A million moments of your face on mine. You reach for me. You run to me. You beg me to watch – you watch that I am watching. You smile for me. You wrap your arms around me – any place you can find – an ankle, a calf, a thigh, a waist, one day a shoulder.
You are looking: looking at me, looking for me, looking to me. You do this even when you don’t want to be. And I take pictures of you looking.
A million images of your face facing mine, camera to my eye, click.
And there are a million more – that I don’t always take with a camera – of you looking away. You can’t find them in that box in my closet that keeps the pictures I have from your baby days. Don’t bother with the iPhoto library or scrolling through my phone. They aren’t there.
These are the pictures I take with my mind. They click somewhere on the inside of me – notches on my heart.
Images that capture the very essence of what I am called to do as your parent: let you go.
On the first day of school – every year – guess what I’m going to do? Take a picture of you. Front porch. Front of the school. Backpacks on. Smile, big. Look at me. Don’t be silly. Be silly. Okay one without your siblings. Just you. Hold up your fingers – woo hoo! First grade, second grade, third grade…..you can stop with the fingers when you get to middle school – maybe.
In this picture, you will face me. You will be looking – to me. I will request it, but also, you will want to see me. It’s a safe way to start the school year – gazing up at the most familiar person you know before heading into something completely new.
And then the moment will be over and the image will be captured and uploaded and saved to the library, and it will take its place among every other picture of your face facing mine. At that point, you will look away. And I will take another picture. This is the one you don’t even know I’m taking. And it’s not just ONE, it’s many. It’s a constant clicking – the burst function – not on my phone, on my heart.
A thousand clicks per second as I watch you walk away.
You will find your class, see your friends, meet your teacher, and settle into a fresh desk with your name on it. You won’t watch to see if I am watching – you won’t have the focus for that. Instead, you will have big, darting eyes taking in everything around you.
Sweetie, I’m watching.
I may miss the cartwheel or new dance move or fast ball pitch because my phone rings or the water boils or to be honest, it’s just not compelling enough to hold my attention – but I don’t miss this. I don’t miss the moments you leave me. I CAN’T miss the moments I am asked to let you go – there just isn’t a way to ignore that bit of hurt…impossible to pass over that pang of pride.
So, you race past me and you head into a community and into an experience that will surprise and delight you – it will break and disappoint you – it will affirm and challenge you in every way. And I take this picture. Of your backs. This is part of it.
As much as you look to me, there is you facing the world.
All you need to do is keep walking – go and get your life – and don’t waste your energy looking for me. Because you know where I am – behind you.
Always and forever, a million moments and more – I got your back.
A few weeks ago in New Orleans, Myles asks me a question on the way to summer camp: “Is Earth all there is?”
“No,” I tell him. “There are other planets.”
“I know that. I mean, what’s past outer space?”
“All sorts of galaxies. We’re part of a much bigger Universe – bigger than we can imagine. Scientists work all day to discover what else is out there.”
“Who made the Universe?”
“Probably God. Nobody knows for sure but I like to believe it’s all a part of God and it’s all for Love and for us to learn who we are and how to love better.”
“Do you talk to God?” He asks me.
“All the time.”
“Do you?” I ask him.
“I don’t know…I guess, sometimes…but, how do you do it?”
“It’s like talking to a friend. It’s not a formal thing – not for me, at least – mostly I just say thank you and help me. I like to say ‘show me the way.’ And I ask A LOT of questions and listen for answers.”
“What does God’s voice sound like?”
“It sounds like your own voice. That’s why it’s tricky to hear sometimes – because it’s hard to listen that closely…that you could tell the difference.”
“How will I know?” He asks. Continue reading Hard Questions
She prays for you every night.
She tells you when your jeans are too tight or too loose. Sometimes she buys you the jeans that will look the best on you, for no reason. And she’s always right.
She doesn’t drop hints, she drops in — to the deepest part of you — because she is not afraid of everything you don’t understand about yourself yet.
