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Romero

When I was 22, I was not young enough to think I could change the world.

But I was young enough to think I could at least help it.

And so I flew off to the other side of the country to live in a house with seven other people and eat off mismatched plates and rock tired babies to sleep while their mothers fought for a better life. The others gave clean socks to people who were homeless and stocked the pantries of those who were hungry.

The name of our house – a Jesuit Volunteer Corps House – was Romero, after the man who was shot as he said the mass. Died as he gave bread to eat.

Oscar Romero becomes a saint today. A saint who, with his time on earth, built a better world for those he served. A future that he never lived to see.

Last week, I got drunk in the middle of the day.

Not on whiskey, mind you. That buzz would come later as I fought off a cough and my husband wisely suggested a hot toddy.

I was drunk on the glorious ness of fall. In October, there is such a short window where everything is positively exquisite. The air is refreshing, a sweater is sufficient, and the trees practically erupt in color.

I spent the day glancing out the window whenever I could. It wasn’t a particularly good day, either. The baby wouldn’t take her morning nap, or her afternoon nap. I was sick. But the sheer beauty of the world filled me with joy.

We have ten years to solve climate change, they say. Ten years to dramatically turn our world around. My oldest is nearly six years old and I have barely caught my breath from him being born. He held my hand when we walked home from school that day. He won’t do that in ten years.

Ten years is another lifetime away. Ten years is tomorrow.

As much as I love autumn, it fills me almost with a sense of panic. I feel the need appreciate every moment before it fades and we are plunged into winter. The beauty is a reminder of the long cold days ahead. This reminder pushes me outside in attempt to store away all the waning sunlight before the frost.

I don’t want to look back in ten years and wonder if I could have done more.

I didn’t live in that house very long. I became less concerned about helping the world and more concerned about making sure my own babies got enough sleep and what the hell was that weird stain on my carpet. (Truth: I’m not that concerned about my carpet stains).

It seemed so easy then, that maybe if we all just tried a little harder the world would be a better place. Turns out it’ll take more than that.

But, you know.

Might as well try.

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Don’t try to cherish every moment

If our house was an abandoned lot, books would be the weeds. They’ve taken over every surface in the house – baskets on the floor, toy shelves, stacks by the bed, the coffee table.

I can never say no to books. They come from trips to the library, ten cent splurges at the thrift store, or that intoxicatingly enticing Scholastic book fair.

And yet, there are some days that I took my children into bed and realize we haven’t read a page. The day flew by, cluttered with sweeping, rocking, wiping, driving and eating. “Tomorrow,” I tell myself, “tomorrow we will cuddle on the couch and read book after book.”

Tomorrow comes and the story is the same. Sweeping, rocking, wiping, driving. I get the baby down for her nap but they are busy playing. They are bored but now I am cooking. Night time comes and as soon as their pajamas are on the baby calls for me. I rock her to sleep, listening to my husband read to them.

“Savor this moment!” everyone tells me, as spit up drops down my shirt and the cries of yet another who-had-the-hot-wheel-first argument rings in my ears.

“Let the housework wait another day!” everyone says as I step on Cheerios, rushing to grab a LEGO out of my baby’s mouth

“You’re so lucky to be able to do this!” everyone says as I hold back tears from another day where everyone needed me, me, me.

My oldest started kindergarten last week. I did not wonder where the time had gone. It was folded into the thousands of piles of laundry I had done. It fills the footprints we left behind on trails. It’s tucked between the sheets and washed off our dishes.

It does not seem like yesterday that he was a baby. This is the best and worst part. The days have been long and the years have been long too. I have gotten to fill them, albeit not always as I please. We have had five long years to love, to suffer, and to laugh together. Five long years since I’ve seen those sweet baby smiles.

I cannot cherish every moment, nor do I want to. Some days I am glad to wash down with a hot shower and a lager.

In twenty, thirty years, I am sure I will wish I had done it all different. Read more books, kissed more heads, watched more clouds by. Perhaps by then I will have forgotten about the laundry, the dishes, the fighting, the yelling, the driving to and from appointments. Maybe by then I will just remember the times we cuddled on the couch and read stories.

