Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Looking Back Nostalgically

The windows are open on this sunny autumn morning. Leaves rustle in the breeze like dry pieces of paper. We are nearing one of our best months in Minnesota: October. If only October could be longer. It is our cool, bright, crisp month with warm sun and fresh, clean, chill air. It’s the kind of weather that demands trips to the apple orchard, the pumpkin patch; the kind of weather that demands appreciation.
I’ve been refocusing my energies lately. As I have often said, being a mother is a practice of mind over matter. Each day contains joy, hilarity, challenges and frustration. How my girls and I fair through the day has more to do with my attitude than with any amount of challenges. So I’ve been refocusing my energies.
Instead of fixating on the things that need to be done; the things that I’m not doing (writing, cleaning, keeping up socially) I try to focus on what I am doing, what my four-year-old daughter wants to be doing, and wants me to be doing. I try to relax when I’m playing with her and not think as I’m playing: I should be…It’s amazing how five or ten minutes of real play time like that fills her pot quicker than an hour of half-focused attention.
They are still challenging, of course. Their needs are strong and different. Jada (almost nine months old, now) is demanding focused attention too. She desperately wants to be running and playing with big-sister Twila and needs all the more attention since her mobility is still limited to racing around on her hands and knees.
Twila turned four this past weekend. It was her first party with friends. Four girls came dressed as four different princesses. Twila was of course, Tiana, her favorite princess and mine since she is the first of Disney’s princesses to have some amount of strength and intellect, and goals other than marrying a prince. Not like Aurora who sleeps through her whole movie or Ariel who gets married at—sixteen, for heaven’s sake. How about a sequel where Arial travels abroad or goes to college? Princess and the Frog, it’s a good movie.
So Twila has this great, screaming, hectic party for two hours that felt like five. But she had a total blast. And Jada, more than three years younger, was fully engaged: screeching along with the girls, leaning off my mother’s lap as if she might just jump to her feet and join in the game of musical chairs.
By the time the piƱata burst, Jada couldn’t take it anymore and wriggled to the floor crawling between the feet of the princesses and snatching up the crinkly plastic packages. It must be the second child phenomenon. Twila did not thrive on noise and social energy at this age. On the contrary she took refuge in my bosom any time we were out of our quiet, calm, element.
Twila’s only been four a few days, but already I can tell I like this age. There is a calm that has come over her. Well maybe calm is too extreme, but there is less of the frantic rage of three. Three was really tough for us. There was unparalleled defiance, temper tantrums, irrational anger, sadness, violence. I admit it caught us by surprise. Twila has always been so peaceful and compassionate; we just didn’t see it coming. Of course we did have a baby right in the middle of her three-year-old year, so that couldn’t have helped.
But the light at the end of the tunnel is increasing in size. In fact, I can see the sun and the clouds and the bright blue sky of four. She is funny and her compassion and sensitivity are fully intact again. She is helpful and kind. She makes Jada laugh and helps me get the diapers.
This morning I woke up to bright sun outside; orange leaves fluttering down in a light breeze. I snuck into Twila’s room to find her awake. After quickly pulling on sweatshirts over our jamies and shoes over our bare feet, Ryan, Twila and I slipped out the back door with the baby monitor and walked down to the dock, where we stood in the quiet of the morning, watching leaves float like dry paper down onto the glassy surface of the lake.
I may not be finishing pages of my novel at breakneck speed; I may not be turning out hit play after hit play. But my days spent with my girls—the days I really spend with them, not trying to do a million other things—fill my creativity pot full of material that will be used, slowly but surely and someday faster. And they fill my heart full of memories, of this time of parenting young girls, upon which I will spend the majority of my life looking back nostalgically.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sick Day? The Preschooler’s Dilemma

As a birthmother of an eleven year old girl, I’ve had opportunity to be a part of the “sick day discussion” for many years. Shortly after I placed my birthdaughter in an open adoption, I became privy to the constant conversation about childhood illness, contagions, vaccinations, play-date etiquette, and, of course, the always looming question: should I keep my kid home from school?

When my four year old started preschool last year, it was our first experience with out-of-home care. I took the school’s requests to keep your child home if they are feverish, or have a runny nose, very seriously. As a new mom, I thought they actually meant that you should keep your sick kid home. I was surprised to discover, as the school year went on, that I must have been one of the only parents to interpret the request as I had.

