Tag Archives: Family

Rocked like a baby

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Sometimes I remember that even my 7-year-old needs to be rocked like a brand new baby.

She has such a sensitive, comedic, and pleasing soul. Layla is the kind of girl that can make anyone her friend. She is inquisitive, sassy, and beautiful – and she knows it. My first child, she has known me as her mother the longest of my three, and her place in my heart is absolutely untouchable.

Tonight, I realized that her heart wants so badly to please me, and how she is seeing me is changing – as she changes. Our relationship grows and deepens as we both continue simply trying to figure out how to make this all work, me in my life, and she, in hers.

It is so easy for me to get caught up in this world, in the day-to-day mire of housewife, mother, and partner, and I forget to see the naked blessings that are so obvious before my eyes; Layla, of all my children, will be the first to remind me to be here, now, and it’s something I love about her, though at times it drives me mad. Because she forces me, with words or sometimes merely a frustrated glance, to see that I owe them more than the very least I can give.

That getting down on the floor to color matters. That sometimes, who gives a shit about the dirty dishes and instead, let’s have a dance party. She reminds me that we need more milk because Jemma said three hours later that she couldn’t make warm milk, and she runs through the grocery store to retrieve from our list – just because she knows it’ll help me out.

It just pulls my heart apart to realize I don’t give her all of me, and I choose whatever else over these simple, eloquent moments – when before my eyes, they are changing and growing; she is changing, growing, and if I don’t stop, I am missing it.

There are times like today when I watch her get to know me better, intentionally.

We were upstairs during naptime. Jemma was fighting sleep in resolute protest against the very mention of a nap, and Delaney had been down for about twenty minutes. I unlatched the baby, set her in the crib, and walked myself into the playroom where I had instructed my oldest child to straighten up from the playdate yesterday. She had done her work and so I found her relaxing on the couch.

We talked.

“Mama, how come you’re always cleaning, or you’re mad that the house is a mess?” She inquired after I remarked, emphatically, how great a job she did cleaning.

“Well, baby, I just want to make sure you guys grow up in a clean place, and it is important to me to do my work as a Mama and a wife. That means I need to keep the house clean.”

She, silent, stared into the carpet, obviously in thought.

We quickly ventured into a new topic and I mentioned that I wanted to try and lay down, and sleep while Delaney slept. She said she would like to go downstairs and watch some TV, I agreed that was fine.

Fast forward to this evening.

Jemma finally succumbed to a day of no rest (she is one who absolutely still needs that nap!) and Delaney easily went down for the night.

I walked downstairs, collecting laundry and cups as I went, mentally preparing myself for the tasks ahead. Dishes. Wiping counters. Cleaning toilets (seriously, how freaking often do I do that and they NEVER stay clean! It’s almost as if people are shitting there every day!). Taking out trash. Folding clothes…

I greeted her on the stairs as I walked through the gate. Immediately I could sense her sleepiness and asked if she was ready for bed. 9pm, after all, way past her normal bedtime.

She lazily answered that she wanted to help me clean up. I casually offered that she could help for 15 minutes and then would need to go to bed.

The music on for company, I set Pandora to Crosby, Still, & Nash, tiptoed myself gracefully to the kitchen, and began my work.

She followed behind me, asking what she could do. Trash on the counters. Give the dog some dinner. Easy stuff.

I busied myself for a few minutes all the while keeping an eye on her. Her pace slowing, her eyelids drooping more by the second.

“Baby, ready for bed?” I motioned to the stairs as I asked, turning my head away from the sink to catch her eyes.

She began to cry.

A tired cry, yes, but something deeper there lurked. I dropped the spatula and scrubby and rushed to her, setting myself onto the floor to cradle her in my arms.

It was a posture I don’t take much with her these days. She is my big girl, after all, she doesn’t need me like the younger ones do.

Within my embrace she wept.

I held her tightly, silently, awaiting the inevitable dump from her heart to my ears.

“I just, you do so much for us, and you work so hard on this house, and I feel bad that we don’t help you”.

My heart, broken.