I can’t fill my days like that. But maybe I can at least fill my memories.

Why I’m still Catholic

The news out of Pennsylvania is disgusting, inhumane, and fucking sick.

Don’t excuse my language. There should be no politeness in this discussion. No measured reactions. Only pure anger. Because would you doubt a loving God would feel anything else? Would he shift, and cover, and blame, and say “But have you thought of this?”

No.

It’s fucking sick.

And I’m still Catholic.

I am Catholic out of will, and out of force of habit. And at times like these, I deeply question why. Why should I align myself with such a deeply flawed and scarred institution? One that has ruined the lives of thousands?

I am not Catholic because of a priest. I am Catholic because of the people sitting beside me in the pews.

The ones who sat and shared with me, who taught and listened to me, who held my hands and encouraged me. The ones who dared me to live a servant’s life. The ones who pointed me not to a priest, but to a God.

While the priests might have been the men who transformed the blessed sacrament, these were the men and women who handed it, as well as my faith, to me.

And it was one of those men and women who I heard read aloud one Sunday morning,

“For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body….it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.”

For too long, I have heard members of the Church defend it from its abuse allegations by arguing that we should be judged on the accuracy of our theology, and not the actions of our leadership. But it is people who hand us our faith. And people who destroy it.

The body is not our priesthood. It is the men and women who show up, day after day. To take dinner to the sick, to thanklessly host the parish picnic, to fluff a bride’s veil before she walks down the aisle, or to grab lunch with a friend who no longer attends mass because she just can’t handle it any longer.

It is the laity who gave me my faith. And it is the laity who can decide what kind of church we want to become.

Our country is wrestling with its own demons at the moment. As our president grows more erratic, and abuses like ripping families apart come to light, we hear a battle cry, “This is not who we are!”

But it is who we are. However, we can choose if it is who we want to remain.

I am Catholic in the same way I am an American. It is where I have found my home, and in doing so, I must understand that my Church’s and my country’s flaws are mine as well. This is a responsibility I’m still figuring out how to bear.

Be angry. Move forward.

Ten Cent Mysteries

Earlier this summer, my sons moved into the same room. I put their new bunk bed together piece by piece while they offered to help and the baby tried to taste test the eleven different sizes of screws. Their room still smells like fresh cut pine on warm summer nights.

About the same time, they discovered ten cent mysteries. Every night, they crawl into their beds and listen as dad reads to them. Frank and Joe dash around dark hallways, flashlights in hand and bad guys stay tucked away in the pages of books.

The youngest falls asleep almost immediately. My oldest begs for one more chapter every night. I whisper to my husband through the door that it’s already past their bedtime.

He reads them one more chapter.

My youngest child and his inability to resist the lure of his teddy bear and pillow aside, few among us can deny the pleasure of a formulaic mystery. I take mine set in English gardens, the village vicar catching the villain just in time for a cup of tea. My mom’s came with recipes for Death by Chocolate cake. My husband favors spies dashing from continent to continent.

We always know how the story will end. The good guy leads a life filled with adventure. The bad guy disappears, forgotten by the next serial. The trials and tribulations which should undoubtedly inflict at least a modicum of trauma roll off our heroes’ backs, like rain drops off of Nancy Drew’s yellow raincoat.

Sooner or later, my sons won’t want cars and trucks adorning their bedroom walls. They will be want to be driving them instead. My daughter will start climbing the mountains decorating her walls. And I will desperately wish I could flip ahead to the end, to know it will all turn out okay.

Right now, I can hear my son is bemoaning the end of the chapter to my husband. It seems as if every Hardy Boy chapter ends with either the phrase “fell unconscious!” or “appeared in the doorway!”

“Ugh, not again!” he whines. “Why do mystery book chapters always have to end with a cliff hanger?”

I feel the same way.

But good stories are a dime a dozen. There’s no reason ours can’t be one of them.

