Every Way but Here


Over the weekend I went to a bridal shower, where I sat by the groom-to-be’s mother and listened to her talk about raising her three children.  She told a story about buying milk.  When her kids were young she got into the habit of just picking up two gallons of milk every time she went to the grocery store.  She knew her three thirsty kids would drink them in no time, and so it became ingrained in her routine for many years.

A pivotal moment in her life took place when, one day shortly after everyone had left home, she returned from the store with her regular two gallons of milk – only to find that for the first time she still had two full gallons in the fridge.  I could feel the tears in this empty mama’s eyes as she blinked them away.  The bride continued talking about all the things she knew about this woman’s son, and the mother in me hurt so badly for the mother in her.

I am very slowly reading an amazing book right now called Momma Zen by Karen Maezen Miller.  In a chapter I read yesterday, she speaks about missing our children’s lives while we are so busy looking backward with regret and looking forward with expectation.  I find myself doing this SO much.  Laying in bed each night regretting moves I made that day, that week, two years ago.  Experiences I feel I missed with N and K, times I snapped and hurt someone’s feelings, play requests I didn’t participate in and watched my chance pass by.  I’ve spent days wishing K would stand up so I could pee without sitting him on my lap in a public bathroom, or use a utensil so I didn’t have to feed him and could eat my meal instead.  Just this weekend my husband and I talked about the flexibility we will have when N is old enough to stay alone with his brother and we can go to a movie without hiring a sitter a week in advance.

But I don’t actually want that time to come.  I miss the interaction of helping Baby K learn to eat his food, and I find myself trying to remember now that he’s walking what he looked like when he crawled.  When N is old enough to stay home alone, he will also be too old to cuddle in bed with me, and he won’t need me to tie his little shoes for him.

This is a daily struggle for me, and I need a copy of the page from Momma Zen taped to my mirror to remind me every morning of the importance of being present with my kids.  If I could make this happen even one entire day, I would be that closer to my life.  Meditating in the screams of tired children, the piles of clutter needing sorted, and the innumerable opportunities to BE with my kids instead of avoiding the feelings of overwhelm at being needed so damn much.  But while I get so tired of being needed every hour, every day, what is a mother if not needed by her kids?  Who does she buy the milk for when she has missed all the moments looking every way but here?

7 responses »

  1. Great article! I feel exactly like this many times, often upon waking in the middle of the night, when the house is quiet. Three teen age boys and a four year old daughter means lots of energy, running in all directions and learning to let go. I try daily to really listen, spend one on one time and to let them know how much they are loved. Thanks again for the story.

    • Thank you, Stacy! I cannot imagine three teen-aged boys plus a preschooler! What a busy house! It’s amazing to me how soon the letting go begins happening. Our kids begin teaching us this from birth, don’t they?

  2. I fell asleep with my 3-year-old tonight and woke up at 1am and so now I’m reading blogs. I totally identify with this! I fight it so much and yearn for “me time” and yet it is all flying by so fast. Thank you for this gentle reminder to pay attention and to accept play invitations. I loved Mamma Zen too and need to read it again.

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