Except, in that instant, hearing those words, I rejoiced. She WAS paying attention! What a great moment for me! To show her what matters to me. What matters as a mother, a wife, a housewife. . . We take care of where we live. We maintain it…

Except. I was showing her THIS mattered to me? The house? The work…?

More than… HER?

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I squeezed her into my flesh and began to feel hot tears behind my own eyes.

How could I have missed it?

How did I not see this?

SHE needs me.

She wants me present. Untethered by this world and all I feel I am called to do, and be.

First I was called to be her mother.

FIRST.

As she cried, I just thanked God for these moments. I breathed in the scent of her freshly-washed hair, it smelled like apples. I ran my fingers down her arms to once again feel her skin against mine.

I realized she may be 7, but she needs me to rock her like a baby.

To give to her what I give to my youngest – all of me.

You see, I began to believe that she didn’t need me like that. She didn’t need my breast to give her nourishment like Delaney requires. She didn’t need me to walk with her to the bathroom to turn on the light, like Jemma demands.

I have been watching her grow, and change, and our relationship has moved on to a new place. Where I convinced myself if even in some small way that I could stop giving all of me to her. She doesn’t need it. She can handle less. Requires less.

I saw tonight that this isn’t true.

What a beautiful gift, but it’s a bitter pill unless I actually commit to giving her what she deserves.

She matters more than the house, but I learned tonight, with her pleasing soul, she wanted to give me what she thought I NEEDED.

She has heard me say a thousand times that it matters to have dishes out of the sink. To keep our toys picked up. To clean up after meals.

Could I have missed teaching her, showing her, saying and doing – that what matters to me IS HER! Her sisters. Their happiness, tenderness, and well-being. . .

“Okay, baby, time for bed”. I pick her up from a squat and walk us to the stairwell leading up to her bedroom and our goodnight.

“I just want to make you happy, Mama”, she whispers, her face in my neck.

I kiss her forehead, breathe her in, and lay her atop the makeshift bed on my bedroom floor.

“I am, baby. I love you”.

I hope she knows I do. And I hope I get better at SHOWING HER THAT.

And, sometimes, when she needs it, I will scoop her into my mommy arms and rock her like a baby. Like my first child. My daughter. My Layla.

The one that matters most.

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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 have the Best Dad In the World.

When my life began, my father had been dad to two for over two years. He tenuously clutched a tiny premature newborn between his fingertips and wrist – all the space needed to contain my struggling, sick body – all the while understanding that two little boys, both still in diapers, waited at home. He was 19 when he had his first daughter, so if you do the math perhaps you get only a glimpse into what it must have felt like for this young man facing so much responsibility.

I have written a great deal about the loves in my life, but focus solely on the romantic partnerships that have passed through me on this journey. Today, I feel inclined to portray another love I have known my entire life… My dad’s name is Jim, and he is perhaps the best man I have ever known.

Over the years, I watched my dad mature into the funniest, most loyal person. It feels kind of funny to say that I recognize my father’s maturation process, but I think this is a very accurate portrayal of what has occurred, especially when one considers how observational I am (I think, also, it is a middle child thing). You see, when I was young, I recall a very different dad than I have today. I still remember some birthday celebrations we threw for him when he was still in his late twenties (can you even imagine this? If you had “normal-aged” parents, probably not!) He was always playing pranks on us and my mom, often showing up from work with duct tape around pseudo-chopped-off appendages, spewing fake blood all over his bewildered audience. Mom rarely fell for his antics, but the kids, we all thought dad was about to die (this feeling a relatively common one) because how can someone bleed that much and not die?!

He engineered a face mask once that was merely a plywood cutout of a man’s profile, and he retrofitted it (using technical HVAC terms – he is going to be so proud of me) to his head – all this effort so that, as he drove down the street in his Area Heating work van, people did a double-take at the weird big-headed face next to them at the stop light! He built us a double-decker tree-fort over the creek, and then laughed hysterically as we played in it, hearing ping-ping-ping. What was that sound, you wonder? Bb’s from a pumped-up bbgun aiming straight for a few frightened kids just trying to play in their awesome fort. Of course, however, he taught us to shoot back – because what kind of father-child bbgun war would be fair if we didn’t have our own supply of pellet guns and ammo?

