Dragonflies

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I wanted to say that I am sorry. But I didn’t want to become a sobbing mess. I wanted to tell you that I am sorry for a thousand different things. I’m pretty sure its the mother in me.

I am sorry that your mother never got to proudly walk you into school and be there waiting and smiling for you at the end of the day. I’m sorry that you didn’t get to grow up with her sitting next to you on the couch. Or that you didn’t get to watch her make a mess in the kitchen. I’m sorry if you ever were scared during thunderstorms and needed the comfort of your mom.

I’m sorry if the tooth fairy never came. Or Santa. Or the Easter bunny.

I’m sorry if you wore dirty clothes or needed someone to braid your hair. I’m sorry that your mom couldn’t be there for your birthdays, graduations and your wedding. I’m sorry that you couldn’t call her or just show up at home when you didn’t feel right, when you needed the reassurance of her presence.

I’m sorry for the far too many times that life was harder for you. I’m sorry for your pain. I’m sorry for the hundreds of responses you’ve buffered when people found out that your mom died. I’m sorry that you never got to sing her a “Happy Birthday” song or make her homemade cards or cake. I’m sorry that “Mother’s Day” is so damn hard.

I’m sorry that you had to search and search to grow up and be like your mother. I’m sorry for all of the insensitive comments you’ve endured as others complain about their mothers.

It’s not fair.

Life can be cruel and uncertain and unfair. But you know that.

You learned that lesson.

You’ve lived that lesson.

It doesn’t change her death. It changes the way you live. Her life runs through yours. She lives in you. The same way that you lived in her. You are forever her daughter.

And she will be forever your mom. And she will be proud of you forever. And always.
I will always remember that you love dragonflies.

You may truly never comprehend the gift that you gave me when you shared your story with me. You may never understand how beautifully weighted your words are to me. You gave me one of the most amazing gifts when you compared me to your mother. You unknowingly gave me strength and hope to push through the grueling moments of life. Thank you. I will forever be grateful for you.

I hope to do something as courageous as you one day.

 

 

Park Moms

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I stood on the outskirts of two different playgrounds today watching my children. I sat and listened to their voices bounce around as they chased each other and created imaginative games, peeking their freckled noses out from the highest places.

We spend a ton of hours at the playground. We always have because parks are free, there are limited rules and they provide a near-perfect environment for energy release and all sorts of growth. I’ve sat on grass, benches, pavement or turf. I’ve often played “tag” or chased my boys. Or I’ve stood on the edges, shivering, perhaps chatting with other moms, nannies and grandparents. Recently, when a fellow mother of boys’ mom friend of mine and I ran into each other at a new park, she said, “we used to go bar hopping, now we go park hopping.” Yes. We save a lot of money and our livers nowadays.

Some of our kids used to need help, a boost or a mama’s hand going down the slide or crossing the monkey bars. Not anymore. Now, they need the open space to run, yell, climb, jump, tag and play. They still need to show off their mad climbing or monkey bar skills, “MAAAAAHM! Watch me!” Occasionally, if other kids are not around, my boys will ask me to play “dog monster” where I run around bark-growling and attempt to catch them. It has gotten harder and harder for me to win the game.

There are so many different seasons of motherhood. I have always tried my hardest to cherish each and every fleeting one. This has been one of the greatest teachers of having a chronic illness: be present, be grateful, enjoy this time. Today. Right now. This doesn’t mean I don’t have moments or hours or days I wish away. I’ve truly wanted to embrace and experience all of the chaotic, innnocent, simple, and breath-robbing moments. I don’t want to have big motherhood regrets.

I had so many meaningful playground conversations today. I talked with other mothers who stood or sat with me. I listened as mothers spoke of both the loneliness and the beauty of motherhood, the many ways kids grow up, and how they need moms in different ways. I had the opportunity to share my own stories of trying to take a relaxing bath or needing a bit of space in my closet or crying in the parking lot, shower, or kitchen.

As our children exhausted themselves, we, the mothers, filled each other back up. We needed to hear each other’s honest stories. We needed to hear each other’s laughs. And feel the collective mother sighs. The moments not glorified on social media. The moments of real unfiltered life. We needed to look compassionately and sympathetically into the eyes of another woman doing her best as a mom. We needed to see our reflection. We can be so hard on ourselves until we hear our own honest stories being told by another mother.

