The Waiting, It Turns Out, Is Indeed the Hardest Part

These toddler days are long. They stretch from one bedtime to the next and are abbreviated with snot-nosed tantrums that engulf the days despite their relative brevity. But it’s important for me to constantly remind myself that these days are fleeting, a drop in the ocean of raising a person. That’s part of the reason I’m so drawn to Dawn’s writing. She’s in a completely different stage in her life as a parent than I am, and I am thrilled to have her on the blog today – the very first post of the year – talking about that distinct vantage point. Dawn writes with candor and finesse, and if you don’t already follow her (which you should!), be sure to check out her blog Tales From the Motherland and click “follow.” 

-Emily

When they were little, we were on the same page... I thought.

When they were little, we were on the same page… I thought.

“I wasn’t born your mother.”

I said this in a recent post, An Open Letter to My (almost) Grown Kids. Seems like a no-brainer, but somehow, between the time they exit our stretched out, forever-changed-bodies, until the time they begin to actually look and act like adults themselves, this message is entirely lost in translation. The fact is: our kids think we are their parents, always were their parents and there was nothing before. It’s not hard to see why. We live our lives in a complex dance in which we always lead, and they follow. Until they don’t, follow. We are not their friends, but their mentors and guardians, their caregivers, their cheerleaders, their parents. By the time they’re adults and starting to see things a little differently, that role is seared on their brains, and in their hearts; we hope, and it is nearly impossible for them to truly comprehend that there was really a B.C. – Before Child, or more importantly, P.B.C. -  Person Before Child.

Me, far right, with my mom and sister (1986). I was a sister, a daughter, and single...

Me, far right, with my mom and sister (1986). I was a sister, a daughter, and single…

That’s just it though, we were people before we had children. We were children ourselves. We were in their shoes. We grew up and had our own challenges and experiences. We fell in love; had our hearts broken; we went to school and eventually had jobs; we learned to pay bills and navigate life.  We loved our parents, or didn’t, but had our challenges there. We all went out there and had relationships– most importantly, a single relationship that eventually led to our role as parent.

Clarifier:  I can’t speak to being a father; so I’ll stick to what I know best: I am a mother, a good mother. But I was not born one. I had an entire life before this. As my three kids:  Principess (23), Middle Man (21) and Little Man (17), throw away their floaties and venture into the grown up pool, they are starting to ask me questions about how I managed those passages, or, challenging me to think back. I was not born a mother; that fact is coming back to the forefront, as I’m challenged to rely on what I learned then.

As a high school graduate, I thought I was pretty sure of a lot of things!

As a high school graduate, I thought I was pretty sure of a lot of things!

The reality is: that there comes a time when our kids venture out into that big world, and it helps for them to see that we too ventured.  Sure, the world has changed a lot since then, but, the differences, while huge, don’t change the fact that we too had to navigate many of the same things. Hearts break the same way; pain is pain; the “real world” can be overwhelming and scary, certainly challenging at the least; money must be made; bills must be paid; and their lives unfold and take form, just as ours did:  bit by bit, trial by fire.  Who is more uniquely qualified to advise and bear witness to their journey, than us, in our role as mothers?  We have known these people since conception. What mother can’t still recall the amazing intimacy they felt with their babies, even before birth? That relationship was then nurtured and molded over a lifetime – theirs.  We, as parents, if we are clear about boundaries and open to truths, care in a way that takes in who they were, who they are, and who they aspire to be… balanced against the razor sharp edge of who we hope they might be.

IMG_0895As I’ve entered into this amazing new phase with my two oldest children, have discovered a powerful truth that has only begun to be exposed over the past year or two with my daughter, in particular, but more and more with my older son as well.  We all have our own journey, and while we may have traveled the same road for most of that journey, we did not take away the same meaning, lessons or messages from the journey. As I hear my kids label and describe their experiences, as siblings, as our children, and as their unique selves traveling with us, they took in the same experiences, but often translated those events and relationships very differently.

