Years ago, I thought that motherhood would mean long afternoons having picnics, gazing at the shapes of clouds with my children and daydreaming. Then at night, I though we would go outside in our pajamas, hold hands and gaze up at the magic of the stars.
I have since discovered, and as you probably already know, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
There are scientists who say that we are made of stardust. The selfsame stuff that makes up stars composes our cells, our bones and our very breath. All that has ever shone – all that has been brilliant since the beginning of time is in the very air that we breathe.
It is timeless. It is us. It is in our children. And this, in the mundane nature of everyday life – is so very easy to forget.
When we begin on the magical road to motherhood, we already begin to understand that things will not go as we think they will. That we are not always in control.
Our shapes change. The shape of our lives changes. Well. everything changes.
I can now declare that my twenty-five years of motherhood can probably be summed up in one word…
It is a word which was taught to me by my mother. It is a word that one uses when things don’t go quite as well you thought they might go.
It is a word which I did not understand that I would need – more than any other word – as a mother.
It is the “F” word.
I bet that you have used this word from time to time.
I love the “F” word.
Hold on to your seat – because I am going to say it:
Becoming the mommy has made me more flexible.
I began with strict boundaries and strict bedtimes. Every part of my universe in its proper orbit. But there were black holes. There were eclipses.
In time, though, I adapted. I learned to tiptoe around the Legos and Polly Pockets on the floor in the middle of the night.
As my three children grew, I grew.
I was no longer a control freak. I learned to appreciate flexibility.
In my flexibility – I learned to let my children lead me.
To be able to be flexible you have to be able to trust…and you have to be able to surrender to what is happening around you.
It has been my life lesson to learn to do both.
I drove to pre-dawn swim practices. I went to zoos. I rode zoo trains. I chaperoned a band trip to Austria, choir trips to Carnegie Hall and Savannah. I made sandwiches. I made costumes. I choreographed school musicals.
I even did something I never thought I never, ever would do.
I went to the principal’s office.
Once I stepped in at the last minute playing Mrs. Paroo in the elementary school’s production of The Music Man with twelve hours notice – the only adult on stage with my ten-year old as Harold Hill. Thanks to an Irish brogue – and the F word.
When our house burned – my husband and I — we were oh so flexible. We moved into a hotel. then an apartment. We bought the children more underwear.
It was the F word that kept us going – well — the F word and — whiskey.
Without sharing with you all my children’s secrets I will say that I adapted to our house fire. Moving to three different cities. Our baby’s blindness. Our son’s special needs. Our children’s loneliness. Our daughter’s search for a prom dress. Their talents. Their self –destructive behaviors. Their giftedness. Their illnesses.
As our universe has expanded – as the universe does – as they have grown and taken to different cities, different lifestyles – and different preferred pronouns, I have tried to remain flexible.
I had hoped that I would not break.
Stephen Sondheim writes – children grow from someone you love to someone you lose.
In my flexibility I demonstrate to my children that I am never, ever letting them go. They are made of stardust – and so am I.
I am in their hearts and their minds.
It is this exquisite magic which will always keep us connected.
Well that – and the F word.