Each day it seemed half a dozen or so kids were wiping thick, green snot off their upper lips with the backs of their hands, snorting post-nasal drip back up their throats, and glowing red with the dewy perspiration of fever. By mid-November it seemed that no one thought keeping their child home when he or she was ill was little more than a suggestion.

As the threat of Swine Flu gathered momentum over the winter months, I dutifully kept my sick daughter home for the mandatory seven days after the start of a fever and twenty four hours after the end. I did my best to contain her germs when she was under the weather. The trouble was, on the days that Twila came down with a serious cold or flu, it wasn’t until I picked her up from school and saw the pink glow in her cheeks and her drooping eyelids (those telltale signs) that I knew she was coming down with a bug. I would keep her home for the remainder of the week but the damage was already done.

According to Robert W. Frenck Jr., MD, professor of pediatrics and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Disease, a child is contagious before she shows any signs or symptoms of a virus. That means that at any given time, a preschool classroom could be crawling with contagious children who seem healthy. When the fever flush and glassy eyes show up, the germs are already present and have likely been spread.

So does it really help to keep your child home when she is sick? I asked myself this question no less than twenty times during my daughter’s first year of preschool. Surely it helps to not have a sick kid spraying germs all over the toys, tables and her friends each time she coughs or sneezes, I would answer myself and make that familiar call to the teacher to announce Twila’s absence.

It was early in March last year when I sighed, once again on the phone with my daughter’s teacher on a Monday morning, “And I suppose I’ll keep her home until next week since she has a fever today. I guess she can come back next Tuesday…”

“Well,” her teacher interrupted me, “why don’t you just wait and see how she feels tomorrow. If she perks up just bring her in.”

But wasn’t the school’s policy to wait seven days after the fever broke? I wondered. Perhaps my daughter’s teacher was seeing the absurdity of a policy that is only observed by half the class. I was beginning to see it too. In fact, it seemed like each time I brought my child back to school after her mandatory seven day sick leave (during which she usually bounded happily around the house, bouncing off the walls and jumping on the couch as she does when she’s healthy) she was greeted be several of her classmates donning runny noses and sweaty foreheads. It felt like I was fighting a losing battle. Indeed some weeks it felt like Twila was only in school often enough to contract another virus.

It was around this time that I started asking other mothers for advice. Sandy, mother of my birthdaughter Nicole and the most seasoned mother I know who currently has kids in the school system, had become much more relaxed about germs, sickness and school. “It’s unavoidable when they’re in school,” she said simply, with the confidence of a mother of three. I realized then that she was probably right.

Even if every mother was as conscientious and careful as the most cautious mother, there would still be the mysteriously contagious twenty-four hour period prior to each virus. Maybe any time a group of children are gathered together on a regular basis, the spread of viruses through the close contact and forgetful hygiene of the energetic toddler, is unavoidable.

Of course, I’m not going to start sending my sick child to school as a matter of course. It is not a lost cause to try and keep our children healthy. It’s also not fair to expose a group of healthy toddlers to your child’s illness simply because your child already has the illness, in fact I can imagine nothing more selfish.

But this year I am taking a slightly more relaxed approach to childhood wellness. Since most preschoolers spend the entire year sporting that seasonal runny nose, I no longer see a little congestion as an obstacle to going to school. Unless her snot is visible and green (a sign of a viral infection according to Laura J Martin MD) I’m not going to deprive her of time with friends and messy crafts; or deprive myself of guilt-free quiet time.

Kids get sick. As Dr Frenck says, “Parents aren’t being bad parents if their kids get colds, or ear infections, or diarrhea, it just happens.” We don’t want them to, we worry when they do, and it is our responsibility to try and prevent them from spreading their germs to others, but the fact remains that they get sick. Children spread germs more readily than adults and they catch viruses more easily, especially when they are herded together in large groups. So part of our job as parents is also to let go of that delusion that we can control every aspect of our children’s health.

We should keep them clean and warm, teach them about coughing etiquette, and support their immune systems with vitamin D, probiotics, and immunity boosting foods. And then we just have to let them get sick.

Look here for eight ways to boost your and your child’s immunity, by Dr Sears.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Beginning September

During Twila’s first week of school she said goodbye happily the first day, clung and resisted and had tears the second day, and on the third day she smiled through her tears, hugged me twelve times and gave me eighteen last kisses, resolved to be brave. Separation has always been harder for Twila; her comfort zone is with adults not children.