An example:  I was raised in the Christian faith. I was raised weakly in that faith, at best, but Christian nonetheless. My father was killed in an accident, when I was 10. I blamed God, and I stopped believing in faith. I still went to church from time to time, but I didn’t believe; I stopped praying. It was clear to me, that prayers were for fools. I grew up, dated, fell in love, married a sexy man who was Jewish, and got married and had babies– three. When their sexy father asked that we raise our children as Jews, I gave it little thought; I said yes. I took a conversion course, didn’t convert, but threw myself into being the best Jewish mother I could be. We went to temple; we had friends in our synagogue; we celebrated the Jewish holidays; we watched Woody Allen movies (I lived in one), and we raised our kids to identify as Jews. I taught them the Sh’ma (Shema), the holiest prayer in our faith. To do that: I learned it first, and embraced it– believing that I could not truly teach something that important to my children, if I didn’t feel it. I can tell you, that two years ago as I sat beside my dying mother, in that moment when she was taking her last breaths, I instinctively sang the Sh’ma. My mother was not Jewish, but that prayer felt like the only thing to say in that moment. All of this to say:  I kind of found faith again; I believed I was raising my children as Jews, and that I was doing a really good job of it.  For the record, I believed in and felt everything I was doing as Jewish mother, authentically. It wasn’t forced.

Principessa and I at her college graduation (2012).  An amazing young woman, headed into a big world.

Principessa and me at her college graduation (2012). An amazing young woman, headed into a big world.

Flash forward eighteen years, and our oldest child, my daughter (then 22), decided to convert to Orthodox Judaism, and move to Israel. That, in itself, is several blog posts, but suffice it to say: it was a hard thing for her father and I, and the rest of our extended family. Because I never converted, and Jewish identity is determined by matriarchal bloodlines, Principessa was not considered a Jew in the eyes of Israel or more conservative branches of Judaism. In our Reform Judaism, she is and always was a Jew, but suddenly she had to prove this to others; conversion was the only way. Like her mother, she doesn’t just do things to make a point, she embraced the entire process and opted to be Orthodox.  Hard does not begin to cover that decision and its impact on the rest of her family, or on her.

However, as she went deeper into her journey, I was stunned to hear her tell me more than once, “You and dad didn’t really raise us as Jews.”I heard: You, didn’t raise me as a Jew. By Orthodox standards, this is true.  However, as she immersed herself in her religious journey, these comments and her perspective took on a darker and more serious tone, for me. This indictment struck at the heart of all I had done, all I had given up of my own family history and identity, all that I believed I had done to raise her as Jew.  How could she say this, let alone believe it?  And so, after we’d had a few difficult arguments, and after I’d stopped feeling defensive and hurt, and finished licking my wounds… I began to listen to what she had to say. That was when I realized that the lessons we hand to our children, the messages we believe we are giving, and sometimes the very experiences that we all shared together, are not always seen and experienced the way we intended or believed they were delivered.  As she shared her thoughts, it became very clear that my girl had digested some things very differently than I believe I served them.

It was easier, when I could sweep her in my arms and a cuddle was all she wanted. (age 1.5 years)

It was easier, when I could sweep her in my arms and a cuddle was all she wanted. (age 1.5 years)

As we began to share more life stories, and lessons, woman to woman, this theme came up over and over again. The stories she’d told herself, or the ways she’d interpreted the journeys we’d shared: whether they be about faith, her relationship with her siblings, her role in our family, gender issues, how she thought we saw her– countless things– were very different than the messages I thought we were sharing.  How did my endless efforts to infuse our family with Jewish values and tradition, become a life without God or religion? When did difficult, but normal, sibling issues become painful lessons about men and women?  When did their father’s efforts to get home and read bedtime stories whenever he could (translation: occasionally. While I did every “Mommy and me” class, drove to soccer/dance/religious school/class parent/PTSA/chaperone/ad finitum), become “Dad was always doing things with us; you didn’t really like that kind of thing?”  (Said to me by one of my adult children). When did my constant belief in each of my children and their infinite potential, translate to a lack of encouragement?  It boggles this aging mother’s mind!

