Tag Archives: Motherhood

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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Just a simple letter to my unborn child..

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We haven’t officially met but I know you better than anyone, and my voice is surely a comfort to you these days.

I do not know whether you will be my first son or my third daughter, whether you will have brown eyes like me or blue like your father’s, and I am not even sure what your name will be yet. But I know that I love you, my unborn child.

My belly is growing larger by the day – I am almost 34 weeks – and lately, it has been hard to catch my breath because of all this extra pressure against my lungs. My back aches, constantly, and when you move your head it hurts me but I promise you I don’t mind enough to be upset with about it. At this point, we have about 8 weeks until we meet… So the symptoms I feel now will likely increase until you are born.

I am doing everything I can to take care of myself so that you have the healthiest stay possible but these days I crave cheeseburgers, so I apologize for that – I try and throw in extra salad and fruit so you get all the nutrients you need, but sometimes, Mama just needs a cheeseburger! I blame this on you!

You have two older sisters whom are dying to meet you. They’re both convinced you’re a girl but we talk all the time about it, and I think we are all okay either way. Layla is six now, and Jemma is 3 – I think they’re going to be amazing big sisters for you, don’t you worry. We talk about them sharing their toys with you, and that Mama will need to spend some extra time with you when you are born, and I think they won’t be jealous of that – this is my hope for all our sakes.

You will love Layla because she is eager to take care of you. She’s been practicing putting a diaper on one of her stuffed animals, and she gets it dressed and talks about how she can’t wait to do this for you. I am sure she will smother you with kisses.

Jemma is still little, but I think she is ready for you – as much as she can be. She always kisses you through my belly – every single day. And she says she loves you. It really is the sweetest thing.

Your daddy is eager to meet you, also. He has been practicing with me what it will be like to go into labor – when we have you – and he is trying his best to take care of me. He says he can’t wait to meet you; you’re his first child, so this is a big deal for him! I really can’t wait to see him hold you for the first time and I promise you, he is going to cry!

Really, I think we all will because we are so excited to meet you.

I am preparing as much as I can to bring you into this world as safely and welcoming as possible. You will be born into my arms right here in our home, at least that is what we are planning for. Please know that I don’t mind that it will hurt, and I hope you tolerate your journey – this is something we have to do together, you and me – it is just us, really. So, try and believe me when I say I will do my best to keep you safe but I know the rest is up to God. He’s the one that gave you to us, and I pray He lets you come into this world in a peaceful, loving way. I am trying my best to prepare emotionally and physically for this because I love you and want to stay connected to you as much as possible until you’re in my arms.

I pray every day, well all the time it seems, that you are healthy and happy when we meet. That there aren’t any complications and that you breathe like you’ll need to when you first experience this world. It’ll be a challenge, I know little baby, but Mama knows you can do it!

The whole house is empty right now except for me. Your daddy is away for work, and your sisters went to spend some time with their dad, too, so it just me and you now. The house is quiet and I am laying in bed on my left side – this is not comfortable for me but it’s the best position for you so I will do it anyway. I can feel you kick and roll around every now and then, and I find great comfort in your movements these days. I wait for you every morning to move, and then throughout the day you probably feel me poking you – that’s just Mama checking to make sure you’re doing all right! So far, you have done very well, and I am so proud of how big you are growing – you’re getting bigger each day!

When the house is quiet like this, and it is just you and me, I miss the noise of your family around me. I miss having your sisters here to laugh with them and play our games, and I miss your dad here to rub my back when I need it – cause it seems I need it all the time these days. I have been sad today because I have felt very alone, and I don’t like when I have to say goodbye to your sisters… But, when it is just us, you and me, I kind of cherish that we don’t have distractions, and I can just sit here and dream of you. Thank God for you. Pray for you. You have made today a little easier, so thank you for that.

No matter what happens in your life, from here on out, I hope you know that you are wanted and so loved. I loved you before I even met you. I am sure, if you could tell me, you’d say the same. My sweet baby. . . I can’t wait to meet you.

We Need To Let Our Children Dance

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As I watch my daughter dance barefoot around the living room my heart rate quickens and soon all the dreams of her future flashed within my mind. Her last day of High School when I kiss her forehead and shed a tear. If she chooses college that too will be another educational milestone skyrocketing her further into the sky. From there, will she wed? Will she become a mother? The possibilities, for both of my children, are tremendously unlimited.

