Saturday, May 21, 2011

Slow Motion Motherhood

There is a phenomena I recognize because of Stross that I have come to think of as Slow Motion Motherhood, or moments when life operates in real time for everyone else yet circumstances have slowed to a frame-by-frame pace for me. As I share in Involuntary Joy, they aren’t limited to hospital waiting rooms or other moments of stress.

With Stross, they have come on the most ordinary of days in the most ordinary of moments. His extraordinary life circumstances simply focus life in a way where contrasts to ordinary are keenly noticed – like when he, at 20 years of age, lumbers across our home on all fours to complete a simple errand because crawling remains his only form of independent mobility. In those moments, simple errands appear complex yet breathtakingly beautiful, courtesy of Slow Motion Motherhood.

While I am certain I have likely had such moments with Skye as well, I regret to admit that I am not as attuned to his slow motion moments. I wish I were.

Thankfully, I found some footage he took with one of our Flip cameras last weekend, and I was able to relive a breathtakingly beautiful moment that I missed. I am so thankful I have this moment, as belated as it is.

When I played the clip the first time, my heart clenched with breathlessness. So much had occurred in :29 seconds, and I had missed it all.

I have now watched this clip nearly a dozen times (and likely it will be many more by the time I post this). I have choked with regret each time: Why did I not stop in my tracks, grab Skye in a quick-but-tight-big-momma hug, then pull back to look up at him (for he is now taller than I) and say, “God, you are a fantastic young man. I am incredibly proud of you, and I love you so much it hurts.”

Why didn’t I do that?

The cliché answer: I take his life for granted.

The sociological answer: I would have embarrassed him.

The regret-filled answer: I didn’t really see what was happening in those precious seconds – 29 of which are captured here.

Before you watch the clip, I want you to know these things:
• I was in a hurry, trying to accurately locate the place on the Morningside College campus where I would line up for the processional that would lead me to my master’s degree.

• I was chewing gum – something I rarely do – to wish away possible coffee breath before meeting people for the first time. Skye despises the smell of chewing gum, so I try to hide it or keep my distance when I am chomping and he is around.

• I had only become aware of Skye’s presence behind me about 10-15 seconds prior to the beginning of this footage – after he had called out for me to slow up because his dad (waiting in our van with Stross) had sent him with our back-up Flip camera to take images of me crossing campus. I wasn’t sure how I felt about becoming the featured actor in a family epic, for I am usually the one capturing the footage. I love acting, but not in real life, so I when I heard Skye’s assignment, my instinct was to not slow my pace, as that wouldn’t be “real.”

• Because I am all about “real,” I managed to think of something I could share that I regarded as authentic. I chose something about having lost our primary Flip camera earlier that day.

• Finally, I was perplexed about why Skye would run across campus to take footage, because he doesn’t like being told what to do and doesn’t like it when I pull out the Flip camera. He is his own person. I remember a flash of wonderment: “Why is he doing this? Simply because his dad asked, or does he really want to?”

What I can see now, if not in slow motion but through constant playback, is that he did want to. He was proud of what I had accomplished, and he had responded to his father’s request to get footage as a gift to me. He believed I would like having parts of this special day captured for me. And I did … I do.

Skye: “Good thing you are graduating, and that’s what we're talking about.”

Ah, there it is: Slow Motion Motherhood in Skye-time.

Yes, Skye, that should have been what we talked about, as well as how insanely proud I am of you. I love your humor (the sound you made of footsteps “domn-domn, domn-domn”), your capacity for compassion, your creativity and your willingness to put others before yourself. I admire who you are becoming and how you are getting there. And when I mess up and miss some of your best moments, I love how you offer me generous portions of grace – often at your own psychological detriment.

Skye, these are things I would like you to know about this portion of a minute that we shared, but I missed:

• When I heard your voice, I felt excited. I love hearing your voice, especially when you say, “Hey, Mom!”

• When you chuckled, I hope it wasn’t a response to my inattention. I know that you – like me – chuckle sometimes when you are not comfortable and not sure how to react. I don’t ever want to make you that kind of uncomfortable.

• When I offered you a bemused look, I wish had conveyed more appreciation than bemusement. I also which I had not said something that probably only made sense to me; for even though we have lived in the same home for almost 16 years, I bet you weren’t able to interpret the nuance of my flippant remark. I intended it as a compliment, not sarcasm. Every graduate does need a son like you. They would be greatly blessed to have such a person to share life with.

• I also want you to know this: I should not have crossed the street without regard to what you might do next. You likely felt out of place even more than me; therefore, I should not have left you as the one to take the lead when saying “good bye.” Instead, I wish I’d have done exactly what I described above: grabbed you in a quick-but-tight-big-momma hug, looked up at you and said, “God, you are a fantastic young man. I am incredibly proud of you, and I love you so much it hurts.”