This means that she is polite and well spoken, comfortable talking to adults; it means she is a mother hen on steroids, always caring for Jada and other babies around, speaking in a gentle, patient tone; it means she knows the expression “on his last leg” and uses it regularly to refer to insects and baby mice who aren’t doing well. It also means that she doesn’t adjust to new groups of kids as easily as some other children.

Each morning of school last year, Twila had anxiety about school, asking not to go. Each afternoon, she glowed as I picked her up, insisting she didn’t miss me, had too much fun to miss me; she was thrilled to show me that day’s art project. But each morning she seemed unable to channel this knowledge when the drop off came; it was the goodbye she dreaded. This year, the pattern seems to be repeating.

Both the girls have colds, coughs, head congestion. So we’ll be limiting plans this week, staying in, wearing sweaters and thick socks. The chill in the air becomes more prevalent as another school year begins, another Minnesota September presses on. This week we retreat further indoors to read, watch movies, build fires, and cuddle.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Off to School

I won the Mother-of-the-Year Award this morning as I bustled around getting Twila ready for her first day back to preschool. I was up early getting her outfit ready, I made her favorite food for lunch (macaroni and cheese with ketchup) and I even left enough time for pigtails and a quick photo shoot on the front lawn. It was the book bag that gave us trouble. I searched high and low, beginning to panic, not wanting her to be late on her first day of school. Finally I found it at the bottom of the coat closet with a variety of art projects from the last day of school last year. A painting, a tissue paper collage, and a pirate hat whose glue hadn’t dried by the time it was time to go home but was now as dry as mortar, fusing the hat to the inner seam of the book bag.

But she made it. She is at school in a brand new classroom, with a few kids from last year and a few new ones. She was brave and confidant and only a little nervous, as Ryan and I dropped her off and said good bye.

The summer felt so long in it’s many hours to fill; but vanished like a too-short night sleep. I didn’t see this time coming, forgot what it was like to have quiet in the house for a few hours every week. Jada is playing now and Ryan is working and I get to do something with only one child to entertain and care for. And somehow that feels like a fantastic break.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fiction Friday

Chapter XII

The Rose Bar was built in the fifties and renovated in nineteen ninety eight. Originally built as a separate gazebo-style building, The Rose Bar stands in the center of the Rose Labyrinth which separates the lobby from the guest houses. Designed in the nineteen forties by Ron Sovinski, a famous architect who designed the Cathedral Labyrinth in France, the three-foot-high Rose Bushes wind around and back and forth in a circuitous maze.

For the first time all night, the rain had lightened from a pounding downpour to more of a normal rainfall. Jackie, Susan and Vivian were able to see where they were going as they made their way through the Rose Labyrinth to what the Sunshine Lake Resort employees referred to as the outer bar to distinguish it from the lobby bar, and the dining room bar, both inside the main resort property.

The outer bar did a fantastic business on cool summer evenings when the bartender could open the windows on all sides of the octagonal gazebo and the scent of roses warmed in the summer sun would waft, thickly, through the open air bar.

But on nights like tonight, when the rain was pouring down and the air had a bitter chill, it was not uncommon for the bar to be completely empty. On cold, wet, and windy nights, the scheduled bar tender might be the only person present the whole night.

Vivian led Jackie and Susan to the door of the wood-paneled gazebo. Shuffling through a ring of keys, which she had hastily retrieved from her coat pocket, she quickly opened the door and stepped inside. Jackie stomped her borrowed clogs on the doormat, shaking flecks of rain from her coat. Upon entering the Rose Bar, she nearly gasped at her surroundings.

The gazebo had vaulted ceilings exceeding twenty feet high. Every wall was made of floor to ceiling windows. The bar was made of a thick, lacquered wood. The floors where made of the same polished planks. Behind the bar were rows of glass shelving in front of a twenty-foot-tall mirror which reflected the Rose Labyrinth outside. The effect was that you were standing in front of a very modern bar with every choice of beverage imaginable, yet standing in the middle of a dense rose garden. It was unlike any place Jackie had ever stood.

Atop the polished bar stood a sign on expensive paper advertising the bar’s signature drink, The Rose Martini made with organic rose essence from the labyrinth Jackie read, impressed. Under different circumstances Jackie would have liked to order a martini and sit on one of the high-tops by the window breathing deeply the scent of roses and listening to the sounds of a warm Minnesota summer day.