The Performance Review Stay at Home Moms Need to Read

It occurs to us that you have been in this position for some time and have yet to receive a performance review. We regret our delay in providing you with a review because we see that you have taken this task upon yourself. Please be advised, your self-assessment is entirely inaccurate.

Although you have received such constructive criticism as “You’re the worst mother in the world!” and “You should try my mom’s pot roast recipe instead next time,” we wish to assure you these are not indicative of your performance.

Yes, in the ten minutes it took you to rock your baby to sleep, your children did manage to dump out every single toy in the living room, dismantle the couch, and write “zoo” on the coffee table. But they are actually better behaved than you think. No, not at home. Certainly not at home! They are like caffeinated feral animals on the first day of spring break there.

But the fact they can let loose all their good and bad behavior at home suggests you have created a safe space. Plus, we have received feedback suggesting they can hold it together in public for increasingly longer periods of time. We predict that by the end of the quarter, you might be able to stop at more than one store while running errands.

Developmentally, your children are also making great strides. Yes, you might be concerned that the majority of your conversations center around poop, farts, and stinky faces. But, my what a vocabulary they have developed! Not to mention a complex understanding of the digestive system. And as far as writing “zoo” on the table goes, their writing skills are obviously improving!

We know you have encountered plenty of remarks along the lines of, “I don’t know how you stay at home! I would be so bored!” As if you find Raffi and Clifford the Big Red Dog to be stimulating entertainment for children and adults. We know that’s not actually the case. But we appreciate you fully immersing yourself in the business.

For instance, we have noticed even when you are off the clock, you are spending hours researching educational activities, from games which encourage reading, sensory development, and motor skills, to yoga that enhances their emotional intelligence. Granted, you spend way more time finding and preparing these activities than your charges spend executing them. And for this we admire your dedication.

You have expressed a concern that your cooking skills may leave room to be desired. We understand your children haven’t eaten anything that hasn’t been dipped in ketchup since 2015. But because company policies prohibit our employees from opening mouths and shoving in just one ever loving bite of carrot, your performance in this area is completely on track.

Of course there is room for improvement. We have noticed you are on your phone a bit more than recommended. And also you haven’t even attempted to match the socks in your “sock basket” for the last six weeks. But if doing so keeps you from just up and quitting, we fully understand. We do encourage you to take your vacation and sick days that are offered to you in our handbook. By that, of course we mean turning on the TV because of course you don’t get actual vacation and sick days.

We are aware no one has said it to you in a significant amount of time (again, our oversight, which we wish to apologize for), so we would like to issue you a formal thank you. You have given up your body, your former career, your free time to pursue this position for the betterment of not only your children but your entire family as well. And in doing so you have encountered plenty of criticism. But the critiques from snooty cashiers in the grocery store, internet think pieces, and that friend on Facebook who is obviously doing a better job at life than you, are not actually reflective of your performance.

You are raising kind, wonderful, curious children. We wholeheartedly thank you for your efforts. To show our appreciation, we would also like to offer you a ten percent raise. Heck, take a 200% raise. You’re worth it.

Sometimes you just want to remember a day.

My head pounded. For the love. Can we just please not fight about chairs this early in the morning?

“No. Go sit over there. Opposite sides of the table. You can’t sit at the heads of the table,” I sighed.

“Whyyyy?” They cried, the injustice of my simple parenting directive obviously cutting quite deep.

“Because,” I said, still trying to even focus my eyes. “You’re in the baby’s chair and she has to sit there,” I said, pointing at my youngest. Her booster seat was positioned at the end of the table for ease of cleaning. “And then if only one of you is at the head, the other will whine.” And it’s just too early for fighting, I thought to myself.

“I hate this rule!” My oldest yelled at me.

“Well, do you have a solution?” I asked, fully aware that my idea was the only good and logical one.

“We can both share this chair,” my oldest suggested, scooting over. “It’s big enough for two kids.”

I sighed. “Okay,” I said skeptically. “As long as you realize this will just end in fighting.”

But my middle child was already cheering.

“Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay!” He grabbed his bowl of cereal and ran over to his brother. “And maybe later, we can play together at the playground?” He said, beaming up at him as he climbed into the chair.

They sat there, happily munching on their cereal, for the rest of the meal.

Later, at the playground, they did play together. But my oldest son, the ever adventurer, had his eyes on the nine year olds shooting baskets. I stood nearby, chatting with my friends when I suddenly felt a head slam into my hips. Two arms wrapped around my waist. I looked down.

These tears were not from a scraped knee. This was a hurt much deeper.

“They said they didn’t want to play with me! They told me to go away!”

When we are adults, we package our anxiety so nice and neatly we can savor it for days. We stare at our phones, wondering if she didn’t return our text because she was busy, or because she secretly despises our very presence. We replay our awkward comment in our heads, relishing each and every poor word choice.

But when you are a kid they are laid out for you. There is no wondering if he doesn’t like you. He told you that he didn’t. We suck them down, barely able to breathe.

Within minutes, he had recovered, and was once again swinging on the monkey bars. My own heart, however, kept aching for him, all of it breaking except the small piece which delighted that he was not too old to run to me.

The sky, still drunk with solstice power, is glowing tonight as we tuck ourselves in. The baby clings to me, hoping I will spare her the indignity of sleeping in the crib. Because at the end of the day, all we want is to be loved. All we want is to be held. All we want is to hear someone say, yes. Come sit with me.

Imagine you are four. The legs in front of you are not your mother’s.

Imagine you are 4. The county fair is loud and noisy. You look up, and realize the pair of legs you have been following are not your mom’s. You turn around wildly. Your eyes brim with terror and confusion. You cry out. She rushes over to you, saying, “It’s okay, my darling. I’m right here. I was here all along.”

You are 28. The doctor says it’s early yet, don’t get too attached. But you are attached. Your cells grow side by side. Days later, the blood leaves you and you have never felt so empty.

You are 16. You have never seen the intricate underside of your car, the one you spent two summers saving for. But there it is, smoking in the sun. You stare at, amazed you crawled out alive. Your phone is in your pocket. You wonder what he will say. Were you going too fast? Yes. Did you screw up? Big time. You know I still love you? Yes, Dad. I know.

You are 30. She’s six months. She won’t stop crying. She. Won’t. Stop. Crying. You hop in the shower for five minutes, just five minutes please. She wails. You coo from behind the curtain, “I’m right here. Mommy’s right here.” You dry off and scoop her up. Her cries cease. You are her home.

You are 9. Your teacher tells you about things you can’t imagine. Trails of tears. Auction blocks of tears. Camps of tears. Your classmates jabber, “That’s crazy! Why did people do that? Man if I had been there, I would’ve fought on the right side. They don’t do stuff like that today, right?” Your teacher sighs. She doesn’t know what to say.

You are 23. The gangs have spread like a contagion to your village. Your husband has gotten mixed up in it. You told him you didn’t want it in your home. He took you he didn’t have a choice. He tries to leave. You hear what they will do to you if he does. What they will do to your daughter.

You start walking.

You are 5. It is your first day of kindergarten. The boy beside you is crying. Your mom says she will pick you up in a few hours. You believe her, you think. The teacher smiles warmly. You are happy. You are happier to go home.

You are 8. Your dad has carried you for the last several hours. It is hot and your water bottle is empty. You ask your dad if he is sure they will let you in. When they hear what we’ve been through, of course, my son, of course. It is s nation of people running away. Their founders were men like us, he tells you. Men running away from a country that did not want them, men committed to building a better life. They will understand. You ask again if he’s sure. He is silent. A minute later he tells you, “No matter what, I will be with you.”

You are 45. You see pictures of crying babies and your stomach churns. You turn off the news. Everything is so depressing these days. Why bother paying attention.

You are 26. The doctor places the scrawny, bloody alien on your chest. Something overwhelms you, but you cannot put a word on the feeling. Is it love? Is it fear? You vow everything. You promise everything.