Our kids need us.

And we need each other.

Because it’s true. It takes a constantly growing village.

I’m grateful for the diverse community of mothers surrounding me, whether it be a stranger that talks with me for twenty minutes about her thirty year old son as she shares her motherhood journey or the familiar face of a friend that regularly sits on the outskirts of the playground, just like me.

Women need other women. Like us. And different from us too.

And sometimes, on playgrounds or in kitchens or in grocery stores or online, moms need to be mothered from time to time. By other moms who just get it. All of it.

Jesus and Mama Tears

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There is something extraordinarily healing and powerful that takes root inside of me knowing that Jesus wept.

The other night I had my head bowed in shame as I sat at the kitchen table. I had just overreacted to one of my boys climbing on the outside of the steps, resulting in a broken thrift store umbrella holder. After I cleaned up the mess, I sat there alone and began crying so hard that my tears dropped down onto the kitchen floor. I think it could have been classified as “weeping.” I mentally backed myself into a corner and beat myself up about all the ways I fail as a human being. As a mother. As a wife.

Because isn’t that we do? Beat ourselves up when we don’t have the strength to go grab a Kleenex or some toilet paper to soften the blow of our tears. And when the tears of guilt flow, they sure know how to awaken the dried up wells of inadequacy, loss and despair.

In my heightened emotional state, I texted my husband and a friend letting them know what an asshole I had been. They each kindly offered to help me out of the pit of doom. I thought it may be helpful if I created a hotline for parents, “1-800-ILOSTMYSHIT.” The operator could have a file folder ready to remind you of all the other times when you handled chaos better, a bit more gracefully. The kind person, probably a volunteer, on the line could perhaps console you and tell you about a time that they also overreacted to routine kid chaos.

The thing is that I usually can cry it out, apologize to my boys and hope and pray for their forgiveness and God’s strength to do better next time. Then, we move on. To the dog park or to a game of checkers. Or whatever. My boys, thankfully, have this crazy awesome ability to forgive me and love me through my guilt and shortcomings as a mother.

In hindsight, like a few days later, who really cares about a thrift store umbrella holder? Obviously not the person who donated it to the thrift store. I don’t want my boys to be wreckless and purposely break stuff, but if anyone should understand breaking stuff accidentally, it should be me. I realize that I had some built-up, constant mud and mess-cleaning up anger that I should have released at ripple glass therapy.

Sadly, and not so sadly, sometimes, those we love the most intensely get to see the yucky, jagged and broken sides of us. Inside of our homes. Our cars. Unfiltered, not touched-up, the raw ugly-cry moments. The moments when we feel exhausted, sad, hopeless, helpless and burdened by our own imperfections. The difficult and painful moments of growth, roots shifting or branches getting pruned.

As I did my Lenten sharpie marker art this morning, I realized just how grateful I am to cling to the belief that Jesus gets me the most. So, I am reminded to grab on tightly to the hope offered in the extra soft, aloe-infused Kleenex He hands me. Time and time again. Today, I’m humbled and gratefully aware that his grace daily protects, strengthens, and carries us.

Amen.

Spring Break Snowflakes

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I held our new shivering puppy, Patch, tightly as I watched and listened to my boys race up and down the slippery slides at the school playground. They all giggled nonstop as the cold wet slides launched their bodies onto the turf below. Time and time again.

“This is FUN, Mama!” they shouted.

I looked down in amazement and wonder at the beauty of the snowflakes that landed on Patch’s black fur. How can each one be so different? So beautiful. So perfect. The tiny, intricate, unique patterns and designs of the snowflakes that became gently trapped into the hairs on his back. He nuzzled his nose under my arm.

Each of my boys ran over to pet him or attempt to temporarily shield him from the snow. Their pink cheeks, grown-up front teeth and their bright eyes quickly peered into mine from beneath their stocking caps. They each tried to tell me something different. I can’t remember what. They looked so happy, so perfect. And then they each ran off.

I sat there, temporarily stuck in the moment, mesmerized and overwhelmed by their existence and the beauty held in their precious freckled faces. I will never tire of looking into their big brown innocent and smiling eyes, framed by their gigantic snowflake-trapping eyelashes.

“Do you feel the snowflakes trapped in your eyelashes?” I asked one of my boys.

He responded by blinking. The snowflakes melted or disappeared. Gone.