I am you know, and I do you know.

And one more thing: I cannot imagine being more proud of you than I already am. Still, I look forward to each day we get to share together, because I know I will be blessed with even more occasions to take pride in who you are.

Good thing someone found that other Flip camera for us, for I plan to continue using it for years and years to come.

“Hey, Skye, wait up! I want to get a really good look at you.”

I love you.


Thursday, May 19, 2011


I am afraid that my capacity
to feel so much
will lead me to a condition
where I won’t be allowed
to feel anything.

That is what I fear.
Not being able to feel everything
I know
there is to feel.

And so I remain afraid
because I know
there is much
to fear.

And that’s the beauty of it.


stand in judgment
and see if I care
about restlessness nights
when you aren’t there
as the future weighs
heavy with unknown strain
that prods present pressures
and inflates our current of pain.

raw. real. relentless.
unbounded and unforgiving.

you do not know.
you do not want to know.
not really.
for you understand
you are unable to know.
that is what we know now
at the age you were before this began for us.

it is all relative, relative.
isn’t it?

yet it is our reality.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Missing Me

Today – May 4 – has been rough. Meteorologically speaking, my emotional state has been cloudy with isolated showers. And my barometric pressure reading is unseasonably high, even for this typically predictable season of emotional upheaval.

It’s birthday season – the highly anticipated and energy charged time of year when my oldest son, Stross, counts down the days to the May 5 anniversary of his birth. His enthusiasm and joyful glee is contagious, yet not strong enough to fully dissipate my annual angst. And, as I said, this year my angst feels uncommonly uncomfortable.

Part of the reason might be that this year, May 5 marks the completion of my 20th year of a complicated odyssey known as motherhood. For someone who once declared she never wanted to become a mother, that’s a pretty big deal.

Be assured that I have no regrets about having become a mother. At 26 years of age, I entered its unique state of existence willingly, even if a bit wide-eyed. I was mature enough to understand the risks and to accept the possibility of consequences. However, that does not mean I understood the reality of potential consequences nor does it mean I was prepared for them. But that doesn’t really matter, does it? Motherhood happens.

Conception, gestation, labor, delivery, and then baby is born. Ready or not, here he comes, and it’s what he brings with him that sets the storms in motion.

Redefined relationships.

Refined finances.

Sidelined careers.

Clarified faith.

At least those are the circumstances that comprised the perfect storm that Stross’ life set in motion.

I am not complaining, justifying, or whining. It is simply the way it was and still is. It is how I do motherhood.

My rough emotional condition this year seems connected to a greater sense of loss than I normally experience around this date – the anniversary of the day my life inexplicably and undeniably changed forever.

Today, one three-word sentence has infused my thoughts: I miss me.

I shudder at how Dorian Gray it sounds. As if who I am today is some twisted outcome of a deal I made years ago.

I also shudder at how pathetic it sounds. As if I live a stunted version of life, trapped in a past I refuse to let go.

It is neither of those. It is something far simpler. I miss me. In fact, I really miss me today.

Ironically, I am missing a version of me I never had the chance to know. A happily married working mother with a beautiful baby boy whose future stretched effortlessly into unknown but exciting days, months and years.

I remember being a happily married woman. In fact, I still am one – going on 25 years now.

I remember being a working mother too. I am still one of those as well, even if in an unconventional way.

I also remember holding my beautiful baby boy with a future that stretched into unknown days. He’s 20 years old now.

It’s just the package deal wasn’t packaged as neatly as I had imagined it to be prior to May 5, 1991. It has not been effortless, and its exciting days have not been free of shadows about the future – specifically my oldest son’s future and how that impacts our family’s collective future.

On May 4, 1991, I still believed that I would retain a sense of freedom about my life’s choices after becoming a mother. I believed that self-sacrifice would be a choice rather than a daily life condition, and I believed that happily ever would be a reality that unfolded not a state of existence I had to strategize to assure.

Please understand.

I do not hate my life’s circumstances.

I do not resent my son. Dear God, no.

I also do not regret one day of my life that has occurred since May 5, 1991.

I simply miss me. The one that never got to be. I think I just want to know if I would have liked her. I hope so. Because I’m trying really hard to make her proud of the woman – make that the mother – that I have become.

Happy Birthday, Stross. You are beyond a blessing to me. The gift of your life is my personal threshold to all things divine. A sacred mystery.

And so I am left to wonder. About her. About me. About your future and our family’s future.

Yes, May 4 has been a rough day. But May 5 has now arrived; and you, my son, will soon arise and shine like no one else. I have a feeling my clouds will soon be lifting. I also have a feeling I will always miss me … well, her. And that’s o.k. Her elusive beauty keeps me company on nights like tonight, and she helps me be a better mother somehow.

So again, Happy 20th Birthday, my dear, Stross. I love you. Forever.