Layla, my firstborn daughter, has a tender nature. The greatest goal she has in life is to love everyone she can possibly wrangle into a friendship. Eager, inquisitive – she is the person taking initiative, walking up to a stranger bravely and, with a smile, she coerces even the shyest of playmates into friendship.

Thinking about her, watching her move freely atop the cool tile floor, intentionally my mind drifted back into reality so that I could, once more with full intent, watch my sweet blue-eyed Lebanese American princess get her groove on.

Time stubbornly marches forward; babies grow, learn to walk and speak and dance, and soon they fly into the world. I am hesitatingly enamored with the notion that I will get to watch my babies grow into beautiful, intelligent young women… But slowly, time, can we make a deal?

Let her stay young. Fresh-faced, innocent. Layla to dance truly like it does not matter who is watching. Jemma, stark-raving naked running like a kitty-cat in the back yard… Their precious livelihood is a marvel to me, and lately, my heart has been quietly observing and taking in this moment. Right now. When she is five and baby sister is just two-and-a-half.

I can remember my childhood with an accuracy that at times shocks even my dad. Details of interpersonal relationships have always held specific importance to me: The way my mom held my hand while we were driving, or the way my dad would always stick out that one long finger just to jab me in the side because he knew it always made me buckle (he STILL does it to this day, and I STILL always collapse onto the floor merely to get away from that stinking tickle finger!) Everything my parents did, whether they knew I was looking or not, surely made an impact on their children. We all have traits we can say mirror our parents’ exactly, so obviously some sort of psychological mechanism occurs that make us learn from our parental examples.

What occurred to me is that the memories I have from even early on, well, my children are at THAT age – when their memories develop and they start to form an opinion about the ways of the world. Everything I do, say, feel, and teach them (inadvertently or intentionally) matters TREMENDOUSLY.

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I thought about that as she was dancing and I wondered, has she watched me dance? Does she see me move carefree and gracefully across the floor on my tippy-toes? Does she see in me the things that teach her what a lady should do, and is my example what she really needs? Mothers want to influence their daughters especially – to have tenderness, faith, compassion, love, grace, patience, virtue, honesty, and to pursue one’s passions… At least, these are the goals I have set for myself – but am I doing it right?

Right before I began recording her dance, she sat beside me and told me that dancing makes her heart feel happy. That her feet can even get tired but her spirit tells her she has to dance. It makes her feel alive, she said, and in her exact words, “I am so into this right now”. I about cried listening to her freely tell me what it felt like – the self-awareness and understanding of her feelings in that moment astounds me – and then she proceeded to show me, with her moves, exactly how those feelings translate into rhythm. It was… breathtaking, really, the whole sequence from emotional insights to the final tip-toed swirl.

You see, the thing is, time moves too fast – she will grow before I know it, and soon her little sister will be one who is five. The thing is, I am not the world’s best mom, and she will watch me make mistakes, but hopefully I will model forgiveness, grace, and unconditional love so perhaps they learn that from me, too. The thing is… This world is going to push my children to grow up.

From the media, to “drama” in the primary classroom between all the five-year-old girls, to the way I run my household. From the signs and billboards she soaks in that dot along the freeway, to the subtle sexually suggestive or otherwise negative advertising she will catch now and then on television. She will be force-fed propaganda and idealisms that strive to make her believe in accordance with mainstream trends in a world where freedoms are no longer free. She will be pressured to look a certain way; perfect hair, perfect teeth… Or else if she doesn’t, society will inform her both subtly and obviously that she is not good enough because her physical form is not an objectified, unrealistic standard.

Today, my big five-year-old daughter danced in the living room. Without a care in the world.

A thousand moments flashed before my eyes, but then I remembered that I, too, can live like a free, purposeful child whose radiance shines from within. Instead of dread the changes ahead, let me as her mother simply do my part to be present for her. To kiss wa-wa’s, explain about why people love each other, talk about God and the stars and why the grass is green, read bedtime stories and write short stories with brave characters named Layla and Jemma. I am the master fort carpenter, the bird-feeder filler as they eagerly await the chance to hand me up handfuls of birdseed. I am the chopper of their fruit plate, the scooper of ice-cream, the reluctant insisting that they eat their broccoli.  That is my job. To be HERE. Now. Because soon she won’t be my dancing blue-eyed princess anymore. And her little sister will not be far behind…

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I say, let them dance. Encourage the dancing. And when they do, stop, because in that moment, nothing else but her there, twirling with that smile that beckons, “just watch me one more minute, Mama,” will be the most important thing in the world to you.

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