Perspective – gaining it (“please get some…”), holding onto it (“let’s have a little…”), letting it go (“it’s all a matter of…”). It’s how one sees things. But here’s the thing: I’m almost 6 feet tall, my husband is colorblind, my middle son is near-sighted. Physically, each of us sees things differently. The same holds true with our experience.
I am the oh-so-proud mother of a gorgeous 8 month old baby boy, Bas. Bas is my third son, my 5th child to raise and my first baby with my husband. The math is complicated, but so is life so here we are. I am 42 and a new mom this time – I was 24 the first. I am a yoga teacher, nonprofit consultant, expert fundraiser, arts professional and a homemaker. I am a great mom sometimes (I buy kale! I limit electronics!), I suck at mothering sometimes (You were where last night? You have how many C’s?). Most of the time, I don’t beat myself up about my suckiness for longer than a day or so. Sometimes, I require a friend or professional intervention by my beloved therapist. And I rarely think to celebrate the victories. Unless I remember to, then I celebrate like hell… until the laundry needs tending or my board meeting presentation needs work or or the baby cries.
What I’ve learned is a lot in 18 years of being a mother. In a breadth of experience that would seem to suit multiply lifetimes, my worlds have shifted and tilted on axis too many times to count. Because of this, I have a unique perspective on motherhood this time around. I find myself in many different worlds, cast in many different roles, and still somehow, not totally at ease in any of them.
I am, however, curious. Curiosity can make up for a lot. The stunned look on my face when my 15 year old son’s homecoming party was busted up by my husband, another dad and our friend Ozzie was taken by some parents (and tipsy high schoolers) to be shock. Nope! It wasn’t. It was curiosity. I was not shocked by the fact that over 50 (how it got to 50 from 25, I still don’t know) semi-drunk teenagers were running from our neighborhood park – I was curious as to how a grown-up was supposed to behave in the situation. Clearly the answer was not to ask for a Redde cup. But what was it? I’m still not sure – I just know that I remain intrigued.
Or when I told my 11 year old stepdaughter that she could expect a baby brother in 6 months (we waited the requisite 3 months to tell our kids – after all, I was 40) and she burst into tears, I was curious as to why her response to the news was so similar to my own. We’re not even really related! It must be that we were the only females in the house – too soon to be outnumbered 2 to 5. But what do I know – maybe the tears and overwhelm ride on the XX gene?
Or when I became the smartest woman to ever exist when my then 7 year old son was in a life-threatening ski accident and life-flighted with me from the small ski town we lived in to the medical center at Salt Lake City. My brain ran like a super-robot computer, assimilating medical terms that I had never before heard and making sense of data and statistics with a cool remove that would have made Blaise Pascal and the Buddha proud – all while tears streamed without end down my face. I stayed curious about where I was, what I was doing, and how my sweet son was feeling. I think now it was comparable to the woman who lifted the car to save her trapped child – I did not need physical strength, the adrenaline went to my brain. Even then, in the most harrowing situation of my life, I was curious. I watched what was happening to my son, to me, to my older son and at times I was able to cultivate a sense of somewhat-detached curiosity.
And here is why it’s important: absent curiosity, wonder cannot arrive. I was eventually able to stare in amazement at the strength of my seven year old and the bravery of my ten year old and, after years of PTSD work and so much counseling, marvel at the strength and bravery that I showed up with. When you show up, sometimes wonder is the reward.
Suffice to say, this shit’s not possible all the time. Not even most of the time. But the next time your toddler defiantly squats and pees on the stairs as you hold your infant and the smoke alarm goes off (alerting you that dinner will again be pizza for you and your husband), maybe take one breath and open your eyes a little wider (I’m not kidding – actually, physically do these things) and get curious about some aspect of the situation. And if it doesn’t come to you next time, try the next. Or the next. Because motherhood is a neverending story of do-overs. You will have another opportunity to be calm in the storm. There will be another chaotic evening with a bedtime that just won’t come. You will get another one of “those” phone calls that make time stop and your heart break and change life forever.
And each encounter is a chance to renew a sense of curiosity, tilt the perspective and show up. Over and over. Again and again. Darling Momma – that is all that is asked. Show up. Try to stay curious. Wait for the wonder. But show up.