The regular school year is over for my girls, who are ages 8.75 (Littlest) and 11 (Biggest). They wrapped up before Memorial Day, and have since begun a month-long summer program. Here in these parts, summer school is a loose, creative approach at superfluous learning, with no tests, free lunches, daily raffles, and an incentive to earn spending money, the balance for which grows larger the more days you attend. Here, summer school is not a requirement for faltering students or troublemakers, like back in the day.
Anyway, Monday after school Littlest had food—what looked like dried cheese sauce—on her face, either side of her mouth. Likely it had been there since her mid-day meal.
My heart swelled at the sight, because it meant she is still my little girl. She is getting big and becoming significantly independent, but not yet grown enough to find self-consciousness and think or care about whether or not her face is clean. She’s in between. I love that. And I didn’t make a fuss about the food because right now she deserves to float in that space before having to try so hard.
Biggest is at the cusp of the many things girls her age begin doing, all related to development. We recently discussed leg shaving. Some friends tell her she should, and she’s okay with the idea, but she’s not feeling an overwhelming desire to do so, either. She’s in between. It’s another thing I love, both because she is comfortable thinking for herself without feeling pressure from her peers, and because it means that (at least in this way) she’s not too eager to grow up. And she deserves to rest there for just a bit longer.
We started reading Charlotte’s Web last weekend. One evening the three of us sprawled on my bed, as I read aloud the early chapter in which Wilbur escapes from his pen. It’s not lost on me that I, too, am in between as their mom. They may not have to rely on me for every need or task, the way they once did, but I’m still their first go-to. They have friends and extracurricular activities and interests which are shaping their personalities, but they still want to be with me, doing the things we’ve always done.
I love that, and I want to hang onto it. Even when I know I can’t.
Because we’re only in between.
This weekend, my daughter and I were working a row of weeds. Actually several rows, but since I promised her we’d only tackle one row a day—the trick to securing her continued return—I was doing the bulk of the weeding. Which I don’t mind. Surrounded by sprouts and vegetables in varying stages of growth, I feel productive, the weather is sunny, warm with a light breeze. Life is good!
When she rose from her aisle of hay and exclaimed, “All done!”
I had to smile. The relief on her face was too funny—and predictable—and I couldn’t help but tease, “Already? Wow.” I surveyed her handiwork. “You’re amazing. How about another?”
“Mom,” she replied sternly, slapping a dirt-covered hand to her hip. “You promised. Only one row.”
“I know, I know.” I chuckled. “It was worth a try.” Dismissed, she trotted off to find her brother.
Only to return an hour later. Kneeling down in the row beside me, she began to pick at weeds. I glanced at her, surprised. “What are you doing? I thought you were finished weeding.”
“I am,” she reassured. “But I’m bored, so I thought I’d come help.”
I sat back on my heels. “You’re always welcome to help. In fact,” I added, “I like being in the garden with you, just us girls.”
This drew a smile from her, but she maintained focus on her task. I resumed my leaf pluck expedition down a line of lettuce and together we worked in silence until she murmured, “Mom, you are Superwoman.”
My heart sung! My spirit soared! “Superwoman?” I tried to conceal my glee. I mean—could it be true? She finally noticed?
Warmed by the sentiment, I smiled, flattered she noticed. It’s because I’ve devoted my life to you, isn’t it? I’ve signed on to be Girl Scout leader, always offer to be school volunteer, ever the reliable athletics chaperone…
Basking in the glow of my daughter’s admiration, my imagination frittered about, enthralled with a sense of validation, honor, and the glorious reward for my years of dedication.
That’s when I lost all sense of good judgment and replied, “That’s so sweet. But you know, baby doll, I’m not Superwoman.” I didn’t want her to invest any time in unrealistic goals and expectations for herself, her future, so I told her, “I’m just a woman, doing what she loves.”
Her expression twisted in confusion. “You love weeding?”
I pulled back. “Weeding?” Now we were both confused. “No…” My hands fell to my sides, landing in dirt. “I was referring to your Superwoman comment.”
“Why did you say I was Superwoman?” I asked, but could feel the hoe slicing through the air, its blade headed straight for me.
“Cause you have endurance! I don’t know any mom who could weed as much as you!”
Ouch. Bubble-filled fantasies popped. My ego deflated. There’s a kick in the rear.
But as those innocent green eyes held me in their gaze, I knew I couldn’t be upset. I had to take her at her word—the one she meant to be a compliment. And while it may not have been the one I had hoped, it was her own, and wholly genuine. Heartfelt.
It doesn’t get any better than that.
Rising from my knees, I walked over and placed a kiss on the top of her head. “Thank you, baby. I appreciate that, and it was kind of you to say.”
She beamed, pleased with herself. I grinned, heartened by her self-contentment. Both of us were satisfied with the moment, the kind which may prove scarce as she grows into adolescence.
So me, I took my lump of sugar when and where I could—as any smart mother would. One never knows when the next batch will arrive!
After all, it’s the life called mother. Have any moments to share? 🙂
Working mothers remains a hot debate. Whether you stay home and raise your children, or work outside the home while you partner with your spouse, motherhood and work when spoken in the same breath seems to touch a nerve. Why? Is it because the “sisterhood” is breaking down? Are we turning on one another? Eating our own?
Perhaps we’ve simply lost touch with our common purpose, motherhood. No one can be a mother, but a woman. People can “mother” and “nurture,” but there is no replacement for women. There is also no replacement for feeding our families, and feeding our souls. Should we be forced to give up our professional dreams as we raise our children? Should we be criticized for pursuing our passion if it takes us outside of the home when our children are young?
It’s a question I’ve lived with for many years. I began my life as a career-minded young woman. I secured a good position with a medical sales company and worked for ten years before facing the question. Should I give up my position to stay home and raise my children?
Fortunately for me, I also discovered my passion for writing. It was an easy overlap as I progressed through my second childbirth. 🙂
That’s when I stayed home for good. I stayed home because I wanted to be with my children. I wanted to be the one who cared for them, laughed with them, enjoyed each and every moment with them. But I never lost my desire to work and produce. In fact, it’s one of the best things about my garden! Kids don’t hand out awards, financial or otherwise, when Mom does a great job. They don’t recognize your achievements with promotions or bonuses. They simply smile, give you a hug and draw you a picture.
And sometimes that’s enough. For a while. But when they grow older and begin to live their own lives, you find yourself with time on your hands. For me, I filled it with writing. But not everyone has the flexibility that I did. Not everyone made the choices I made. Does that make them wrong?
Condemn Me Not is my latest release and explores this very topic. Veering from my romantic fiction, this one is all about the mothers and daughters. While I adore romance, women’s issues are near and dear to my heart, as is fleshing them out!
Would love to hear your opinions…;)