The Pain in the Joy


Motherhood is is full of paradox. From the moment we learn of our child’s existence, we begin a process of constantly holding and letting go. This little person is part of our very being (spiritually, if not physically) and yet a totally separate human being. They arrive, and we let go while simultaneously embracing. They grow, and we watch in unspeakable joy, yet with each milestone reached we must let go just a bit more. Let go, and trust. The cord is cut, and we no longer share one body. They need us at every second, even to support their tiny floppy heads, and then less, and less. They wean. They crawl, then walk, and then run away from us (and yet return for comfort, again and again). We continue, being there, loving, holding, and still constantly letting go. May I just point something out here, that perhaps sometimes we’re afraid to say out loud? Amidst all of the amazing joy of all of this, it is also gut-wrenchingly painful for us as mamas. Remember, this child was literally a part of you and always will be. It is wonderful to see our little ones learning, changing, becoming the people they are destined to be. But it also feels a bit like a punch in the stomach, as we let go and practice trusting that they will be okay, and as we watch each stage pass, gone forever in favor of the new.
It is okay—even totally essential—to acknowledge this. In one of my favorite podcast episodes ever, Rob Bell spoke of The Good Grief. It deeply affected me, and has been on my mind ever since. With every new thing in our lives, something else must be coming to an end. Each time we gain something, we also lose something. This applies to parenthood, and also every other aspect of life. It is healthy for us to grieve these small things. If we refuse to acknowledge what is passing away, in fear that it will make us seem ungrateful for the wonderful new things happening, we are ignoring a part of our own hearts that needs the pain to be acknowledged. In allowing ourselves to observe and fully feel the pain even in the smallest things, we honor what was, and we allow ourselves to let it go and then fully be present and grateful in the now.
And you know what’s so incredibly beautiful about all of this? When you let yourself do this, you give yourself permission to feel everything more completely, including the present moment. In acknowledging the bittersweet heartache of my kids growing, each new stage bringing about the end of the previous one, I find myself so much more grateful for the present stages they’re in—wanting to soak in every detail and truly pay attention while it lasts.
So I’ll allow myself to feel a little sad that Eaden looks different (albeit every bit as cute) now that she has teeth, and that Isaac is looking less and less “little” lately as the last of his toddler chub disappears, and even that Seth no longer needs my help with most of his day-to-day tasks (yes, with that one I may be simultaneously grieving and cheering!)… but mostly I will hug them as often as I can, and notice the color of their eyes when I look at them, and pay as much attention as I can, as often as I can, to every detail. And I’ll take pictures (so many pictures), because every bit of it is worth remembering.

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I was just thinking…

Do you ever feel like you just have so much on your mind, so very many random thoughts, that you just wouldn’t know where to start? How to verbalize everything…? it is impossible. My writer’s block is due to overthinking. I start a sentence, a paragraph, and then scratch it out. No words encapsulate how I really think and feel lately. So… silence. Some thoughts are to complex for words, and some are far too simple.
I find myself envisioning this completely still and serene place where my mind is organized and calm, and I observe each thought and idea from beginning to end, unhurried. That place looks like a sunbathed field, and feels comforting like a soft blanket.

Anyway, sometimes you just have to start, with a single thought, right? So here we go.

One of my faults is that I am ridiculously self-conscious. I really admire people who do not care one bit what others think. I want to be that way. I feel silly sometimes that at almost 24 years old I still worry about things like that, that I’m still unsure of myself and at times feel I hardly know myself at all. I guess I used to assume that I would have these things figured out by now. But really, just like so many other things, it is a journey and a process. {For me anyway. Some people just seem to have that strength and confidence. Bless them; they are special and inspiring.}

While I may not ever “arrive”, I have such an intense desire to raise kids that are confident and strong. I don’t want then to be swayed by the opinions of others. I want them to know who they are and what they love and own it. I want to shield them from the kind of fear and baggage that attached themselves to me.
And I feel like I don’t know how most of the time. How do you protect your children from the emotional crap that most people in the world seem to be bogged down with? How do you help them to be free and happy, creative and caring, passionate, confident, curious, and all of those things we all want for our kids? In short, how do we not mess them up? Because doesn’t it seem like everyone is somehow messed up? and that usually it can be traced back to childhood? I’ve always been kind of afraid, because I never had time to read all the parenting books I wanted to and have always felt like I’m winging it a little. (Okay sometimes a lot.) I’m not one of those “professional moms” and I don’t “have it all together”.

I’m just taking it a day at a time. I’m doing the very best I am able to. And I look at my son, and he is astoundingly smart and sweet and happy. He is confident, in the way that only a two year old can be, and he’s curious and imaginative and certainly passionate.
He already is— and I didn’t do that. But I will certainly do absolutely everything I can to make sure that it is not taken away from him, and that it grows.

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