“What are we looking for?” A voice snapped Jackie out of her reverie. She looked at her companions who were staring back at her. Their expectant expressions reminded Jackie that the three of them were more than eight hours into trying to figure out who had killed a resort employee in a particularly showy and macabre fashion. Jackie wondered, not for the first time that night, how Vivian was dealing with her sister being hanged from one of the dining room chandeliers.

“Jackie?” The voice pushed again and Jackie stepped over to where her best friend Susan was looking awkwardly at her next to Vivian, still by the door they had just entered through.

“Right,” Jackie said apologetically, “let’s look behind the bar and see if there is any sign that there was a fight back here. I mean, if someone dragged her out of here, there has to be some damage, some sign of struggle—right?”

Susan shrugged, “this is your department, Nancy Drew.”

The three women walked behind the bar, a small sense of foreboding passing from one to the other. Behind the bar, everything looked normal. The ice was starting to melt and heavy condensation dripped down the metal container that held it. Vivian noticed too and pointed to the ice bin. “Its full, usually we empty it at the end of our shift.”

“It looks like there weren’t any drinks served,” Jackie added noting that all the glasses were clean and stocked.

The three women moved noiselessly around behind the bar for a while before Susan turned to the other two, “I don’t see anything—you guys?”

Both Jackie and Vivian shook their heads. The dim light above the glass shelves was the only light in a hundred yard circumference stretching outside of the bar and it was beginning to make Jackie feel vulnerable not being able to see outside of the tiny circle in which she and the other two women stood. “Let’s go,” she whispered.

As the three women began to file out from behind the bar, Vivian stopped, “wait.”

The other two turned back to see her lifting a small white rag off the edge of the brushed stainless steel sink, “this smells like…” she trailed off lifting the rag to her nose. But immediately she jerked it away rocking her head to one side.

“What is it?” Jackie asked, rushing forward. She leaned in to smell what Vivian was smelling, “Chloroform,” she whispered leaning away.

“No, not that,” Vivian whispered back, “it’s…Chanel.”

“It’s both,” said a voice from the dark circle outside the bar.

All three women looked up but it was Vivian who spoke. Her voice did not sound surprised, “Hi Mrs. Carson.”


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Here We Go

I’ve been ignoring my blog this week. Over the last two years I’ve forced myself to sit down at the computer and address the task of writing at least twice a week and have only missed this goal a couple of times. This last week has been exceptional in many ways.
I’m having some kind of crisis. Whether it is a crisis of identity or simply of goals, I cannot be sure. The conflicting drives in my life are starting to come up against enough friction to make sparks.

Being present for, and supportive of, my daughters and my birthdaughter is arguably the most important thing to me. Yet after Nicole came to see us a couple of weeks ago I realized we are spending less and less time together each year that I am a mom. Twila wants to see her often; she craves a real relationship with her and I think Nicole would like to see us more too. But the weeks and months are hurtling by and even just picking up the phone and making a date seems an unattainable goal some days.

Loving and nurturing my daughters is a privilege, yet sometimes I mistakenly perceive their care as a chore. I’ve noticed that something I’m putting into the atmosphere brings about comments such as this one from my almost four-year-old last week as we rushed to get into shoes and out to the car and I backed into her, knocking her onto the floor.
“I’m sorry, Mommy, sometimes I just get in the way.”

I’m certain I’ve never said those words to her, but she is very insightful, sensitive. Somehow this message emanated from me. While I know these moments are normal in the horizon of motherhood, I can’t help but think that my stress is tainting the water supply here at home. And making even normal moments feel like too much to cope with. I don’t want my daughters to think they’re in the way, not even for a second. Nor do I want them to think that life is about completing task after task after task.

The other day I couldn’t get Jada down for a nap no matter how hard I tried. Finally, I turned the light on and set her in her crib to play while I took a minute to breathe. I flopped on the couch next to Twila and moaned into the pillow, “I can’t get her down!”
Twila wrapped one bare arm around my head without taking her eyes off Dora the Explorer, “It’s okay mom, “ she said stroking my back, “it’s okay. You can cry if you need to.”
And then I wanted to.

I am so proud of my girls and my greatest fear as a mother is that they might grow up being unaware of that fact. Not for lack of saying it but because living it, showing it means infinitely more to children than words. Saying you trust your child means nothing if you don’t show trust for them.

Early Friday morning Twila came running into the room where I was putting Jada down, whispering in her loudest whisper, “Mom, you have to come see this!”

