The Mama I’ve Wanted to Become


On the eve before Mother’s Day, I laid awake most of the night, thinking. About motherhood of course, and about my life. I have been reading every single book by Elizabeth Strout lately, as I just went to hear her speak at the Philadelphia Free Library. Her words are the reason I have lost much sleep over the past few weeks. Last night’s culprit was Amy & Isabelle. It is a story about motherhood. Amy’s mother, Isabelle, was not the best. She would not have given me what I personally needed growing up had I been her child. A friend of mine’s daughter told me many years ago that she needed someone like me to be her mother, not her own, who was not very warm and cuddly but staunch and strict and cool. Amy & Isabelle made me think of my own mothering techniques and how I fared in comparison.

I laid there and searched my life for signs. I thought of how I used to pick my children up from elementary school and before even going home to change clothing, we went to a favorite hidden gorge in the Pa state game lands and slid down a steep, forested, fern-covered slope to the wild Pine Creek below. In my day pack were thermoses with fresh peach milkshakes in them. We were headed for a favorite moss-covered log where we spooned the refreshing ice cream into our mouths, looked for wild trout in the stream and up at the towering old growth populars overhead. Bryce had pale beige khaki pants on and when he slid down the dirt, it was ground in permanently. I didn’t care. We were celebrating school being over for the day.

This may sound like excellent mothering but the truth was, my children never wanted to go to school. They asked me every day to let them homeschool. I was afraid I would lose my life, not be able to write, as I just received two book contracts in one year and so I put them in public school, for the first time at 6 & 8 year old. When Bryce learned that he would have to go to school, he was helping me change the sheets and he said, “Oh Mama, I would rather help you make beds all day long then go to school.”

Marianne Williamson said, “And how ungrateful and irreverent to listen so little when angels themselves have moved into the house. I have never seen such honest demonstrations of enlightenment as in happy children. They laugh a lot, yet they are every serious. They understand everything without letting on that they understand much. They are old and young, innocent and loving. What are we doing pretending to know more than they do? And why are we putting the things of this world before their well-being?”

It took me seven years to get up the courage to do it and they spent the last 4 & 6 years teaching themselves with me as their facilitator. Home or world schooling was the second most powerfully positive thing I have done in my life as a mother, next to deciding to bring them into the world. After all these years of raising and educating them, my book, The World as Our Classroom- How One Family Used Nature & Travel to Shape an Extraordinary Education, will finally be coming out next May 2018 and I am so excited to share what we learned with my readers.

Neither of my children will be here to celebrate with me this year. One is in Colorado, the other in South Dakota. I am not feeling sorry for myself but I am reviewing my relationship with them, twenty five years of mothering, as I lay awake in bed.

How do you know if you did a good job? When my little son would get off the bus, I would walk down to the mailbox to receive them, and he would run towards me with his arms open wide for many yards, anticipating the embrace. I remember feeling tight inside, like his arms were wrapped around my heart and my eyes stung with tears. I knew that moment was incredibly fleeting. Other times he would take my face in his little hands, squeeze my cheeks and look into my eyes very closely and say, “I love this Mama.” He filled up this mother’s heart.

When my teenage daughter took my arm and linked hers and walked with me, on a woods trail, in public with people all around, never minding that the world saw her being affectionate with her mother, my heart swelled. When she let me climb into bed with her every night and rub her back and be there for her to talk about her day, that meant the world to me. When she came down to our bed on weekends and climbed in and wrapped the blankets around her and my arm draped over her, then I knew for sure.

No matter where my adult daughter travels to now-a-days and many of her destinations are far flung and for long periods of time, she never hesitates to call or SKYPE, and sometimes even twice day, when she gets up and gets ready to turn in for the night. When my adult son finished with his teaching job every day at Tyler School of Art, he called me and reported on his class, as he walked back to his apartment. The night before he had class, he called and reviewed with his father and I, the upcoming day’s lesson, looking for feedback and ideas. He valued his parents’ opinion.

This Mother’s Day, their father will celebrate with me. He rose early and went to the farmer’s market for homemade sticky buns, popped them into the oven to warm them up. We planted the rest of our garden this morning while the sun broke through last night’s rain clouds and the birds sang unusually loud and cheery. I brought my cell phone out with me as I didn’t want to miss my children’s calls. Even Bryce’s girlfriend Calan, called and wished me a Happy Mother’s Day. Every day feels like Mother’s Day to me because I talk to my kids every day, not just on this special May day.

I have read in metaphysical books that, as souls, we pick our family that we are born into. We make a compact on the other side and choose our parents, those who will help our souls evolve the best for the path we are individually on. I guess they do not always look the most ideal down here but perhaps we learn the biggest lessons after a lifetime with them. For me, I feel like I really scored. My children taught me all about love, perpetuated by my mother, who was a great lover too. May the circle continue.

Marianne Williamson continued, “A key to mothering is to visualize our children as the adults we would love them to become: strong, happy, serious and loving.Now imagine what kind of mother they must have had to grow into such fabulous grown-ups. And whatever that is, becoming it is the task that lies before us all.”

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