And so, it had to happen. I had to look at this trend with my aging children: the trend for their interpretations to not match mine, and begin to forge a new adult relationship with them. Recently, I have listened more carefully to their stories, their versions of our shared journeys, and I’ve sat with it for a while. I’m trying to accept that somehow some things were in fact lost in translation. If I didn’t say it right, or if I said it right and they still heard it a different right, I need to accept that this is where we landed– right here, in this new reality.  I try not to take it personally, though it’s really hard sometimes. I did tell my girl not to ever tell me I didn’t raise her or her brothers as Jews again. It’s not true. It is true within the constraints of the new life she has chosen, but it’s not the fact she has interpreted.  I have set her and her brother straight on a few key details that needed setting straight, and I’ve shared the truth, that while they may have taken certain lessons differently than we intended or hoped, the way things truly happened can not be re-written.

The truth is:  her brothers were boys, and they acted like boys. They were sometimes mean, and they were sometimes insensitive. But, they also loved her hugely and were there for her. She was sometime mean and sometimes insensitive, and her brothers will need to sort that out in their minds. No matter how much my Middle Man has interpreted his role as middle child, middle son, as less fair, less, less, less than his siblings, it’s never been true. No matter how much Little Man believes that we don’t have as much faith in his abilities or see him as compatently as his older siblings, it’s not true. Nothing in the journey was intended that way, or said that way… but the fact that they translated those things differently, the fact the our very best of intentions and our deepest hopes of imbuing our children with certain truths was not always received as intended, leaves us all in a uniquely new world.

As a mother, the journey has been on a fairly predictable path for the past twenty years (no matter how unpredictable young children and teens seemed in the moment), and now, all bets are off. I was not born their mother, and more than ever before, I am drawing on that fact– that history, to tap into their worlds where they live now. I’m trying to listen with new ears, a new heart. I’m drawing on who I was when I wasn’t their mothers, to understand how they feel now, and how they will go forward in the world. We’re all working on a new translation. I’m waiting for them to grow up, they’re waiting for me to get it. Turns out, The Waiting was indeed the hardest part.

They're all grown up, and prefer not to appear in my blogs... Here they are semi-camouflaged, trekking in Peru (2012).

They’re all grown up, and prefer not to appear in my blogs… Here they are semi-camouflaged, trekking in Peru (2012).

Thank you Emily for inviting me to post on The Waiting. It is an honor and a privilege! You rock.

Read more at Tales From the Motherland, http://talesfromthemotherland.me/

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118 comments

  1. Absolutely loved this. It took me until my 20′s to realise that my own mother was a human being. Despite being 32 I don’t have children yet, but I look forward to being a mum… Just not yet!

    All the best for the New Year!

    1. Thanks so much Suzie81! I think it’s a much longer learning curve than any of us understand, when we start out. There’s no hurry to be a mum; do it when it’s right! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment; much appreciated!

      1. You’re very welcome!

    2. You are a lot faster than me! I still have to remind myself that my mom is a human. It’s a hard lesson to learn. Thanks for reading, Suzie!

      1. Awesome guest post! I’m really enjoying your blog!

        1. Thanks so much! I hope you’ll check out other posts on TFTM and let me know what you think. This guest gig has gone straight to my head! ;-)

          1. I certainly am!

  2. Very nice. This line stuck out: As she shared her thoughts, it became very clear that my girl had digested some things very differently than I believe I served them. NICE. Glad you were Emily’s guest today!

    1. Why thank you Anna Lea! I am honored to be her guest, that’s for sure! No doubt, I am learning (almost daily, right now) that much of the way I see things having happened, is NOT how they saw it. (I’m right, of course, but…) It’s all part of this journey. ;-) Thanks for your time.

    2. So glad to have Dawn on! She’s pretty fantastic ;D

  3. I don’t know why but I seem to have started tearing up about 3/4 way through this. Maybe it’s the similar Jewish upbringing that I thought was mostly social for my parents, but that I don’t exactly embrace now. My mom finds this “their biggest failure”. Or that I’m a girl w/2 brothers too and that’s a complicated mix. My mother’s interpretation on my childhood is insane in my eyes–I think she was essentially verbally abusive, critical and negative. She thinks I was just an immature kid and needed to be pushed. Anyway, I don’t harbor resentment thankfully, but my brothers and I just work hard at trying to figure out this whole life of not getting our mother, but trying to live w/it. As a mom to one boy, it all gives me pause…. thanks for the amazingly thoughtful post.

    1. Wow, Robin… I had to double check your name and photo, to make sure my girl didn’t slip in here to expose me! Actually, I feel very fortunate that I am very close with my daughter, always have been… aside from 2 years when she first started the conversion. I am close with my boys too, but the relationship with boys is so different– and so different from my youngest to my oldest son.