Sometimes interrupting a nap attempt makes my head feel like it’s going to explode. Today I channeled the ever-elusive patience god and smiled, putting my finger to my lips expressively. She waved me urgently forth. I nodded emphatically so she wouldn’t try to physically drag me from the darkened room. Slowly and carefully, I laid Jada into the crib and quickly joined the grinning Twila in the hall, dancing frantically in place.

“You gotta see this mom,” she whispered as she dragged me outside. “Dad and I heard squeaking while we were getting ready to mow the lawn and—look! This was under the mow-lawner!”

She lifted up a plastic dust pan and there, lying in the corner of the plastic tray, was the tiniest baby mouse I had ever seen. Its eyes were closed, its hair-width ribs fluttered up and down. “Oh my gosh,” I breathed, not happily. Here he was and now he was ours and I had a feeling heart-break was in our immediate future.

“Isn’t he cute, mom?” Twila asked, dipping her head low over the tiny body.

“We have to wrap him up,” I said, totally and immediately invested.

Ryan told me in hushed tones as Twila cradled his wrapped body in her small palms that there had been another baby under there who had been dead for a while. There was no sign of any others—no sign of a mother. “Is there anything we can do for him?” I asked doubtfully. Ryan shrugged, looking as ominous as I felt.

I was amazed to find countless articles and postings on-line about how to care for baby wild mice. Their care included, feeding kitten formula every two hours with a dropper, cleaning it with a warm, damp q-tip after every feeding and keeping it in a safe, soft place under a heating lamp. Their survival rate is estimated at below fifty percent.

“We’ve got to get to the pet store, Twila!” I shouted with my keys in my hand.

We spent the rest of the day holding his miniscule soft body in our hands, under the warms of a reading lamp, trying to locate his pin-sized mouth to drip one tiny drop of kitten formula onto his lips. “We saved him, mom; we saved him,” Twila whispered over and over again into my ear as she leaned on my back, watching me feed him.

In my battle to balance motherhood and writing, I lost sight of the fact that I am doing just what I want to be doing. What should be a fulfilling and inspiring journey turned into just a battle. I forgot to live vicariously the magic that wells up around children. Somewhere in my adulthood I stopped looking for abandoned baby mice to adopt.

I don’t want to model that life is a battle to be fought each day. I don’t want to model it for my daughters and I don’t want to live that reality either.

I am not one to advocate putting on a happy face when things are hard. Like all good writers should, I believe in truth and honesty. But there comes a point to remember to slow down and look for the magic and beauty that children stumble over each day. Too there comes a point to take a step back, reassess the obstacles and find a way to see instead opportunity; to see pathways instead of hurdles; to find treasure maps that lead through the red tape.

As I sat up at two o’clock in the morning this morning, feeding our thriving baby mouse another dropper full of kitten formula, I realized that this means removing some of the invisible deadlines I place in my path, like hurdles I am forcing myself over. In this small action I am infusing my goals with joy and willingness and releasing the punishing tenor of my drive. I couldn’t believe as I sat up in pitch darkness how much more important feeding this tiny fetus of a mouse was to me than anything else I feel I have to do. Here is this task that no one would tell me I was obligated to do, yet I cannot imagine not doing it right now. I still intend to journal, to write, to work on my novel and the plays I’m writing. I still intend to blog, but my postings may be fewer and more sporadically written.

I am a stay-at-home-mom, nursing a baby, an infant mouse and a young writing career. I have no less desire to write and create than I did four winters ago when I began meditating in the dark of the morning, beginning to clarify my goals. But now, instead to showing my daughter that doing what you love means blocking out the people you love, I am going to begin showing her the joy in hard work that following passion can bring. I have no idea how I’m going to do this. But here we go.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What We Were Made To Do

I can’t believe it is only 9:45, I think, staring unblinkingly at the clock in a suddenly silent house. I’ve already dressed Jada, changed her diaper twice, had breakfast, done my morning pages, biked around the lake, showered, fed Twila and played “The Princess of Minnesota,” with her, chased her into clothing, brushed her hair and put Jada down for a nap, had a snack and finished the dishes.

Like most days, this one has started off like a shot, like a pistol starting a race. But suddenly there is a lull in the running. These days as a mother are a dance, balancing frantic running with waiting in hushed silence, shushing the older children so they don’t disturb the all-important infant nap. Then she’s awake, the wheels are rotated, the zip, zip of the drill stops, we’re dropped back on the race track and off we go again.

