Tag Archives: Children

My Greatest Work

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I’ve been watching her lately, really paying close attention.

She’s becoming more aware by the minute, it seems. Her perspective is shifting from an entirely “me” focused universe to grasping a world outside herself.

Tonight, she felt heavier in my arms. The weight and size of her frame has grown bigger in the past two days, and she’s napping longer and eating more to compensate for these changes.

It has happened…

Delaney is no longer a newborn. She is in the midst of her infancy; nevermore an entirely helpless new life but, now, ever-stronger each day, she’s becoming a little person.

I’ve come to realize these moments are precious. She is my third child, and quite possibly my last, so I have purposefully slowed down my pace to ensure I watch more closely; I cannot bear to miss this. . .

As I watch my sweet baby grow, so too are my eyes more aware of the changes taking place in my older daughters. Layla is nearly 7 – a spritely, sensitive, and charismatic young lady, she is hungry for attention, loves to read and solve math problems, and can dance very well to any music I throw her way. Jemma has learned her alphabet and I find her eager to write, and we spell together – I make the sound of the letter and she’s able to interpret this and write it; her thirst for knowledge is really evident these days. She loves to sing, have tickle fights, and paint her nails.

. . .

Watching them develop is a practice in trust. Contemplating their transformation from children to young adults to women, I find myself praying more often because I know, eventually, I’ll have to let them go.

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One day, Delaney will walk out of my front door with her hand in her partner’s, and together they’ll set off to create a new life apart from me. Jemma will get a job after college and seek to find out who she is, and I’ll have to simply listen when she stumbles, falls down, and has a hard time getting back up. Layla will become a mother and, as she navigates this new life she’s made, I’ll look deeply into her eyes and wonder – where in the hell did the time go?

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Stepping back, recently, I marvel at the way life goes. That I was blessed to have three amazing people call me mother. That me, simple old me, was given the distinct privilege to mother Layla, Jemma, and Delaney.

How did God know we’d be perfect for each other? Of all the amazing souls He could have chosen, it was fate that they are mine and I, well, I’ll belong to them, forever.

Motherhood forces you to examine yourself. To boldly face yourself in the mirror, naked and honest, because the weight of responsibility of this venture is mountainous. How could I ever fail them by being cavalier? Indifference or, worse, refusing to change – I can think of no greater disservice to my children than this.

They look to me to provide them with the framework for their womanhood. To help them grow into kind, patient, caring women someday so that they may give to the poor, be loyal to their principles, and know God and honor one another with love. From me, I bestow upon them a legacy of my actions, my choices, my beliefs, my failures, and my successes; whether you admit it to yourself or not, who you are, as a parent, at least somewhat directly influences who your children become.

My successes – perseverance one of the greatest; I try and show them that overcoming difficulty may not come when you desire it, but if you keep on going and will to change, you can surmount just about any obstacle. My failures are many and my daughters have seen me weep. I’ve shown them that it is okay to break down, to honor your emotions, and to work through hard feelings; if, from my mistakes they learn anything, let it be this: Forgiveness is impossible to experience unless one accepts it heartedly, but when you stumble, it’s the only thing that lets a broken man walk again.

How my beliefs influence them, well, that is something I just hope to show through my heart. Grace. Giving it and receiving it, with gratitude. My choices have made Layla and Jemma live in a different home apart from me for some of the time each month – I’d be a fool to assume this won’t affect them in some way growing up; but I validate their feelings, help them to know and love their father, and pray that we can make the best of it always. Finally, my actions – this is the part I’ve been observing lately as I watch them grow. . .

Actions reveal your spirit. A peaceful, content spirit does not get easily angered, is eager to contribute, and seeks to create harmony in the lives of others and within. This is what I’ve been trying to achieve, but Lord knows I have not yet mastered it. If my children learn anything from my actions, may it be that I was supportive and encouraging even when they stumble. That I am calm and level-headed when they disobey the rules and harm themselves or others. Please that I love them without judgment regardless of their choices, and accept with an open mouth and listening ears that we are different people, and at different points in our lives, we will diverge – this is okay.