      It sounds painful, to remember your mother that way. No doubt, we need to push our kids sometimes, but it’s never the best way to do it with insensitivity or hurtful barbs. I have had some moments, with each of my kids, that I wish I could take back. I struggle with it all the time. But, I work hard to own that WITH them: “Hey, I screwed up some things… I’m so sorry I did it that way.” I love seeing who they are becoming, and it’s an ongoing challenge to reign in my own expectations and embrace their individual journeys. Thanks so much for sharing your very personal thoughts; it means a lot. If you like to cry, head over to TFTM; I hear that a lot! ;-)

  4. Great post! It resonated with me at this moment in time as I strive to identify with my teenage son…as we both try and grow into our relationship. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you for reading, Holli! Relating to our teens is just… hard work! It’s such a balancing act, and we’re already worn down a bit as mothers, by the time we get there! ;-) Thanks for your time.

  5. Cheers to Emily for hosting your story, which brought to mind what I told my children growing up. There are two kinds of grownups in the world – adults and parents. My children asked me why I seemed to so frequently tell them ‘no’ (from their perspective).

    I said, “Saying ‘no’ is my job. I do it because I love you so much. I do it because I have to because no one else will. It is a crappy job. It is not fun for you and it is not fun for me. I would love to be your pal. I would love to be more popular with you. I would love to say ‘yes’ to all the things you most desire, but I cannot. Nor can I apologize for it, because it is my job.”

    Now they are grown and I am trying to become the other kind of grownup. It is not easy. As you so eloquently stated, ‘The Waiting’ is hard. The journey continues. Thank you for another great story from The Motherland! – Mike

    1. Mike, you rock! I love that: 2 kinds of grownups. I’ll have to remember that; just wish I had it earlier! Thanks so much for taking the time to visit The Waiting and check out this post. You should stay awhile; Emily is amazing! You’ll love her.

    2. Wow, you just NAILED it with this comment, Mike. I am only at the beginning of my life as a parent, and I’m quickly learning that telling my soon-to-be two-year-old “no” is one of the hardest things to do, and I know that as she gets older it’s only going to get harder. But it’s such a great reminder that “no” is one of the most loving things I can say to her.

  6. I have three kids too, all in their teens, and your description of how the eldest, middle and younger child see themselves in the sibling hierarchy rang so true. Mine have still to articulate how they recall the shared memories but, despite a lifetime of being offered and supported in new experiences, I know they do not see me as anything other than boring mother (fun father gets far more kudos). Thank you for writing this. It is encouraging to know I am not alone.

    1. You are NOT alone! That, I know for sure. It’s interesting how that birth order thing really does play out, over and over… despite my best efforts to not allow myself to fall into it. While it wasn’t exactly “text book” in our family, it was close enough! And what’s up with all the “fun dads?!” Glad you enjoyed the post; thanks for taking the time.

    2. Isn’t Dawn the best?!

  7. Funny how we forget there was life before our children. I often have to remind myself that the relationship with my husband came BEFORE my child, and is the reason I have a beautiful son today. Great post

    1. Make that a priority! One thing my husband and I did, even when we NO money, was have a sacred date night. Every Saturday for most of our marriage! Sometimes we literally went out to fight… without kids! It lasted well into the kids’ teens, then they started going out too, and we had to negotiate nights. Run, don’t walk to find a good babysitter and do it! Thanks for taking the time; much appreciated!

  8. GREAT piece, Dawn! Oh geez…I sometimes shudder to think how my daughter does/will interpret my parenting. And that thing about dad being the fun one? Yeah…I know that one is coming as well. It irks me. But i know I will be filing this away in my brain and I bet your words will come back to help me as I continue this journey with my kids. Thanks for going first so I can benefit :)

    1. Thanks Kelly! I appreciate your feedback. It’s all about learning to ride the waves. Take some surfing lessons now; trust me, it will pay off later. ;-)

  9. You just helped me understand my own mother so much more. I can’t give you any higher praise then that, so I’ll just say thank you. I’ll have to call my mom after work today and express my amazement that I am still finding ways she did better by me in the past than I could understand at the time (I think she’s pretty used to me having these revelations by now, but they consistency boggle me.) Hugs to you, Dawn, as a great mother, role model, and friend.

