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Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

African Violet

On Mum’s window sill in her Jaffa orange kitchen sat a colourful array of African violets.  The flowers would thrive with Mum’s attentive care, just the right amount of gentle sunlight and not too much watering.  I remember calling in for a cup of tea after work and seeing the row of pretty little flowers, bright and cheerful and always in bloom.

A couple of years ago I received an African violet as a gift and sat it on my kitchen bench.  The sight of it sitting there reminded me of Mum and her pretty window sill.

I kept the African violet, moving it around from bench to packing box to table as we recently renovated our home and somehow it made it through all the dust and chaos.  However, the little flowers soon disappeared and the leaves lost most of their green hue. When the building works were finally complete the little plant sat forlornly in the corner of our new kitchen bench and I wondered if it was time to throw it away.

Mother’s Day in my house is rich with all the best parts of family life:  breakfast in bed, laughter, gifts and precious time spent together.  I love being a Mum, but despite my thankful heart, I still miss my Mum.  This Mother’s Day was no exception.

Yet something happened this year which brought Mum a little closer.  A tentative shoot emerged from the bedraggled African violet for the first time in so long, and a small purple flower raised its vibrant face to the sun, bright and bold, greeting me on Mother’s Day morning.  Despite its haphazard care, its lack of watering and being abandoned to a dusty corner, the plant bloomed right on cue, a small reminder of another time, of a small kitchen with the Jaffa coloured bench tops and the banter of mother and daughter, chatting over numerous cups of tea.  That little purple flower brought back so many memories, of the complex mother and daughter bond, of laughter and of tears, but mostly the knowledge that I had been loved.

Sometimes it’s the little things that bring the past alive for us – allowing us to reach back and embrace the ones we’ve lost.  More than anything it reminded me that despite all obstacles in its path, even the depths of grief and loss, a mother’s love endures.

 

 

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On my bedroom wall as a teenager I had a poster of a baby chicken with broken shell scattered around his feet, his confused beady eyes gazing at the camera and the words: ‘Now What Do I Do?’ emblazoned underneath.  It captured the uncertainty of youth perfectly and I smiled knowingly whenever I looked at it.  

Long after the poster became torn around the edges and tossed in the bin, I remember it fondly.  There have been many times in my life where I’ve felt just like that chicken, bewildered and wondering: ‘Now What Do I Do?’

One day in particular stands out in my memory.  I lay under a scratchy hospital blanket staring with unblinking eyes at the newborn baby in the crib beside me.   My beautiful baby boy.  My emotions swung between passionate protective love and panicky terror.   I was terrified he would cry and I would need to take action.  But what type of action was needed?   I couldn’t work out which type of cry meant hungry, which meant tired, which meant too hot/cold and which meant he needed a nappy change.  The nurses seemed to know straight away, and they immediately flew into action in their firm and assertive way.   They knew my baby better than I did.   He was glorious but I felt so ill-equipped as a Mum.     I stared at him wide-eyed asking myself silently:    ‘Now What Do I Do?’

Landing in Hong Kong on my first solo overseas trip many years ago, I felt a mixture of elation and fear.  Scanning the crowded airport lobby I felt I had landed on another planet, rather than another country.  How would I tell the taxi driver where my hotel was?  Where did I have to go to find a taxi?  Should I just take the first flight back to Sydney?  ‘Now What Do I Do?’

Another ‘chicken moment’ happened on the leafy balcony of my first home unit.   I had collected the keys from the real estate agent and shared a bottle of champagne with a few friends, but now they had left and I was finally alone in my new little home.   The unit was empty except for my second-hand bed, and I had nowhere to sit except on the floor.    I gazed into the night sky and asked breathlessly: ‘Now What Do I Do?’

There have also been darker times.   One of the worst was the evening the doctor called to say I had cancer.   With trembling legs and a frozen heart, I gazed at my two little boys playing on the floor beside me.  The only coherent words that came to me that evening were: ‘Now What Do I Do?’

I also recall lying on a cold trolley bed outside the operating theatre before my first hip replacement, staring at my toes poking out from the hospital blanket.  Somebody had ‘helpfully’ told me that the surgery involved the surgeon basically cutting off your leg and putting it back on again.   I imagined my toes being disconnected from my body.  Would my leg ever work again?  What would major surgery be like?  Was it too late to escape?  ‘Now What Do I Do?’

Most recently, I’ve started a new job in a school after many years working in a legal firm.   Each day I face new challenges, meet new people and learn so much.  My pulse races and my head spins and I hope one day soon all the ‘newness’ will feel comfortable.   I constantly ask myself:  ‘Now What Do I Do?’