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Examining myself, I see so many flaws. I am lazy, moody, lack direction, and nit-pick at the little things. But, I am also fiercely intent on growing past these negative attributes, and I am especially aware of my intentions to change when I stop and really pay attention to my children.

I want them to become soft, loving women. Warm, welcoming wives. Nurturing, attentive mothers.

How special that I was given girls. My entire life, I desired sons. To raise young men, future husbands. I’ve mourned the loss of this dream but, at the same time, can absolutely thank God, wholeheartedly, that I was given girls.

Because, my greatest life’s work is not 350 pages of a best-selling novel. It won’t be how many babies I’ve delivered. The list could go on of the worldly contributions I may set out to make. . .

But these things won’t matter. Not really. Not as much as the time I stopped to watch Layla dance barefoot across the living room floor, her toes pointed and her face wistfully smiling. It won’t matter as much as hearing Jemma laugh when she makes up a silly song and sings it all the time. Not like holding my new baby girl, falling asleep getting heavier in my arms by the second as I rock her into peaceful dreams. . .

I may have taken a different road than most. To get here, now, I am actually grateful for the journey. Because I’ve learned to stop.

To appreciate this, entirely. To forgive myself the mistakes I’ve made, and still make, and just fiercely love my children. Fiercely devote my life to them, and help them grow safe and loved in their own skin.

It is, and will be, my life’s greatest work.

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Why I Love My Sister

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Growing up, we did not always get along. As with all our siblings, we fought. One time, when we were about 14 and 11, I pushed the wrong pre-teen button and she got so mad she literally grabbed my head, threw me to the ground, and proceeded to bash my skull into the glass of the sliding back door. Yeah, I guess you could say my sister and me never really could see eye-to-eye…

But, we were kids. The two girls in a brood full of boys, there were times we were forced to form an alliance; those guys never saw it coming when we cocked our rubber band guns and shot them down like Clint Eastwood in a cheesy Western film. One thing always rang true, no matter if we were duking it out or joining forces – I always loved my little sister unlike I loved anyone in my life.

When I was 21, shortly after our mom died, I moved away from our hometown in Washington to the sunny beaches of San Diego. Amanda was a new graduate and on her way to University of Washington to pursue a Mathematics degree and me, well, I just wanted to get the hell out of town. We lost touch for the next few years, but eventually got better at using that crazy invention called the telephone; our relationship, as adults, was just beginning.

I became a mother at the age of 24 and suddenly realized how much I needed my sister. Always the more maternal one by nature, I sought out her years of nanny training and demanded she tell me the secret to raising a good child. She was by my side soon after Layla was born, and I can honestly say there were times I thought I would lose my mind, a crying baby on my hip with no clue how to soothe her, but my faithful sissy was always there to help me through… And this was well before she ever had kids of her own.

As I have gone through my adult life, with as many trials and heartaches as I have endured, she was always a constant force of encouragement, and occasionally that hard dose of humility and, well, reality that a woman needs once in a while. She never said things just to get her word in, but instead, she was kind, compassionate, and truthful – and as I have become a mother, twice now, and grown so much, there is a great deal of that wisdom that came from a young woman I have been lucky enough to call my sister.

Now, she is a mother herself. After a surprise double-visit from the stork, Amanda and Jennie now hold two precious baby girls, and Lexie and Vienna are the sunshine they had been craving for years. I was blessed to get to travel to Boston just a month after their birth and meet my two precious nieces, and I got to watch my sister perform the wondrous dance of motherhood for the first time.

It was… amazing. She is everything I want to be, as a woman – a mom, a passionate pursuer of knowledge, and just as the kind of friend anyone is lucky to have – and I just loved the opportunity to watch her in motion.

I am home now, and tonight I got to thinking how fast life moves. These moments we have with the people we love are often for some and few for others; her and me are hundreds of miles apart, as I am from my entire family, and the time we get together is precious and too-few. When I think about the fact that I am almost thirty, and realizing there is still so much I have yet to experience and do, I am grateful that as I live my life, I know I have a loyal, loving companion whom accompanies me on this journey even from miles apart. She is the reason I am still in college, frankly, because she’s all but forced me not to throw in the towel. She is my inspiration and I am so lucky to have her for my math classes (Lord knows I wouldn’t have passed them without my genius math-whiz sister!)

