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Of cheese cubes and gumdrops

May 10, 2008

The other night I climbed into bed and announced to Graysen that I’d only read him a couple of pages in his book because I had to write my column already. Translation: kid, you’re impeding my ability to write about what it means to mother you and the other three. So go to sleep.
We then opened his book entitled “Killer Creatures,” to read about his obsession du jour. I marveled at his ability to differentiate between blue and bull sharks, smiled when he pointed out the “hammer shark head” then closed the book and unceremoniously plopped it on the floor. He protested but I was firm. “Go to sleep, Gray,” I said. I was tired of being a mom in that moment.
The following morning a strange, wordless depression enveloped me. I felt it the second I opened my eyes and I had to force myself to get out of bed. Every step was painful, every movement needed calculation, as though my life had morphed overnight into just one meaningless slog through the mud.
I tried to examine my funk and rise above it as I drove the kids to school but they were chatty, and Mira was preoccupied with the fact that I hadn’t gotten cheese cubes for her medieval banquet that afternoon. I was living life on the very edge of every moment which made me forgetful. Annoyed that I hadn’t dealt with it earlier, I begrudgingly promised to buy and deliver the cheese before 9 am, then even more begrudgingly promised to come to the banquet later, though I certainly had plenty to do that day. I wanted to say to heck with it all, crawl into a cave and just sleep for days, letting the chips of my life fall where they may. My mood sank further just thinking about it, and I couldn’t grasp why I felt so bad.
Then, little hints began to rise to the surface.
The previous day I’d photographed the fired Hilton workers with their protest signs and tape across their mouths. They stood there as disempowered human beings, many of them mothers. The mother in me protested too, and I left with no words to sum up my feelings. Suddenly, nothing felt quite right anymore. So the next day, when faced with cheese needs and far too much to juggle, my mind went into overdrive. Thoughts of every injustice, every slight against a mother, every heart-wrenching reality I didn’t want to be true, snowballed. I felt silenced, powerless, unable to effect any change.
Then, I began to read the responses we here at the paper received from local kids to our question: Why is your mom your hero?
Many of the replies referred to the importance of pancakes and birthdays. Kids swooned on paper over mothers who smelled like perfume and red roses. One thanked his mom for “helping in are class.” Another described her mom as her gumdrop. I felt my spirits begin to lift.
Even so, I was bummed because I ultimately missed the banquet by about 15 minutes. Somewhere in my fog I knew I needed to give myself a break, and even told myself a few times that there would be other banquets to attend. Yet I felt supremely dumb and became preoccupied with what I should have done differently. In fixating on this I missed the fact that my mere presence at the girls’ school that afternoon was enough. In my pathetic state I was actually unable to be the sort of mother I aspire to be. I was irritable and dismissive. Ironically, I wanted to right the wrongs of the world, feed the starving children, nurture and support the disempowered mothers … but I could barely offer a moment of patience to my own kids, and I was certainly not being patient with myself.
Perhaps the reason this is so frustrating to me is that I adore being a mom. My kids “grew me up” in ways I had never imagined, and I dearly love the sweetness that is this thing called mothering. I love that Gray orders “wambade” all by himself at restaurants. I love that some servers understand that he’s talking about lemonade. I love that Chiara talks to herself constantly, and with much flair, about puppies and rainbows. I love that Mira keeps her homework perfectly organized and dreams of having a chicken named Alfred, someday. And I love that Soren, on the brink of turning 14, requested a riding lawnmower as a gift this year. (Sorry, son, not happening.) This strange, surreal and joyous world is only mine because I am a mother. Because I am their mother.
Ultimately, I don’t have any clear answers about how to right the wrongs in the world but I do know that sometimes it’s enough to just breathe and go with it … whatever it is. And I do know, somewhere beneath the fog, that modeling this for my kids will eventually ripple into the greater world as they find their own feet, their own meaning. I hope if nothing else I can inspire kindness and compassion in their hearts. Along the way I also hope we can all remember my own mother’s wise words: “ask yourself, do you want to be a human doing or a human being?”
Thanks, Mom. I think I’m beginning to understand. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms I know and love. You are all my gumdrop.

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