why don’t you just be the mom

April 26th, 2016

If you ever wondered what you are supposed to teach your child, please read this and learn from me.

It was Thursday afternoon about four-thirty. Georgia was racing through her mound of homework before we left for gym practice at five. (Do math, do science, write a poem.) The minutes were ticking.

This is where it gets sticky.

She’s finishing gluing drawings into her “Silk Road Journal” (16 pages, front and back, history project due the next day) when she lets out a high shriek. The glue has exploded out the cap from a hard squeeze and blanketed two whole pages. The booklet is a soppy mess. Her artwork is doused. She sobs. I stiffen. She collapses. I look at the clock. And what I think I see is no more time.

I really think that time is up.

How is it that a girl and her mother can get stuck between two pages of the Silk Road Journal? Wedged between the pitiless hours of four and five on a Thursday? Strung between almost-done and starting over? Knotted, tangled and ripped in two?

I don’t want to tell you.

I don’t want to tell you what I told her. About what she didn’t do, didn’t plan, and didn’t finish soon enough. About how little and how late. The cause and the fault. How I couldn’t and wouldn’t and didn’t know how to help.  And what did she expect me to do?

Then she turned to me, through her sobs and streaked cheeks, and asked me the one thing that is still so hard for me to do.

Why don’t you just be the mom? Why don’t you encourage me?

Why can’t I just be the mom, and not the taskmaster, the lecturer, the appointments manager, the critic, the cynic, and the know-it-all? What is more important to show her than love? What is there always time for?

All great people, in their profound humility, remember their mothers most. They remember a mother who believed in them. And no matter how late, believed that there was still time. No matter how little, that there was enough. No matter how dismal the prospects, that it was possible. A mother who loved without measure, without schedule and without hurry. A mother who was just the mom.

So we blew off the timetable and moved to the dinner table. I gave her all the room she needed. She spread out and started over, using all the time it took. It went slow, but I encouraged her. She might have learned a lesson about glue, but I learned a lesson that I pray will stick.

When we realize that our child is not the child, then we begin to practice parenthood. It’s never too late to for me to grow up and be the mom. In fact, it’s time I did.

Originally published on Feb. 27, 2012, proving that it’s always time to just be the mom.

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  1. Thank you.

    Comment by Michelle P — February 27, 2012 @ 9:44 am

  2. Thank you, thank you. This is the morning that we had at our house. Thank you.

    Comment by Jennifer — February 27, 2012 @ 9:51 am

  3. Thank you Thank you.

    Comment by marcea — February 27, 2012 @ 10:02 am

  4. Oh my…bawling all over my gluten-free flaxseed muffin here. Bowing to my own twelve-year-old Zen master down the hall, and to you, dear Maezen.

    Comment by Carol — February 27, 2012 @ 10:18 am

  5. Wow. This has happened to me before, a startling moment when I realize my daughter is parenting me, and is always a reminder that it’s time for me to change something. xox

    Comment by Lindsey — February 27, 2012 @ 10:41 am

  6. I’ll change Georgia to either of my toddler boys, and the art project glue to zippers of winter coats or shoes that need to be put on. Or ánything where hurry comes in.
    Thank you.

    Comment by Roos — February 27, 2012 @ 10:47 am

  7. Thank you, Maezen, for this beautiful teaching. xo

    Comment by wendy — February 27, 2012 @ 10:53 am

  8. Namaste, dear Maezen. I’m printing this post out to read again and again as needed. Love…

    Comment by Kathryn — February 27, 2012 @ 11:23 am

  9. This weekend Emily and I watched Midnight in Paris to at least try and watch some academy award nominated films before Oscar night. A central theme to the movie is the idea of being nostalgic for a golden age. Most of the film felt thrown away for me accept this one kernel. Golden Age. I couldn’t think of a time that I wished I could have lived. But, I did think about my girls. How trying they were that day and how I found the whining and crying of a 2 and 3 year old annoying. But I also thought about when they were younger and how much I wished I could somehow hold on to those golden years. And the golden years I was in but failed to see. And the golden years that awaited me in the future. And then the present wonder of them. This golden age. This golden age. This golden age of parenthood.

    Comment by Ben — February 27, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

  10. they have so much to teach us if we just listen, right?

    Comment by playcrane — February 27, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

  11. “What is more important to show her than love?” This is one of my main repeating thoughts, day in, day out, morning, noon, night, middle of night. I figure it is repeating over and over until it is so much in me that there is nothing else. Love this story. xo

    Comment by denise — February 27, 2012 @ 5:20 pm

  12. So much gratitude for sharing this. Thank you!

    Comment by beth — February 27, 2012 @ 5:29 pm

  13. Dear Maezen, isn’t it amazing and wonderful that she could tell you honestly and when upset just exactly what she needed? And isn’t it amazing how you could respond right then? Even though the way wasn’t initially clear, it became clear. I think this is what you were telling me about being a parent with a practice. Look at the gift you’ve given your daughter.

    Comment by Michelle — February 27, 2012 @ 6:45 pm

  14. Dear friends,
    Yes it is amazing and wonderful and like the Silk Road itself – trading trinkets for treasure – my ego for bliss. Thank you for your companionship.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — February 27, 2012 @ 9:54 pm

  15. Thank you, Georgia. The dismal-seeming sticky mess is where we get to blow off the timetable and move to the dining room table to work together. Perfect.