I think of Amanda and realize how much bravery she has. I admire her strength of conviction, and the tenacity she had to face who she was, and face this life, and instead of cowering to the pressure to be like everyone else, my sister is blazing a trail and making her life beautiful.

If I could have even have of her courage, I would consider myself beyond blessed; when I am fearful about the choices I face, or when I am down and exhausted with life, I think of her and I realize how much more I have to give. Because she never gives up on pursuing her dreams. I want to be more like that.

We all have a journey to travel, and for the most part we do this alone. But there are reasons for the people we know, and the people we meet. Some of us get lucky to meet several great people in this life. Some of us are lucky to call them family…
I know several people, and I love many, but none so have my heart quite like the girl who was raised beside me. None so much as the one whom helps me marvel at life, and see things a little clearer. Because I’ve known her since her birth, and I believe our relationship is a testament to what real family looks like; we were destined to be sisters.

Please, cherish the time you have with your family. Appreciate the phone calls, the conversations, and the embrace of a loved-one… We are here and then we are gone, and it happens in a blink. Do not take the moments lightly, but instead, cherish them, because, after all, that is what life should be about.

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When my children will finally know how much I love them.

Every person experiences it when the second arrives. It happens in an instant. Everything anyone ever told you before that moment will just not do it justice to when you feel it – truly experience it – for yourself: When we became parents, we finally, absolutely understood about unconditional love. The blossoming of a soul happens in the blink of an eye, from one final push to the first breathe of a brand new life; we change from merely grown-up children into parents – we see life in an entirely different light. The light of our children.

When it happened for me, nearly five years ago now, I was 24. Many people whispered about the joys of parenthood, and the challenges that would accompany them. From those conversations, I recognized it would surely be love, but quite honestly, nobody is ever prepared… The love overtakes you. It truly does.

Now, I am edging closer to 30 than I would like, and Layla has a sister in the throes of the wonderful, dreaded two’s, and together, they hold my heart in their small effectual mouths – Jemma screams because she wants more candy, and big sissy tattles on her, as if I did not know what drama was unfolding already she feels it her duty to inform the authorities. I am mother; Jury, Judge, and Pardoner. I am the see’er of see’ers, the do’er of do’ers, and the final axe to the grindstone. Reverse the rolls, however, and who are my children to me? My greatest reward, the most tenacious challenge, and the purest example of God I have ever known…

I am, in all ways, entirely, and absolutely in love with my children – I never knew love could be so deep…

Which inevitably speaks to the reality that my daughters, my precious, tiny baby girls – well, they’re growing. Where once I held a wee-one whom relied on my every move to sustain and keep her safe, now replaced by two opinionated, loud, and reliant beings.

I loved them both, wholly and without fear, the moment they were born – one January 19th and the other August 27th – on those days, I celebrated life, and the motherly pursuit of infant bliss wrapped safely in my arms.

Now, they are heaping sacks of burning coals; they keep me warm and motivate me to move, but sometimes, I am so burnt out it does not make sense that tomorrow, I will have to get up and start the same day all over again. Now, they are not babies anymore – I am both reverently nostalgic about this and at the same time overjoyed that we enter into new stages of development constantly.

Layla understands multiple languages. We can speak to her in Arabic, French, Spanish, and English – she translates words when I do not understand what she says, and she is teaching me things I am not familiar with. She can write the entire alphabet, and all her numbers, and she understands complex emotional problem-solving situations, expressing herself articulately and with little frustration when an idea is new or foreign. She speaks eloquently, uses cordial language, and knows about respect and honesty. She loves to dance and sing, play dress up, and dig in the dirt. She loves to look through books and hear stories… And she loves to cuddle her family. She is FOUR.