You are 12 and you wake screaming. Your mom rushes in to your room, whispering. It’s okay. It was just a bad dream. You ask if you can sleep in her bed, just tonight. She smiles and says you haven’t asked that it a long time. You make her promise not to tell anyone.

Imagine you are 4. The room is loud and noisy. You look up, and realize the pair of legs you have been following are not your mom’s. You turn around wildly. Your eyes brim with terror and confusion. You cry out. She does not come.

Imagine you are 4, and now you live in a cage.

Votes for Moms

It wasn’t long into the first session of the conference before my baby started getting noisy. While my fellow attendees discussed climate change and air pollution, I swayed in the background, trying to shush her to sleep.

I had been nervous about taking her. It was a three hour drive – longer when you have to pull over to change diapers and replace pacifiers. Sleep was a bit hit or miss. My husband had been working crazy hours lately. There were a million reasons not to go, and one good reason that I should.

I really wanted to get out of the house.

I know, I know. That’s not what the reason should’ve been. The reason should’ve been that I care deeply about the world we are leaving our children. And I do. I promise I do. And being a stay at home mom to two wild preschoolers and a baby during one of Montana’s worst winters had left me with a raging case of cabin fever. So despite my nerves and reasons why not, I decided to attend the Moms Clean Air Force Mama Summit outside of stunning Livingston, MT.

“What’s this conference about again?” my husband asked before I left. “Uh, like moms and kids and climate change and clean air and stuff,” I answered, all the while thinking, “It’s about spending a weekend at the gateway to Yellowstone while getting out of having to cook dinner for a few nights.”

When I got there and I finally had an uninterrupted chance to peruse the agenda, I realized it was about more than kids and climate and stuff – it was about encouraging women to get involved in their local governments.

As I listened to various session leaders encouraging the attendees to run for office, I scoffed. I could barely listen to a talk between blow outs and spit ups. The idea of running for something like the school board seemed laughable. I had young kids – it just wasn’t going to happen. Plus I was a stay at home mom with a gaping, diaper shaped hole on my resume.

But when all the pacing in the back of the room worked, and my baby did fall asleep, I realized it probably wouldn’t kill me to attend a school board meeting. Or call my city council members and ask what they are doing about local air pollution. I could check in with my neighbor and see how her fight to get HEPA air filters in classrooms is going.

My baby, being my third child, was not used to receiving my undivided attention, plus the adoring attention of twenty or so other women. She relished returning their smiles, and when she fussed, the other moms shot me sympathetic glances, or offered to take her for a bit so I could get a break. She wasn’t a nuisance. She was the reason I was here.

It dawned on me – our children shouldn’t preclude us from getting into politics. They should encourage us.

Moms have perfected the art of excusing ourselves to the back of the room. We hide our messes in our Instagram photos. We hush and rock our babies. We apologize for tearing up when talking about emotional topics – lead in the blood of babies growing up next to superfund sites, ER trips for children’s asthma attacks. We see the decorum of formal meetings and tell ourselves that the political world is no place for children – and by extension, no place for moms.

As the weekend continued, my conversations with other women flowed from swapping pie recipes to the latest developments on superfund projects. I was surrounded by community leaders – city council members, executive directors, state legislators. “Oh, what do I do? Um, babies, and blog and write sometimes and stuff…”

Although I was less worried about my baby interrupting the talks, I still felt inadequate and unqualified. But as we talked more about climate change – I realized how it would take far more than a few elected officials to create change. It would take an army of people standing behind them. No, I didn’t understand the intricacies of all the science, or the details of every policy.

But I knew what it was like to hear my kids cough from smoke pollution.

So, listen up moms. (And dads and grandparents and aunts and uncles)

It’s okay if your baby cries in the background while you call your representative to ask if they support rolling back car emissions standards.

It’s okay if you ignore the growing pile of laundry to send a letter during nap time to the school board to ask if they’ve considered banning idling in front of schools.

It’s okay to show up to a town hall with a restless kid and ask why air quality is so poor that they’ve had indoor recess every day for the past week. Heck, it might prove your point.

