, 2011    -    79 Comments

Perhaps you’ve noticed I don’t write much about motherhood any more. Our children do an excellent job of being consistently, rather stubbornly, exactly who they are, and once we acknowledge that, our only job as mothers is to keep acknowledging it over and over. Or not. The not is what causes the difficulty.

Perhaps you’ve noticed I don’t write much about marriage any more. Our partners do an excellent job of being consistently, rather stubbornly, who we aren’t, and once we accept that, our job is to keep accepting it over and over. Or not. The not is what causes the difficulty.

At one time in my life, motherhood brought to me my most urgent and incomprehensible lessons. At other times, my marriage did. But by itself, over time, sure as day to night to day, in a continuous and miraculous transformation, a daughter becomes a mother and a woman becomes a wife. When that transition is complete, there’s not much to say about it, not much I can tell you, since you will have to make that passage on your own. Or not.

What is most interesting to me now is another transition, perhaps the last for me, and the greatest of all. It is the transition from the student to the teacher. In whatever form it takes, whatever time it travels, this is the longest lesson we undertake, because it is the lesson in how we live, how we give, how we grow, and how we know. read more

what you won’t get

May 6th, 2011    -    6 Comments

You’ll get breakfast in bed. A flower on your tray. Dinner out. A card, a call. Maybe one less upset. If not, an apology. And if you’re truly blessed, you’ll get some time to yourself, when you can consider everything you won’t get, and what no one else can give you for Mother’s Day:

 

What You Already Have
A quick burst of introspection and inspiration in this new interview on Painted Path

What You Already Know
A free download of the mini-book 23 Things You Might Not Know About You (but to be perfectly honest, you already do) courtesy of Zen at Play

Where You Already Are
Basic instructions in how to stay from Walking on My Hands.

Happy Mother’s Day. I know. I understand. Me too.

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emerging face

April 11th, 2011    -    22 Comments

Last week I was taking notes at a meeting and I suddenly noticed my hands. However I might appear to others, my hands have always betrayed me. They are workman’s hands, big-knuckled, covered in ropey veins and papery skin. I swear they are mummified. When I looked at them this time, I saw age spots.

“I have my mother’s hands,” I later told my teacher.

Last week I read about a conference entitled The Emerging Face of Something or The Other. I’m not being specific because “emerging face” is applied to all kinds of things to make them seem new or trendy or interesting. Like that magazine article that chooses 50 of the Most Fascinating People of the Year. You don’t know 25 of them and you won’t remember the other 25 by the end of the week. We all have about three minutes when we’re just fascinated by our own emergence. Then our real face shows up, and it’s not so new after all. We stop finding ourselves remarkable, and then we can begin to do good for others.

“Do you ever hear yourself speak with her voice?” he asked me.

Wednesday will be the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death. I remembered this picture of her, taken in my backyard, holding baby Georgia. Everyone is dressed up for this, the baby in one of those darling outfits you manage to put on once before they are outgrown. Mom is wearing a wig, since she is bald after her first round of chemo. We are happy and hopeful. I can see her hands, which are my hands, and I can see her face, which is my face, and I can see everything that will emerge from this moment.

“On my best days,” I answered. “I hear my mother’s voice on my best days.”

Karen, this is your mother.

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president’s day steal

February 21st, 2011    -    5 Comments

Some truths are self-evident. Money can’t buy happiness. Appearances don’t matter. You can’t tempt me with a mindless shopping spree. So it’s easy for me to say no when my 11-year-old daughter resumes a noxious whine for skinny jeans or a bazillionth pair of dimestore earrings. I’m not the mom who shops. I’m the mom with the $12 haircut, wearing the 10-year-old sweater, in the same faded khakis you saw me wearing yesterday. I am the one with a half-empty closet, a near-empty wallet, and a brand of religious devotion that keeps them that way. I’m a Buddhist priest. I’m not the mom at the mall.

That changes one day on the way home from school. “Can we go to the mall?” my daughter asks wearily, and instead of refusing again, I turn onto a street I never take, into the asphalt sprawl. The two of us are fairly airborne as we enter the cool cavern through the automatic doors and ride the escalator past the food court. Striding beside me on the concourse, my daughter tightens the subtle distance she has begun to keep from me in public. I notice her head tops my shoulder. Her face has narrowed, and her lips have grown full. She flashes me a comrade’s secret smile and reaches for my hand. “Mom,” she says, radiating her bliss, “I don’t think Dad gets this.”  In one unexpected turn, I’ve entered the exuberance of her girlhood, a treasure too fleeting to resist.

From my essaylet on stolen happiness in the March issue of Whole Living magazine.

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tiger bait

February 6th, 2011    -    23 Comments

Comparing our kids to one another is the most juvenile thing we grown ups can do. But amid all the recent hubbub over so-called Chinese style parenting,  I’ll take the bait.

Unlike some other kids, here are some things my daughter is allowed to do:

• spend time making friends
open her eyes to a world that is not defined by rank, culture, race, wealth, elite performance, or my ideas about the same
• be in a school play
• complain about not getting the part she wanted
• perform in the play anyway and overcome the sting of not being “best”
• learn by her own disappointments to be kinder to others
• obey me, disobey me; gladden, frustrate, and defy me; and one day repudiate me, as she must
• watch TV on weekends, learning that when it comes to finding TV entertainment, the first hour is easy and the second and third hours are hard
• devote herself to extracurricular activities that I was never good at or afraid to try
• remind me, when she sees my face collapse in horror, that “a B is a good grade too.” read more

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