It seems to me that change is inevitable.  Life is a process of perpetual motion.  Travelling through life takes us through deep valleys of pain and breezy hilltops of joy.   When we keep moving, we keep growing and we stay fully alive.   Challenges keep us young in heart and mind.   Perhaps it is only when we refuse to keep moving that we finally grow old.  Change isn’t comfortable, and at times I hate it, but it is necessary.

When I reflect on the times I’ve asked: ‘Now What do I Do?’ I realise I have eventually figured it out.   Each time I’ve despaired over the injustice of my situation, or worried about my inadequacies to face the challenge,  I’ve gone on to learn another valuable lesson.

Through the difficult times, when cancer visited and major surgery loomed, I’ve had to dig deeper.   ‘Now What Do I Do?’ has been a cry to God who, true to his word, has always given me the comfort and strength to carry on.  My favourite verse from the Bible, which I discovered around the same time as I had the chicken poster on my wall, is:   “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), and it has always been the perfect antidote for those frightened ‘chicken’ moments.

I doubt that most of us escape the moments of self-doubt and confusion which change invariably brings.   So if you find yourself feeling like the chicken, asking ‘Now What Do I Do?’ remember that change is good for you, give it time and you will figure out what to do.    If you’re facing something really difficult, God will be there to comfort you too.  Just ask him ‘Now What Do I Do?’.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear”   Mark Twain

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Parents need to fill a child’s bucket of self-esteem so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes to drain it dry  – Alvin Price

The rhythmic beat of the drum was mesmerizing.  I was in the tropics, surrounded by exotic bare-chested men in grass skirts, dancing to the intoxicating beat.  The air was warm, the firelight shining in my face…  Tentatively I opened one eye and realised it was morning – and the bright light was the sun shining in my window.   The drum beat, however, was continuing.  Along with the regular thump came crazy laughter, high-pitched and demented.   Reality returned and I swung out of bed, heart beating wildly, throat dry, and bolted to the sunroom.  There stood my two sons, aged two and three, one with a plastic guitar and the other with a plastic keyboard, pounding the back window with all of their might.  The window pane had already cracked and a large shard of glass was jutting out, about to fall.   I screamed and they turned to look at me, little mouths opened, eyes wide.   Whatever was wrong with Mummy?

Motherhood for me has never been an easy ride.   If you are looking for advice or words of wisdom about how to be the perfect parent, I can’t tell you.   There are many Magnificent Mamma blogs out there, written by women who spend their days making play dough, teaching their little ones French whilst sweeping the floorboards until they shine and creating mouth-watering multi-layered cakes (without packet mixes) for the school fete.

Last week my son’s teacher called to tell me that he’d been farting in class, and not saying excuse me.   I wasn’t quite sure what to say, but he then went on to tell me that he has also been circling rude words in his dictionary and giggling with his friends.  Memories came flooding back of huddling in a corner with my girlfriends doing exactly the same thing.  What could I say?  I also reluctantly recalled the times I didn’t pluck up the courage to say ‘excuse me’, but allowed the person sitting beside me to take the blame.  When I found my words, I apologised profusely and offered to send a peg for his nose the next day.

Worse was yet to come when he disgraced himself at kids club, talking during the bible lesson, playing his Nintendo DS (which I shouldn’t have allowed him to take with him) and then throwing food around afterwards.   When the flustered teacher confronted me with this sorry state of affairs, I felt a weird mix of emotions.  Firstly I felt embarrassed, ashamed and disappointed.  I then felt the need to grab my boxing gloves and try out some of the new moves I’ve been learning at the gym.   Driving home I wondered at the wisdom of locking my kids in the cupboard for the next ten years, to avoid all the distress that seems to follow us around.

Yet despite it all, I love my boys with all my heart.   I believe in them without reservation.   Beyond the naughtiness I see an ocean of potential, kind hearts, intelligent, inquisitive minds, laughter and fun.  I’m not the perfect mother, and maybe I’ve contributed to their problems.  There have been times when I’ve been distracted by my own problems, juggling the care of my parents, my job and my health issues, when my focus should have been on them.   Perhaps I should have sent them to the naughty corner more often, screamed a little less or set up more star reward charts.   I could have done better. 

When I was in my late twenties I went to counselling for a time to sort through issues I had with my mother.  Mum could be controlling, manipulative and selfish at times.   The counsellor encouraged me to separate myself from Mum, to recognise her negative influence over me and to see all of her failings.  Down the track I realised that this counsellor was estranged from her own mother, and I remember visiting her just after her mother had died.   I noticed the stark despair in her eyes and realised that despite the strong boundaries she had established, and her healthy inner child, she was just as lost as I was.   Her mother was gone and there was no hope of reconciliation.  I began to question the wisdom of judging and blaming our mothers.