She calls you on your birthday – unless she’s pregnant or dealing with a sick kid or hosting her in-laws or slammed at work all day. And if she straight up forgets your birthday, it doesn’t matter because when you hear her voice on the day she does call, it feels like your birthday.
She doesn’t track your trail of breadcrumbs – who has time? She just decides to be home, whenever you need to get back there.
She forgives and forgives and forgives and forgives and forgives and forgives. You can’t believe all that she has forgiven – you are in awe of her ability to forgive. It is stunning. Continue reading The Answer to Every Problem…
This girl. You know the one. She is the FIRST girl you ever met. And it’s only recently that you have come to understand she is a girl. REALLY understand. Because in your lifetime, she’s only been your mom. And you held her to unthinkable standards for years and decades – the same standards she held for you – and so in your co-dependency you forgot to remember she is also, a girl. She is a girl human. THEN, she became a mother. But first and always first and within every choice of her motherhood, she is a girl human. You’re glad you know this now. And you owe her a boundless thank you because she gave you this gift in her willingness to be REAL with you. She is that kind of mother: real. She has never looked through rose colored glasses – and when you wanted to, she would point to the rainbow and the space that is white and the black that it is everywhere and you would get pissed until you got old enough to get grateful.
This Mother’s Day, you decide to actively thank this girl for something you so rarely thank in your mother: everything she didn’t do. You thank her for all the times she didn’t say you can do it and instead asked why haven’t you done it? Because that question is the one that led you to I can do it – a belief WAY more essential that YOU can do it, any day of the week. You thank her for every pep talk you didn’t get. You thank her for that time you admitted that you still seek her approval and she said – well…that’s really your problem. Because this girl, she is relentless in her straightforwardness. She speaks the truth. She is unfiltered and deeply, DEEPLY loyal. She certainly has fear but she is fearless about her commitment to being exactly who she is with you, FOR you. She has answered every single one of your questions. Honestly. And you ask a lot of questions. She sometimes gives you answers when you haven’t asked any question. It can catch you off-guard but those answers are full of truth. And they can hurt. Because you have to break an idea, a paradigm, before you can claim a bigger one.
This girl, she has forced you to grow in ways you would not have grown had you met a different first girl. You could have stayed in her arms forever except for all of the things she didn’t say and didn’t do that forced you to take care of yourself and you are still learning how to do that and you know that you can’t learn if someone is giving you everything you want. You learn when someone is real and you love her more and more for the TRUTH of her, which is always more about what you need than what you want. You love her beyond the lunches she made and the carpools she drove and the hours she stayed up in the night with you to finish that science project or the Mardi Gras costume she pulled together last minute or the surprise party she organized for your 18th birthday or the sacrifices she made so you could be so well-educated – you love her way past the mom in her and into the girl human of her.
You remember that the first sound of your life was the sound of her crooked heart beating. And it sounded like devotion. Upon your first delicate days on the planet, you were held against that specific slanted rhythm, the one that pulsed with every scar and rip and tear and patch you couldn’t know and still you felt SAFE. It wasn’t any heart. It was this ONE girl’s human heart, the broken one, the whole one, the compromised and infinite one, the REAL one, that anchored you into this idea of LOVE and made it possible for you to seek it and know it and learn it. For a lifetime. Your mom, this girl human, gave you a gift. It’s a gift that you hope you will give to your children and you seek to encourage all women to give to their children, to their families, to their communities and ultimately, to the world. It’s what you got when this girl stood before you, above you, and mostly beside you and let you see her real, see her true –it’s the gift of her HUMANITY – the beautiful and wild thing that runs through the very center of her girl human heart and makes her the mother that she is.
Thank you, mom, for everything you have done for me. Everything you didn’t do and everything you wished you would have done – because all of that and everything in between adds up to the biggest gratitude of all: thank you for BEING who you are, so willing to love in the way YOU love. YOU are the reason I can say to myself and to mothers and women everywhere, loving: here’s to keeping it REAL, keeping it honest, making it our own and trusting that the way we do it is ENOUGH!