There are so many stories I could share here to illustrate the kind of dad I grew up with. The kind that was “young” by standards relative only to someone strapped with too much responsibility at too young an age. I never blamed the guy then, at least I hope not, and I sure as hell do not blame him now.

I would not trade my clay-canyon riding, potato-gun shootin’, toilet blow-upping, hide-and-seek playing childhood for any alternate life I could have had. Not in a moment.

Because my dad did something else unconventional, but just as perfect for his five children. He talked to us. Every week. We had our family meeting. Not about all the things we did wrong, but all the things we can do right. How to love each other. How to show respect. What is right and what is wrong. Why we love God, and why God loves His children. My dad spent the time to teach us about the world in in-depth conversations perhaps way beyond our eager minds’ capability to understand, but he did it knowing at least he tried. I think, really, because he lacked that growing up in his own life, so he made it a priority for us in ours, that we would know, even when he was shooting at us with a cocked-and-loaded rubberband gun or chasing me with a “spider” that was really a rolled-up ball of string… We would know he loved us. That I always knew.

I became a teenager and there are many chapters to skip here, merely to save myself the embarrassment of revealing all of my bad decisions. Nonetheless, my dad continued to provide for us, and continued to take part, however I would allow him to, in my life. He painstakingly taught all of my three brothers the trade of HVAC and groomed them to all be, in their own right, true upholders of the Geddes’ legacy of service, hard work ethic, and respect in the workplace. He taught all of his children how to drive a stick-shift so that, no matter what, we would always be able to drive whatever car we could find. He encouraged good choices but stuck by all of us during bad ones.

Then comes the part of my life, in my story personally, where my dad became a key player – and this is how our relationship has strengthened, the starting line if you will, to the rest of our life as father and daughter. When I fell in love for the first time, it was to a hard working tradesmen. A machinist who owned a carhart jacket that was just like my dad’s. They met and instantly liked each other, but my dad found a rare treat in Tim that he hadn’t even known he was missing: Music. Their love of the same classic rock, and Tim’s mastery on the guitar, struck an instant chord with my dad, and soon enough, they were playing Led Zeppelin together in our music room each Saturday night. Dad would wail on the drums and of course the guitar played by my wide-eyed fiancé; we shared countless nights waking neighbors, laughing, and making music. I learned that my dad had many more talents than I knew and I admired how well he integrated into my life. His visits were always a point of great excitement for me, and for him, this was the first time he got to see his oldest daughter in love.

Gone were the days of bb-guns and hide-and-seek, and soon, so we all thought, he would be giving me away as a young bride to a man I adored. Favor turned on me, however, and my father’s love and support became paramount as I endured the brutal loss of that relationship. His support during the time kept me afloat, and I spent many nights curled up on his couch, happy just to be near him as I tried to piece back together who I was.

A father bears many burdens in his life, and few I know of have endured more than my dad, but this especially shows the mark of a true spirit: The night he had to look into the eyes of each of his children and tell us we lost our mother, his ex-wife and the person whom gave him his children… I remember watching him, so stoic, his mouth moving in slow motion, as he said words that no doubt tore at the core of his soul. About an hour after we all learned the news, dad came back downstairs to his living room where we all had gathered, and he held in his palms an open bible, turned to a special passage. And as he read it aloud to us, tears welled up in his eyes again, and he reminded us of God’s promise that even the worst sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus. That even our mother, whom died of her addictions and left us with a void we could not fill, was redeemed and would be in the presence of God, celebrating with Him. He chose, my father, in that moment to give us hope. To remind us, especially true for me at that time, that God still cared, and loves us, and that He loved our mother. The kind of strength and courage, and not to mention pure faith, it takes to do that – I am not sure if my dad knows this but that one act he did that night as I began the mourning process for my mother is something I will never, ever forget.