Women, especially moms, have been told for a long time that we aren’t a good fit for politics. We’ve got babies to take care of, and heaven forbid, we might get emotional. But we wold be mistaken to think these are our weaknesses. Our strength lies in our passion – for our families, for our communities, for our home.

So pick up the phone and call.

Pick up a pen and write.

Maybe even pick up a candidate filing form and change the world.

This post was sponsored by Moms Clean Air Force and The Mission List. If you want to learn more about how you can take a stand against climate change, check out Moms Clean Air Force’s work to get involved.

Mindfulness: The art of really noticing your day go to hell

You might wonder how I got here, with spit up cascading down my back and drinking a beer for dinner in my middle son’s room while rocking a baby to sleep.

Mindfulness, that’s how. It’s all the fault of mindfulness.

“Mindfulness!” I thought, hearing the word thrown about in some progressive parenting circles. “That’s what our family needs, to be more mindful. Deep breaths could quell tantrums! Meditation could help them stop spinning around like they’re auditioning for HGTV’s demolition crews.

And maybe it could have. Maybe mindfulness would’ve been the answer. After all, the sleep relaxation audio book I have blaring at the top of my phone speaker’s capabilities seems to be working. At the very least, it’s drowning out the trying to stay awake noises coming from my oldest child’s room.

Mindfulness is the art of being present in the current moment, intensely noticing and experiencing the world around you,” I read. Sounds simple enough, I thought. And being present in the current moment probably would’ve been a great place to start.

But I didn’t start there. I started with glitter.

If I have one piece of parenting advice, it would be to never allow glitter to cross your home’s threshold. If I had a second, it would be to parent before Pinterest was invented.

On Pinterest, one may unfortunately come across a craft called a “mindfulness jar,” an apparent “timeout alternative” for people whose kids probably never actually go in time out and do things like ask if they can have second helpings of kale for dinner.

The craft itself sounds simple enough – buy fancy looking water bottle, drink the fairy wing infused contents that merit buying a fancy plastic water bottle, fill with the glitter glue it took you three stores to find, add in some of Satan’s seed (I mean glitter), and fill plebeian tap water. Then watch your children gently meditate on the mysteries of water soluble solutions and gravity as they firmly resolve to never call you a poopy face again.

Unfortunately, upon reading the directions yesterday I had not firmly committed myself to mindfulness. And thus missed the part where it did not say to pour the entire contents of the glitter bottle into the overpriced water bottle. Should you do that, the contents of the glitter will not settle. Neither will your children who will have already moved on from this craft.

No problem, you think, impressed at the new found clarity that mindfulness has brought to your life. I will simply spread the contents out amongst a few mason jars. Because hello, mindful people use mason jars. Then I will have a half dozen mindfulness jars, exactly six more than I need seeing as how my kids have already declared them stupid and boring. Maybe I can sell them! I should really spread the good news to others about what mindfulness has brought to our family.

At this point, it should be noted, I am beginning to notice my world intensely.

I am really noticing how glitter has gotten everywhere – all over the sink, the table, the floor, and somehow even the baby’s diaper. I am really noticing how my plan to just water down the jars’ contents did not work, and now the new water will not mix with the old gluey mess. I am really noticing my blood pressure beginning to sky rocket. I am really noticing the baby projectile spitting up on the glitter covered floor. I am really noticing how I could’ve just brought some of these damn things on Etsy for like half the price. I am really noticing the very unmindful amount of tv my children have watched as I tried to get this done.

At this point, my children have become very aware of the present moment, and are especially tuned into the fact that they can say or do anything and my response will be to take deep mindful breaths until I hyperventilate and scream, “Just for the love eat your dinner and let’s get to bed!”

One child takes it upon himself to lay in the living room screaming that he can’t eat dinner because his knee hurts and can’t go to bed because he’s too hungry. When I finally convince him to go to the table, he takes several bites of whatever I grabbed out of the fridge and threw on their plates before deciding to apply a spoonful of applesauce directly to his brother’s pants.