    Comment by Jena — February 28, 2012 @ 1:01 am

  16. wonderful moms do listen at the right times, most of the times…. thank you, georgia…

    Comment by kate — February 28, 2012 @ 3:48 am

  17. absolutely beautiful. well done! <3

    Comment by Brittany — February 28, 2012 @ 5:22 am

  18. How perfectly beautiful!

    Comment by Aparna — February 28, 2012 @ 5:58 am

  19. A big fat Namaste to you.

    Comment by brigid — February 28, 2012 @ 9:03 pm

  20. Love! Love! Love! Something I needed to hear. Thank you!

    Comment by Kelly — February 28, 2012 @ 10:08 pm

  21. Isn’t it so true, that children teach us the really valuable lessons? We may think we are teaching them all about life, but the truth is they teach us about ourselves, about love, about what life could be like if we let go a little bit. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Sue — February 29, 2012 @ 7:15 am

  22. My moment came when my teenager calmly said to me, “You never let me sleep with you when I had a nightmare.” Immediately, I saw all those times when his precious little 5-year-old face appeared after I’d put him to bed, and I’d said it’s ok sweetheart go back to bed. I felt just awful. Then I saw all the times when mine had been the precious little nightmare tortured face that did not get loved back into bed. And I felt awful for me. He’d given me a peek into Reality, where the past, future and present are all jumbled together

    Comment by Dawn — February 29, 2012 @ 8:41 am

  23. I come to your site only occasionally, yet when I do I always find some important piece of wisdom. Thank you so much for your work. Even though my girls are grown, 30 and 33, I am still the ‘all knowing, I have just the advice for you’ mom. It’s is a habit I would rather not enjoy!

    Comment by Judith Smith — March 1, 2012 @ 8:07 am

  24. Karen,
    I sit here in the coffee shop, my eyes full of tears. I’m happy my heart brought me to your post this morning. I came here, after many days of being “on” with the kids as my husband is consumed by a huge work project. And I was feeling deflated. As though my creative work gains momentum, and then falls behind, and I stumble and fumble learning how to balance motherhood/family life and the work I so incredibly enjoy.

    What I’m reminded of as I sit here now is that there is no “right” way to mother. And the more space I have in my life, the more I honor my own natural rhythm, while letting my children guide the way – and that is when I’m happiest.

    We make family dinnertime sacred in our home and it’s usually the time we share about our days. The other day my 4-year-old asked, “Mom, tell me about your day.” So I shared with him some of my highlights. Then I turned the question to him. “Kestan, how was your day.” And with a matter-of-fact confidence (and a teaching tone) he said, “Mom, my day is now.”

    Well…duh. Exactly. Our children continue to be our greatest teachers. And thank you for reminding me of that, but for the encouragement to truly accept ourselves – the way we are.

    Be well, dear one.

    Comment by shannon — March 2, 2012 @ 7:45 am

  25. Sometimes it’s the spouse who’s not the child.

    All too often, and sometimes I must be told, all that’s needed is for me to be there, to listen. No advice, solutions or criticism required. Just love.

    It’s another one of those step back and get out of the way things.

    Comment by Steve Lacy — March 2, 2012 @ 2:13 pm

  26. Georgia rocks.

    Comment by Bobbi — March 4, 2012 @ 5:03 am

  27. thank you, Karen, this is so beautiful and choked me up a bit. It is so great that you took the time to sit down and write this, as it provides such a nice lesson for mamas 🙂
    I’m going to post a link to this on my facebook page, it is just the kind of thing my wonderful community of mamas would love to read.
    Love & Sincerely,
    Katie m. Berggren

    Comment by katie m. berggren — March 20, 2012 @ 10:04 am

  28. Thank you Karen. You always bring us back to where we need to be…and yes, i have tears too.

    Comment by Kirsten — April 11, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

  29. […] it was not as memorable as Maezen’s words during her workshop the day before, a story I’d read earlier this year on her blog but didn’t relate to at the time having kindergartners. Now, […]

    Pingback by » Be encouraging AWESOMELY AWAKE — November 4, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

  30. I loved it in 2012, and now. Why do we always need reminders? I noticed that I replied then, but now my daughter has a 4 and 2 year old and is going through the frustrations that wonderful time brings.

    I can’t find a Mother’s Day card suitable, but this piece fits the bill!


    Comment by Jude Smith — April 27, 2016 @ 4:15 am

  31. What a beautiful post. Timely, no matter when you wrote it. I remember my son saying something along these lines, and how it just stopped me in my tracks. We think we are their teachers…that seems to be the accepted truth, anyway. But this whole idea has been turned on it’s head so many times in my household that I should know better. Also, the time thing is such a trap. What happens if we just take the time needed? Make the time needed? You have me smiling and thankful for this lovely, valuable morning read. XOClare

    Comment by Clare — April 27, 2016 @ 5:45 am

  32. My mom died 6 years ago. I got a message from her friend on my birthday a couple days ago. She said, ‘your mom always spoke of your capacity to nurture her. She wondered if you were her mom in a past life.’

    I knew we had a connection that was indescribable. I didn’t know she’d described it like that. Perhaps, the connection we have is far more than what meets the eye.

    Thank you, Karen

    Comment by Ryann — April 27, 2016 @ 7:11 pm

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