My dad has said goodbye to both of his daughters in marriage. For me, this has ultimately resulted in unions that have not worked out, but he has stuck by in support of my decisions even when I make the wrong ones. He loved me through it. He continues to love me through it, and he has welcomed me into his arms, time and again, even when I falter repeatedly in love. He said goodbye to his other daughter, my sister, when she married her best friend whom just so happened to be a woman. He walked her down the aisle in her big pink dress, and he kissed her cheek as he gave her away. When the rest of the country was arguing over who should be allowed to love each other, our dad stood by his baby girl and gave her away to the person she chose to marry. Could he have known he would ever do that? In the same way, could he have guessed that my marriages would fail? You see, these things do not matter to my dad, because all he cares about is that we are safe, we are loved, and we are happy. Whatever we do to get to that place he allows us the freedom, and gives us the love we need, while we grow to be exactly who we are.

He has watched his sons all go through their own various stages of life, some of these through addictions, abuse, and great financial strain. He encourages and supports us through all of us, losing many nights of sleep for sure, but all the while his motivation is love.

My dad married again and chose the best wife any man would ever want. Consequently, because he chose so well and Cathy is so freaking cool, my dad’s wife just so happens to be one of my best friends ever. She brought with her two young girls who are now well into their late teens, but instead of shy away from the responsibility of raising yet another set of children, he embraced them and thinks of them as no less or no different than his own children. He loves them greatly, but they know a completely different father in my dad than I ever knew when I was their age.

My dad began parenting as a child, respectively, and he has since raised five of his own children and two that came later, and we all have our own journeys to travel. Some of us have moved away. Some of us are now parents of our own. We have given my dad 6 grandchildren so far, with two more little girls on the way because my sister is about to have twins. He is wealthy in love, and the richness of his life as Grandpa suits his quiet soul perfectly.

He has matured into a quietly sophisticated, well-rounded man. A loving husband. A loyal father. A smart, respected business owner. And the kind of friend that has had the same best friend since he was a teenager. He talks to his brother every day on the phone, and he drives 10 hours if his mom’s air conditioner goes out at 3am just so he can service it. He thinks of something funny and calls me just to make me laugh, and I swear he is the only person in the world who actually appreciates my sense of humor, but I think that is because I derived mine specifically from his.

I have known a lot of love, but most of it has changed or gone away completely through the years. My dad did not do a perfect job raising his children, and he was not the perfect husband to my mom. But what he always did right was that he gave 100%. All the time. Misguided efforts at times thwarted his intentions, but he never gave up. He never walked out, even when it meant he had to walk to work in the snow. He never tired of raising children, even though he had five before he his late twenties. He never turned his back on any of his kids, arguably when it may have been best to do so in some cases, because he felt, and feels, that at least loving us through our lives is better than leaving us with nobody who really cares.

He would say, if you asked him and he felt like going deep, that he feels he made many mistakes in his life. But, as his adoring daughter, I do not see it this way. My life, from childhood to now, went exactly as planned. Because I had a daddy, through it all, who never let me doubt how much he loved me. That kind of love, encouragement, and support – well, it means more than a thousand “good” decisions in place of poor ones, especially when those supposed bad decisions merely means replacing a bb-gun with, perhaps, something a little less harmful. But, hey, if that is the trade-off he refers to, I would correct him and say none of that was a mistake, because I can build one hell of a tree fort and I think I am one of the only girls I know who knows how to construct a potato gun, or bend sheet metal, or bondo and sand an old classic car.

I am so thankful for my dad because he taught me what I want in a mate. I finally understand, after so many failures, that I want the kind of man who isn’t afraid to sacrifice for his family. The kind of man that can talk about the world logically, but still can express his feelings when the time is right. I want the kind of person that is loyal to me even when I make huge mistakes.

I found that person, finally, and today it occurred to me that John is a lot like my dad, and I think that is why this time it will work. And not in a weird way, but in an obvious way. Because my dad is the best example I have of what a strong, dedicated father and husband looks like. I could not have asked for anyone better, and that is what I want for my own children. So, when it comes down to it, the greatest man I have ever known is the man I call my daddy. And because of his examples, even the ones that were not so great, I know now what to look for in life when I want to find someone worthwhile to know.

I love you, daddy. Thank you for all you have given me, taught me, and shown me. All of us. The world is a better place with you in it. My life has been blessed because of you always here to give me love and support. I am a better me, when I really sit and think about my life, because I know that you love me.

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