I will always thank God in these outside, overwhelmingly peaceful and joyfilled moments. I will count them. My boys. My blessings. Over and over and over again. I will marvel and wonder and nearly implode with thankfulness for the gifts of their lives. I can’t help but feel a varying combination of being utterly humbled, confused, worried, imperfect and beyond grateful for the privilege, the honor, and the responsibility of being their “mama.”

And then, most likely, later in the day, I may be tired or short-fused, perhaps even close to near-exploding at their fighting or complaining. But I promise myself that I will take a deep breath. I will gently tap myself on the shoulder and whisper in my head,

“Hey, you tired mama. Remember sitting at the picnic table earlier watching your boys like the most proud mom in the universe? With the spring snow flurries drifting down. And a new puppy on your lap as the confused birds sang, the highway traffic buzzed, and the irresistible sounds of those three rosy cheeked, giggling boys bounced around….”

I will tell myself to remember the powerful moments and my prayer of thanks. And I will shape up. I may even need to take an extra deep breath or two to activate my secret stash of patience.

Spring break snowflakes.

Remember their beauty, the quiet power they possess. They disappear too quickly.

I will slow down and remind myself to notice, to pause and to embrace the ever changing, beautiful and raw moments of motherhood.

Five Forever

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As my legs pushed his lanky giggling body into the air, he glanced down at me. The gentle breeze swayed the branches on the trees and rustled the gorgeous fallen leaves back and forth. I stared up at his freckled nose, his bleached-out hair and I asked him an important question,

“Will you stay five years old forever?”

In the overwhelmingly beautiful and perfect moments of motherhood, I want to freeze time. I want to run around the back yard laughing as we have stick fights. I want to “bahmember” as he says, his sweet voice forever. I want to capture the simple ways that he looks at the world through his giant, greenish brown eyes. I want to always be able to snuggle him tight after my legs give out from “rocket launching” him into the air. I want him to always ask me to push him on the swing.

I want to never forget the sound of his voice, “Mama? Where are you?”

He’s so breathtakingly perfect in these unexpected moments. The surprise gifts of uninterrupted time together. He notices the tiniest things like bees pooping or the sounds a bird makes. He laughs nonstop when a bug lands on my nose. He thinks the moon sometimes goes to visit other houses too. He unknowingly teaches me how to happily live in the present moments. He helps me forget about a stack of bills, a dead vehicle, and a dirty house.

“Yes.” He answered me. Afterall, he doesn’t yet know what it means to grow up.

And so it’s a Monday mother-son deal. For today, he will stay five forever.

Michael Phelps’ Mom

 

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Congratulations, Michael Phelps’ mom. You can officially retire. You can finally rest easy knowing that your work is done. You are never going to have to run out to Target again to buy your son a new pair of goggles. You know, to replace the nine millionth pair of goggles that have broken, leaked, or that your son has lost. Yet, somehow, it’s all your fault. How could you have ever expected your most decorated Olympic swimming son to jump into a pool of chlorinated water without protecting his precious abs? I mean eyes. His eyes. With a pair of Speedo goggles.

I’ve watched the Olympics differently this go around. I’ve looked on as a mother. I’ve bitten off nails. I’ve jumped off the couch and stared at the screen, anticipating the moments where your son adjusts, then readjusts his goggles. I’ve never doubted his swimming talents. We’ve all been mesmerized by his dolphin-like ability to glide in and out of the water. So beautifully. Like some sort of waterproof robot. A robot that desperately needs those Speedo goggles to stay in place.

That’s where you and I share a special bond, Michael Phelps’ mom. I have three sons that swim too. Not quite at the same level as your son. Nonetheless, they need their goggles just like your son. When it’s time to jump in the pool, the pressure is on. It’s all on me. I’m sure you remember the days. I’m there semi-willing to adjust. Readjust, then SNAP, break the crap out of their cheap ass goggles. Because let’s face it, Michael Phelps’ mom, my son’s Speedo goggles are not like your son’s. The Target employee kindly gave me the cartwheel discount for my sons’ goggles, but it was all downhill from that point on.

A casual day at the pool turned into a sad broken goggle fest. Come on, Speedo, for crying outloud…we can’t all be Michael Phelps! Why, oh why must non-Olympian kids risk getting red, itchy eyes accompanied by all the tears and the repeated exclamations, “MY EYES. MY EYES. Mommy, my eyes hurt SOOOO bad.”

