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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Jewels in the Garden

Motherhood. I've been thinking quite a lot about that lately. It's the very reason that this blog "evolved" into what it is today. Yes, I started it as a means to keep at bay the insidious grip of depression. But it changed, over time, from "The Abyss" to what my friend Hot Toddy called "the perfect mix of comfort and shenanigans". Then, I noticed, that it went back, for a time, to the playground of those tenticles from the deep. What happened? The kids grew up. With the growth of their wings, which we encouraged as their parents, came their flight into adulthood. Sure, two-thirds of the offspring still call our "nest" their home, but they are, for all intents and purposes, independent. Perhaps not completely, but in mind and body; thoroughly independent.

For decades, my worth was wrapped up in parenting. Too quickly came this era of my life where I am now asking myself; "What now?" It's now a kind of limbo, but without the fun music and my back and knees won't really let me "play" the game anymore. The everyday details and frustrations are unimportant. What IS important is the reality of my lessening role, which became all TOO real this past weekend.

Easter with the family was wonderful. These days, it's more difficult to arrange because, as with all families, schedules can be tricky. But once it is set in stone (which more often than not, is sandstone) it is joyful and rewarding. This year, my niece had the pleasure of playing host. She is at that stage in her life where I first began journaling my path in parenting. She's a young wife and mother, enjoying her role as stay-at-home caregiver to her two beautiful daughters, and all the joys and frustrations that brings. She's honestly quite amazing.

I watched her throughout the day, interacting with her girls, playing hostess, wearing the many hats that that entails. She did it with grace, patience, delight, and a never-fading smile. Truth be told, I'm not sure I was ever that well put-together. I know I tried. But it occurred to me that you never truly know the measure of your success until your offspring are grown and well on their own. Which brings me to my niece's mom, and how lucky my niece was to have that great influence in her life.

My sister-in-law was the consumate role model to me. I didn't have that kind of mother. My mother raised me with the spectre of fear. It is perhaps how my mother was raised, I know she didn't have a role model either. There is no blame and I am not bitter or angry. It was what she knew, therefore, it was how she "mothered". I wanted to please her, but that was because I was afraid that if I didn't, there would be consequences. If there was hell to pay, despite my earnest performance, I would pay it. I knew from this, that when I grew up, I would resolve to be the best mother that I could possibly be. I would raise my kids, above all, to know I loved them, unconditionally. When I met my sister-in-law, I was 19 years old. She was a young wife and mother. I loved watching the way she interacted with her children. I loved their family life. I wanted my family life to be like theirs. So many of the jewels of parenting that I learned, I learned from her. I gleaned the jewels and put them in my treasure box for when I became a mother.

Six years later, with Averie's arrival, that time came. Indeed, I opened that treasure box that my sister-in-law started for me. Now, these decades later, I watch as my now-grown niece doles out her own jewels that she probably gleaned from her mother as well. Of course, as life progresses, we sow and gather our own garden of jewels, many of those grown from heirloom seeds, and some from new hybrids. You weed the garden, you water the garden, the garden flourishes under your care. You hope the sun shines and blesses your garden. You protect it from scavengers as you can and you allow it to blossom.

These days, I feel kinda like the scarecrow in the field. I still have a small purpose, but I'm a bit powerless to do anything. My hands are useless at this point. I've done what I can. My sister-in-law is a grandmother now. My niece is a mother. I am the watcher in between. I now observe and gather jewels which may become useful to me as a grandparent if that time comes. But I also observe how very amazing it is to watch a young mother who had a mother who nurtured her. In this way, I feel a twinge in my heart. Did I do my job as well? Do my children look back and think about those amazing things we did together when they were little and their own little life gardens were bursting with wonder? Did they feel fear or love? Sometimes, it's difficult to know. I know I did my best. Is my best enough?

As we put another page in our book of memories on Sunday, and we enjoyed the company, the laughter, and the joy, I admit there were moments I found myself lost in thought. I watched my kids with their aunt and their uncle, who really were more than an aunt and uncle. They were the grandparents my kids never really had. I watched them with their cousin, who despite now being a mom, is still always their cousin, full of fun. I found myself very grateful. I have to count on a certain amount of uncertainty, for sure. But I also have to know in my heart AND my head that I did a good job. That the jewels that I nurtured in my garden create a work of art that I fully adorn myself with. I didn't do it alone. I did it with a lot of help, I know. However, there is something so definite and pure about being a mother. You just don't always know how it's gonna turn out until the garden gate is opened and another gardner walks in.


Anonymous TK said...

You done good, proof is in the pudding.
Sorry I missed Sunday, I might of gotten a few words in here if I didn't.
You rock...

7:48 AM  
Blogger Pua; Bakin' and Tendin' Bar said...

Thanks Tim. As you well know, compliments from other parents bode well to a parent. You pulled at my heartstring because you, Lisa, and the boys were VERY missed on Sunday. So sorry to hear of Gareth and Gavin's "boo-boos". Hope they're healing well. Hope more than that we'll see you guys soon. And don't think for one minute that I don't marvel at the amazing parenting skills of you and your fabulous wife. I've always told my friend Nancy that there's a special place in heaven for the mother of three boys. You get your place by osmosis. ::wink:: Love ya!

7:27 PM  

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