If you ever feel like a ‘bad mother’ and feel condemned by a world that expects perfect kids, you may find some comfort in a poem I found today.  It encouraged me, and brought a spark of hope to my gloom.  Perhaps even we ‘bad mothers’ can love our kids enough and show them in silent ways how to live well – even if we don’t get it right all the time.   Maybe we can show our kids that despite the difficulties  and challenges of life, they are loved, special and have a unique role to play in this world.

When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking          – Unknown

When you thought I wasn’t looking,

I saw you hang up my first painting on the refrigerator, and I wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,

I saw you feed a stray cat, and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,

I saw you make my favorite cake for me, and I knew that little things are special things.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,

I heard you say a prayer, and I believed there is a God I could always talk to.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,

I felt you kiss me goodnight, and I felt loved.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,

I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,

I LOOKED… and wanted to say thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.

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I awoke at 6am this morning to my son announcing loudly ‘there is a huge red back spider in the back room’.    As a mother of two young  boys I work hard at protecting them from the dangers of life, and now a deadly creature had crept into my house and was lurking in their play room.   Adrenalin ignited, I leapt out of bed, grabbed a shoe and some fly spray, and in no time the black spider with the red dot was no more than a gooey mess on the tiles.

Before 7am I had also acted as mediator in an argument over the Playstation, found Captain Rex’s head which had gone missing, made breakfast, done a load of washing, and discussed what we wanted to do today, which is never easy with two boys only thirteen months apart with fiercely opposing views.   Was it going to be bike riding at the park or bush walking?    They did agree wholeheartedly on an early morning visit to the shops to spend their birthday money from Nanna, so we set off in great anticipation.

We arrived early to get a good parking spot, and my heart sunk as I saw Santa doing the same thing, awkwardly tugging on his suit in his car nearby.   After the initial excitement of seeing Santa, the questions began.  ‘So where is his sleigh,and where are the reindeer?’.    I hastily explained that he saves the sleigh until Christmas, while feeling immense relief that he had his pants on by the time the boys spotted him.  Santa with no pants on would have been a shock on so many levels.

The boys entered Target at lightning speed and were like two homing pigeons swooping on the Star Wars isle.   Most days finding anything or moving swiftly were impossible for my sons – but not this time.    Within seconds they had claimed the toys they had been dreaming about for weeks – a TIE fighter and an AT-ST walker.

We sat and had coffee and milkshakes and right on cue Santa (now fully dressed and looking confident) with his marching band and  Shrek and Fiona, large and green and spectacular, came walking by, and my boys ran excitedly to watch.    The shops were glowing with Christmas cheer, with trees, lights and bright gift boxes everywhere, enticing us to buy up big and purchase that elusive happiness that lingers in the air each festive season.    As an adult it is easy to view the magic of Christmas as a flimsy veneer for marketing gone mad.   Yet looking at my boys’ eyes shining with awe at Santa’s parade, some of my faith in the spirit of Christmas was restored, and I allowed myself to feel the excitement and joy of it.   Maybe dreams do come true, and it is possible to sincerely give and receive on that special day, beyond the superficial tinsel and glitz.

After a few hours of Star Wars games at home, we ventured to the bushland and walked along the tranquil tracks.  The afternoon was humid and the bush alive and humming with the sounds of insects and bird life.    A storm was  looming and a cool breeze brought  some relief from the heat.    We discovered flowers we had not seen before of purple, yellow and red.    We walked past several ponds and rivers and stopped beside each to look for frogs and cried  in delight when we found two.   On discovering a swamp, we discussed the subtle differences between ‘real ogres’ and the ones in the movies.     Climbing a steep hill we stopped and sipped some water and splashed some on each other to cool us down.

For dinner we devoured meat pies and salad, followed by a big fruit salad which left our chins dripping with juicy mango, sweet strawberries, watermelon and blueberries.      The boys reluctantly agreed that fruit really does taste better than anything else, particularly when served up with lots of ice-cream.   It was the ‘best meal’ they’ve ever had and I felt satisfied in my stomach, and in my heart.

We all climbed into bed tired and at peace, and I realise that the days without purpose or deadlines, when I allow myself to enjoy my kids and embrace the simple things in life, are the days that I will look back on and cherish in the years to come.    Some days are a struggle, but I’m so grateful for the privilege of being a Mum, and for days like today which remind me that it’s all so worth it.

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