At this point, the baby has begun to fervently whine that I should be meeting some basic need of hers. I also really notice how loud the kids who are playing volleyball outside are. I also wonder if it would be weird if I asked them if to watch the baby for just like ten minutes while I get the other two kid to sleep. I decide against it, and strap her to my back for the time being, hoping that whatever basic need she has isn’t being fed or getting her diaper changed because I just can’t right now. She promptly spits up.

Meanwhile, one child wonders outside completely naked to watch said volleyball game. He also screams that he can’t find his water bottle. “Mindfulness would probably help with remembering where you put stuff,” my brain snarks to itself.

I find the water bottle and fill it. It rolls off the bathroom counter onto the back of another child who is yelling at me from the floor to “WIPE HIS BUM AGAIN BUT BETTER THIS TIME IT’S STILL SQUISHY.”

We finally get into pajamas, and enjoy a few peaceful minutes of book reading before I realize an undisclosed child has spilled the contents of his water bottle all over his pajamas, and I have to change him again.

At this point, I am fully immersed in the present moment, which I can definitively say has gone to hell. I tell the kids if they get into their beds right now, they can have a chocolate muffin for breakfast.

I really notice bribery is an effective parenting technique.

My son screams I need to rock him to sleep. The baby screams that she is a baby and really should get some attention at some point today. I rock them both for about ten seconds before the older one climbs into his bed and passes out.

I decide to fully enjoy the present moment by having beer and ice cream for dinner. Let me know if anyone needs to buy a mindfulness jar. They really work.

Love me less tomorrow

It has occurred to me that I can’t go on writing dreamy musings about the beauty of motherhood forever. And not just because the paying market for freelance writers is ever dwindling. As it turns out, all those annoying mothers who quipped, “little people, little problems, big people, big problems,” are in fact, right.

My people are growing, and their fears, worries, and challenges are growing too. Parenting has evolved from googling “What is the cheapest baby monitor that still works?” to figuring out how to calm the fears of a child who thinks his schoolmates will laugh at him if his pants aren’t cool. I rock him and promise that they won’t laugh at his pants. At least not this year. Next year is kindergarten and I can make no guarantees.

I have a littlest one in tow now. She reminds me how parenting began, when I was someone’s entire world. It is a startling thing, to be loved so intensely. My husband may have promised to love me all the days of my life, but he doesn’t sob when I walk out of the room.

In the first few months of a child’s life, they cannot even comprehend that their mother is a separate entity from them. Instead she is a constant source of food and warmth, available whenever called upon. Slowly, they start to turn their heads and realize their is an entire world out there apart from their mother’s embrace.

And when that happens, they start to love their mother a little less.

My older two children don’t love me with the same enthusiasm as my baby. Yes, they run to me in tears when their favorite toy breaks, and snuggle onto my lap whenever they can steal a few moments alone. They have informed they plan to live with me their entire lives and only go to college for three days a week.

But in fits of frustration and disappointment, they have also told me they hate me, that I am the worst mother in the world, and so on and so forth.

This isn’t just some sad side effect of growing up. No, it is the sacred duty of mothering – to make your children love you a little less.

I have no desire to push my children away. I would rather hold them tight and safe forever. But that is not where they are meant to be.

Their true loves lie outside of this home. And so each day, ever so gradually, I must guide them away and into a wider world – one where they will learn about daffodils, soccer, aerospace engineering, yo-yos, and international relations. They will enter a world where they might begin to understand why I so emphasized kindness and respect. Because here their future waits.

Now that my role has transitioned from milk provider to teacher, my flaws are no doubt becoming more apparent. I yell too much; I fold under stress. But that is not why they love me less – they do so because I gently nudge them to their greater lives.

In time, they might appreciate me more, or understand me better. But they won’t look up at me with the same big doe eyes of a child who needs nothing more than to snuggle on his mother’s lap. I won’t be the one they run to in moments of triumph or trouble.

It is all by design. So children, love me a little less tomorrow.

And I will love you more.