Just a Mom

IMG_1854

It started with the naughty chair.

I don’t remember what crime she committed – hitting her brother, maybe, or throwing a toy at the dog’s head. She sat there, staring at the wall, kicking her legs back and forth, back and forth. She didn’t say a word until I knelt down in front of her, ready to release her from captivity. Then she glared up at me, a 22 lb bundle of rage. “I no like you, Mommy,” she said.

I got up and walked away.

 

I remember a similar conversation with my own mother, more than fifteen years ago. We were sitting at the kitchen table, having a heated discussion about where I was going to apply for university. I wanted to go to either Kemptville or Olds – the only two schools in the country that offered certification in Equine Science. My parents wanted me to pursue a “more reasonable” degree – science, preferably, or engineering.  “You have the grades to do whatever you want to do, to go anywhere,” my mother said. “I know!” was my teenage response. “I have the grades. I got here myself. I should be the one to choose where I go to school – you did nothing.”

My mother got up and walked away.

 

I grew up in a one-paperboy town. Granted, that paperboy did on occasion complete his route on his riding lawnmower – but you get the idea.  It was a small town!  My father grew up in that same small town and my mother moved there from a similar, even smaller town when she got married. My father dropped out of university to help run the family business, my mother finished her education degree and taught for a few years at the college level before deciding to stay at home with her children.

I’m not sure if my parents were unhappy with their lives or if they just wanted more for the three of us, but from a young age I felt pushed to do better. I was under constant pressure to do well in school, to study hard, and to get good grades. Scholarships were my ticket out of that small town and out of that life.

I remember wanting more. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted, but I knew that I didn’t want that life for myself; I wanted more.

At first I gave in to my parents’ wishes and studied economics. I worked hard and I got good grades – but those were empty accomplishments. I wanted to do something big. I wanted to change the world!

So I immersed myself in ministry, combining my love for horses and my passion for youth in a position on a ranch for inner-city kids. It was the hardest job I have ever had – but also the most rewarding.

Two years later I was working my way through a youth ministry degree and interning at a local church, where I met Nathan.

And real life set in. Marriage meant a break from Bible college, a mortgage meant I needed a real job, with consistent pay – and kids meant youth ministry – though still a passion – got put on hold.

 

I never wanted to be a stay at home mom until the moment I held Topher in my arms.

 

I’ve done it all over the past five years: I’ve worked part-time. I’ve worked full-time. I’ve been on maternity leave, not working at all. I started my own business and worked from home.

I burned out, and I crashed.

 

Last month I ended my steady contract job and became just a mom.

 

It was a relief – but it was also a lot harder than I expected. I had no idea so much of my identity was wrapped up in being more! I’ve spent hours researching new business opportunities and potential clients, clinging to that version of myself.

Why? I had no passion for my job and no real desire to continue. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted, but without it I had no idea who I was.

I still want to do something big, I still want to change the world – but I don’t want more.

I just want to be a mom.

 

Like my mom was.

Because I know now that she was more than just a mom: She was a teacher, an encourager, a writer, an entrepreneur, a chauffeur, a referee, a chef, a confidante, and a friend. She pushed me to do better – but I’m not sure it’s possible to do better than she did. After all, she raised three daughters – all of whom went on to pursue higher education, and all of whom ultimately decided there is more to life than the world’s idea of success.

 

Honestly, sometimes it doesn’t feel like what I’m doing is all that important.

Sometimes I fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day and yet I feel like I have accomplished nothing.  The sink is full of sippy cups, the couch is littered with puzzle pieces and cracker crumbs, and every surface is piled high with some form of children’s artwork.

It’s not at all how I pictured my life, fifteen years ago; it’s better.

I may be “just a mom”, but I am doing something big, and I am changing the world – one ordinary day at a time.

The First Day

kindergarten01

I knew how it was going to go down.  I had prepared myself weeks in advance.

There would be tears and there would be tantrums, and if it was anything like last year his teacher would peel him from my legs and restrain my kicking and screaming son while I left.

I would walk down the hall to the sound of his cries, choking back tears of my own.

“He’ll be fine,” I would tell myself.

I knew he would be.

But that’s not how it happened.

We walked him to his classroom and helped him hang up his backpack and find his cubby. Nathan (who I had begged to take the day off, “just in case”!)  held Topher’s hand as he spun around us in circles.