Jemma is hilarious, a total cheeseball. Her comprehension of language is vast, and she can speak more articulately than most children her age. Her ability to pick up and carry a tune, after hearing a song a handful of times, astounds all those whom hear her do it. She loves people but especially her closest family, and when she spies someone she loves, she always comes running with a big, gap-toothed grin. She can sing songs in French as if she was singing the plain old Itsy Bitsy Spider in English – in fact, today in the drug store, she sang “Frère Jacques” to a complete stranger whom just so happened to BE a French woman – and almost made the woman cry she was so impressed! She is TWO.

I am not certain where the time has gone. I really do not comprehend it myself and I am the one who has lived the past four years as their mother.

We have lived a hell of a lot of life together – these girls and me. I can go back through pictures in my mind and remember when I told two different men that I was pregnant, and I can remember the day both chose to walk away. I remember becoming a single mother once, then twice, and the heartache Layla endured because Jemma’s father was so demanding and hard on her. I can think of the cries my second daughter had when daddy wasn’t there anymore – she was only 6 months old, she could not have understood. The joy and heartbreak I have known with these children in-tow, I believe, is what has made my love for them more fierce and true than anything else I have known.

I choke back tears now when I think of the sheer fabrication of it all – how it created the kind of mother I have become – and why most of the time I allow my children to act as they please because I feel I owe them at least their individual freedoms… But there is no sense in regretting any time spent and gone; I did the best I could, but at least I know that time, loving them throughout the struggles, has made me realize why our bond means so much to me. Still, though, it feels rather crazy – how fast the time has gone – and how true it is that one cannot stop nor slow it down…

One of the common threads that always accompanies the inevitable phrase, “you have no idea how much you will love your child…” is this, “… But just wait – it goes so fast – do not blink!”

I can remember holding both of my children for that first moment of their lives. I recall staring down at this pink-skinned, squinty-eyed newborn baby and falling into a consuming love. It was like nothing I had ever known. I have been fortunate enough to experience this twice.

As I sit and remember that, for both Layla and Jemma, I almost tear up at how much has already changed. But, it is for the best – I have to remember that – because growth, and change, are really the only things we can earnestly count on in this life. They have to grow. If they stopped, that means death. I would never dream or want anything, then, but their continued maturity.

But I am slightly feeling bittersweet at the pace of it all.

One day I found out I was pregnant and then, poof! Five years later, here they are – these little people who like Dinosaur Train and Super Why on PBS. They love yogurt and cheese and ice cubes. They prefer to shack up in my bed than sleep with each other in their own room. They fight but then hold hands. They scream at me for reprimanding them but then chase after me to cuddle. They can enrage me sometimes too easily when my patience meets its end, but then, I feel immediately remorseful and crave closeness to get us back to what feels optimal: Love.

Relationships take work – it does not matter with whom. They ALL do.

But, with children, it just feels so worth it to give them all of me. It feels so natural – almost as if I was born to do it. And no, I do not mean merely in the biological sense because I have a vagina, but in the belief that Layla SaMaya Roberta and Jemma Anne Ileen were meant to be my daughters. That they were placed with me on this earth so we could teach each other about life.

They remind me to slow down, but to be honest, I do not do it enough. I cannot even recall the last time I wrote something purely about parenting or simply about/for my children. Life gets in the way so often. Priorities change – plans change. A year ago I would never have guessed I’d be in this beautiful home with a wonderful man and my daughters all together. I never imagined I would be here…

My girls were once my babies. I was told I would love them, but man, do we ever under sell THAT experience!

To love them is like breathing. Absolutely essential. That is what it feels like; I could not ever imagine life without them in it, and I do not want to try.

As they grow, I will only love them deeper – we encounter challenges together, we laugh, and we cry. They will watch the lines around my eyes deepen and my hair change color, as i too watch them grow to one day soon become women, and someday, I pray I get to tell them how much they will love their own children. I will hold the memories of having my precious tiny newborn daughters in my arms, as I watch them give birth to their own tiny miracles. Then, and only then, on that special day, will they ever know how much they mean to me. How much I love them… Nothing I would or could have said will do it up until then. Unconditional love is not explained, it’s born.

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