What do I really want to do to make this day good? I ask myself as I stand in sudden quiet, looking out over the lawn. If life is about meaning and fulfillment and doing what you were created to do, what can we mothers do—with young children in our charge—that is meaningful and fulfilling?

What drives us and motivates us? I ask myself as I sit staring at the dishes. What drives me from my bed in the morning is rarely some righteous notion that I am off to accomplish great things. It is more often the promise of caffeine. Certain small things throughout my day drive me to keep going: iced lattes pose as true fulfillment. They never satisfy quite as much as I hope or expect they will. But anticipating a hot cup of coffee in the morning makes me smile even in the dark of predawn when my teething baby wakes me from a sound and peaceful dream and fusses and fidgets in a way that I know is final.

We all have that need for satisfaction and meaning, it is universal. But as a mom, what satisfies and fulfills seems fleeting: coffee as you sit and play with your children on the floor; a glass of wine while you make dinner and finish the dishes, run the bath; these things become filler in a search for true satisfaction. Yes there are those moments when you fully engage your daughter, answer a question with lots of other questions, and ‘I wonder why…’s and you are patient and fun and everything just clicks and you feel like you are actually good at being a mom, but those moments are fleeting too.

We all want to feel that we are uniquely important; we all want to do important work. If so many people say that mothering is the most important job, why does it feel so unimportant at times; so undervalued and ordinary?

Perhaps it is the constant repetition of activity, the breakneck speed at which mothers are required to propel through each day, the inability to think clearly about anything we are doing, or to slow down enough to really ‘live in the moment’ (if such a practice exists). It’s hard for anything to feel meaningful when you are being pushed and prodded by your own children every step of the way. Constant cries and demands for attention and assistance remove the joy that can be found in offering attention and assistance out of love and energy. As mothers we fall into managing our children instead of teaching them, negotiating with our children instead of collaborating with them, putting them off instead of engaging them.

There are great moments. There are those moments when you just unplug, forget the stuff that is waiting to be done—that endless, ceaseless, ever-growing list of things that must be done, and just sit on the floor with the baby on your lap and let the four-year-old sound off, create imaginative scenes and scenarios before your very eyes. In these moments we are even joyful watching our children magically fly from one game to the next, barely keeping up with what our role in the action is, as they process one idea and then another.

If we’re not writing dissertations, theorems, plays, novels, articles; if we’re not curing cancer or inventing the next must-have cell phone app, but we still have the same drive to change the world that Pulitzer Prize winning authors have, then what do we do with that energy?

As I see it, there are two things we can do: turn the energy into frustration with our children and an overall sense of dissatisfaction with our lives, or find a way to change the world while we’re still in the thick of mothering.

Find a way to change the world in how we teach our children: in the amount of worth we ascribe to them by the attention we give them, the responsibility we bestow upon them. We can reshape motherhood by investing time and attention, sitting on the floor and playing, asking our children to help with a project instead of making them go away so we can finish it, by buying a new book to read together, being spontaneous, slowing down, taking our kids ideas, letting the kids pick a project, choose the outing or set the pace. By discussing big ideas with them, we show them we see their competence. We show them we value their character by planting seeds about altruism: caring for people and the environmental. In this way we value and nourish our children and have a real if not measurable impact on the world through the sculpting of our children.

But to nourish our children in a real and authentic way, we have to nourish ourselves too. We have to build our storehouse of patience and self-worth to be able to give as much to them. So we have to attend to our own selves, our individuality: that part of us that has something uniquely important to offer. By telling our kids what matters to us—what we love to do, what we want to do when we grow up or when our children grow up, or what we do already that we love and why it is important to us, we show our kids that we are humans. We are humans with goals and interests and abilities.

We give our children a gift by showing them that we have a life outside of them; that we have hopes, dreams, and aspirations beyond their own existence. Then they know and we know that as they grow up and we have more time—maybe more time than we know what to do with—we will have a life as we transition back into being adults, individuals, less-needed parents.

For some of us, it’s as simple as going back to what we did, before we committed our lives to that little bundle, or simply giving it more attention than we do now: working more hours, going to the next level. For some of us we are established already in our passions and careers. For some others of us, like me, it is not that simple. For some of us, we are still trying to figure out what we want to do when we grow up. But we can’t wait to figure it out until the kids are grown up and busy, because by then it will be harder, harder to remember who we actually are, what we love. We have to give ourselves time and attention, in the midst of the race-track pace of motherhood, to nourish our individuality and find out what part of us is uniquely important to the world.