“Well, boys, that’s because Michael Phelps’ mom bought all of the good googles.”

I’m sorry, Michael Phelps’ mom. My irrational response never works to soothe their zombie eyes. But somehow it makes me feel like a better mom in the heat of the moment.

“Cheer up, kids. Wasn’t it cool how he won all of those gold medals? That’s because Speedo sold all of their cheap and poorly made goggles to kids like you so they could spend all of their time working on Michael Phelps’s precious golden Olympic medal googles.”

There. There.

So, now that your son is done swimming and your grandson will surely never so much as dip a toe in a chorinated pool, because well, that’s a lot of pressure being Michael Phelps’ son, can you spare a few pairs of the good Speedo goggles to a fellow mom? I promise I won’t sell them on eBay.

And if I did, it would only be to buy more cheap ass goggles. From Target.

Guest Post: “My Everything”

My friend, Taisha, and I share many similarities. Our friendship goes way back, almost twenty years. We played basketball together in college. Back then, we spent hours hanging out in each other’s dorm rooms. We both love laughing, dancing, and meeting new people. As we moved out of the dorms and years have flown by, we have become  mothers. We now share many of the universal thoughts and feelings that accompany motherhood. We each have three sons and love them with an overwhelming, protective, intense and unconditional love. We have countless hopes and aspirations for our sons. And we also have worries and fears related to our sons’ futures. My fears as a mother of three white sons are not the same as my friend, Taisha’s. This reality sickens, saddens, and infuriates me. I asked Taisha if she would share her thoughts and perspective as a mother of three black sons. She graciously accepted. I’m honored to have my dear friend as a contributor to my blog’s first guest post. -Amelia

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In the wake of senseless violence, many injustices, and racial tension at an all time high, I pray and I plead to the Lord. I pray my sons and/or loved ones NEVER become a hash tag, the face on a t-shirt, or a reason to protest in this world!! I just can’t!!

I am an African-American, proud mother of three black sons. My sons are Tavares (15), Trevon (8) and Trenton (6 years old). They are my heart, my love, my world, my joy, and absolutely my everything.

I will focus on my oldest son, Tavares. I’m sitting down on the couch watching t.v., I get a tap on my shoulder. “Mom, ma, mommy, mama, mommia, mom, mom, mom.” Here we go, the scene from Family Guy!! I turn around and he says hello. Not just a regular hello, an Adele hello,

“Hello, It’s me!”

I have to listen to him sing this song until the beginning of the second verse, where I can usually cut him off. Then, he sits on the floor in front of me so I can twist and play with his hair. Most of the time, you can see him doing the latest dance moves to the latest songs with the biggest grin on his face. Although a typical teen, Tavares stands at 6’5″ and is still growing. He loves basketball and is a member of the Varsity basketball team. He aspires to play college basketball at Auburn University. He loves nature and farming. Although he is an upcoming Junior in high school, he is also a Sophomore in college as a dual enrollment student. At his high school graduation, he will receive an associate degree in Agri-Science.  He participates in many school programs, clubs, and associations. He plays trumpet for the marching band and French horn for the concert band. At church, he is a member of the junior usher ministry and a member of the junior choir. He loves God, church, and his community. This is not the totality of my son but a glimpse of his many awesome attributes!!

It scares me that some portions of society feel fear, anger, and violence, or see a thug, a menace to society, an inferior being, without even knowing him. Every person has a story.

Every and any mother has a hope for her child to have the opportunity to live and fulfill the life God has for them. I just want Tavares to have that opportunity. My prayer is that hate doesn’t win, if he is ever in the face of hate. No one, I mean absolutely no one, has the right to take his life or that potential from the world.

Someone will take one look at him and assimilate every stereotype that may or may not be applicable to him. Someone will validate their own negative experience and paint him with the same broad brush. Someone may look at him with fear embedded from the perpetual, violent images of black boys his age, and not from his/her personal experience. Someone will never give him the compassion of humanity because of the pigmentation and hue of his skin. Someone will base their dialogue to remain true for all people and hate my son just because. My fear remains that someone could possibly rob my heart, my love, my world, my joy, and absolutely, my everything’s life, only to memorialize it with a hash tag, t- shirt, or protest in this world. I just can’t!

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