Then it was time.

We each gave him a hug and a kiss, squished together for one last family hug –

And that was it.

Topher ran off to line up with his class.

With one final wave, he was gone.

Off to kindergarten.

No tears.

No tantrums.

Just a brave little boy, ready to face the adventure of growing up.

I was surprised – and a little bit saddened! – by his independence …

But isn’t that what we want for our kids?

When I strapped Ellie into her carseat I heard a little sniffle.  “Are you okay?” I asked, peering into her face.  Through the shadows I saw a single tear trickle down her cheek.  “I miss Topher,” was her wobbly response.

Me too, babe.  Me too.

Art Gallery

artgallery

Our half bath is my favourite room in our entire house.  I call it my happy place.  It’s the only room that is decorated to the point that I would actually call it “finished” – with an ocean theme that reminds me of New Brunswick.  It’s also always clean, since we rarely use that particular bathroom – and it doesn’t hurt that there’s a lock on the door so I can barricade myself in to hide from my two sidekicks!

This afternoon Topher asked me if I wanted to see his art gallery.  He had been exceptionally quiet during his quiet time so I was interested to see what he had been up to.  He took me by the hand and led me through the closet into the bathroom.

“Look, Mommy!” he said proudly, waiting for my reaction.

He had gone through my pile of horse magazines and torn out page after page, carefully selecting pictures of the horses he deems “pretty” (mostly grays.  Who wants a gray horse?  They stain so easily!) – cutting around them and taping them onto pieces of white paper.

“This one’s for you!” he said, bending over to remove one from the stack.  “This one’s for Daddy, and this one’s for Ellie!”

The bathroom was a mess.

Pages had been torn out of magazines and crumpled into balls.    There were little bits of paper everywhere, and pieces of tape were attached to every available surface.

I was in my happy place, but I was not happy.

 

Topher didn’t know that I had been saving those particular magazines.   (I write about horses, so I keep back issues of certain publications to reference.)  He saw me cutting pictures out of magazines months ago, when I was working on my vision board, and he thought it looked like a fun project.

 

I was upset …. but thanks to years of watching Daniel Tiger, I took a deep breath and counted to four.  And then I sighed.

 

The magazines had been important to me – but not as important as Topher.

Bathrooms can be cleaned.

Magazine articles can be found online.

But words spoken, especially in anger and frustration, cannot be erased.

 

So I hugged my little artist, and thanked him for the masterpiece he had presented to me.

Then I knelt down beside him and reached for a magazine.  “Grays are pretty, bud,” I told him.  “But seriously?  Bays hide dirt much better …”

Mom Camp

momcamp1

Am I the only one who finds it difficult to be present in August?

Our calendar for September is already filling up:  Topher is starting kindergarten and hockey  and Ellie is taking swimming lessons and a three week class at the zoo.  Nathan is back to his regular schedule leading worship at church, my job has been extended for at least one more month, and my family from New Brunswick is visiting for a week (!!).

My mind is swimming with plans for next month  – so in an effort to reclaim August, I decided to plan “Mom Camp”!

We have:

Now, instead of stressing about September, I’m looking forward to this weekend:  Family movie night, a friend’s birthday party, and a whole lot of relaxing in between!

What are your plans for the weekend? 

Onward and Upward

tpreschoolgrad1As if last week wasn’t emotional enough, on Saturday we celebrated Topher’s graduation from preschool.  There was cake and ice cream, two bouncy houses – and surprisingly few tears, thanks in large part to this post by Melanie Dale.

I will miss Topher’s days as a preschooler.

I’ll miss the silly game we played every morning, trying to get his shoes on the right feet.  I’ll miss the way he scrambled to his feet the second his teacher walked into the room and his mad dash to her chair so he could be first in line to get his letter.  I’ll miss his “One more hug and kiss, Mommy!” and the way he tackled little Ellie to the ground to give her hers.  I’ll miss chatting with the other moms in the hallway outside the classroom, and I’ll miss Topher sending his lunchbox down the railing on the wall for one of his friends to catch.  I’ll miss the guessing games – “Guess who had Show and Tell today, Mommy?  You’ll never guess!”  followed by “Guess what he brought!”  when I finally get it right.

I will miss Topher’s days as a preschooler, but at the same time, I’m looking ahead.  Onward and upward, I say!

preschoolgrad2

Kindergarten, here we come!