    1. Jennie, I can’t think of better praise, so thank you for that! Yes, call your Mom; trust me, we never get tired of THOSE calls. ;-) I love when one of my kids has a revelation that plays out in my favor; plenty of times, it goes the other way! Hugs back, friend.

    2. She was a good mama, and YOU’RE a great daughter, Jennie!

  10. What a thoughtful, beautifully written piece. It is hard to wrap our brains around the differences of perspective. As a mom, I strive to do what I feel is best for my boys and it is a strange feeling to think that there will be times, perhaps already were times, where they will not see it as such. We set out to guide and shape them in a certain way but all we can really do is be the best parent we can be and let their hands shape the clay of their own lives.

    1. Shoes, ultimately, what I’m learning is that we really did create individuals. We spend years hoping that we are, but when they finally get old enough to truly express themselves, it’s shocking to learn that they in fact think on their own! That sounds like I’m kidding; I’m not. They are taking it ALL in, and what they see is often different than how we saw it play out. It’s sobering to learn… so far in the journey. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  11. My Muted Voice · · Reply

    Wow just wonderful, Dawn! Perspective is so interesting and we all interpret differently. I too love the line about how your girl had digested things different than you thought you served them. I admire your willingness to stop and try to see their perspective despite some pain it may cause you. I wish my own mother could do that if for no other reason than to open up the dialogue. I hope when I’m in your shoes and this little boy of mine has grown up, I’ll be able to take a step back and try to see his perspective as you are doing now. I wonder if our children not being able to conceive that there was a BC and PBC has anything to do with how much of that person we share with our children. I’m curious about your thoughts on that.

    1. Dang! I wrote a nice, long response… and poof! It disappeared! I think it has SO much to do with how much we share! I have always been me, and I am a fairly un-filtered person; as many will tell you, with admiration or complete disdain. My kids have always gotten me, in technicolor! In addition, for the nearly 24 years I’ve been a parent, their dad and I have fought in front of them, made out in front of them, and pretty much been ourselves in front of them. Sometimes that’s gone well, and sometimes not. But, I think they saw as unique personalities. They saw our relationship as separate and part of them… which I think is really important! As each of them has gotten older and begun to ask me about things, I’ve tried really hard to listen to the question and be as open a book as I can be… so they come to understand that I am more than their mother. All of that said, it is a long journey and signals get crossed, even with the best of intentions. As they each become young adults, I try hard to show them and tell them who I AM. I also took a trip to India with each of them, and they really got a chance to see who I was… outside our norm. That was a big time for us. India is not required, but a trip alone with your older child… priceless. Thanks again for reading, and asking such a thought provoking question!

    2. ” I hope when I’m in your shoes and this little boy of mine has grown up, I’ll be able to take a step back and try to see his perspective as you are doing now.” THIS. I so agree. The truth hurts sometimes, and while I know I’ll make mistakes (um, tons) in raising C, I pray that I have the humility to honor the way she saw things.

  12. Wow Dawn, this was a powerhouse post. It really spoke to me. My mom is also at the age where her kids have grown up and things have gotten weird. She’s always reminded us of her life before she had us and what kind of person she was like, but it’s weird to see it come out in her now that we’re grown up. She’s on a new life path and it’s hard for me to take sometimes because, to me, she feels different now that she doesn’t have to mother us.
    It sounds like you did an amazing job raising your kids. They are beautiful!

    1. Thanks so much Lily. Let me gently tell you, your mom IS different now that she doesn’t have to “mother” you. Every single thing I do in life is colored and influenced by the fact that I am a mother to 3 amazing people… but now that they are pretty much out there, I am returning to another me. It’s hard for all of us to take sometimes. I can’t tell you how difficult and painful it was to see them leave me, and realize I had to step up and work on me, or become one of “those women” who fades into the shadows and waits for her kids to visit. It’s a big shift for us all, but it’s a major part of you becoming the woman you are, and your mother becoming the woman she will be now. Glad you enjoyed the post!

      1. Well said! Thank you for this!

        1. Again, thank you, Lily, for sharing with me, and reading my work. It’s why I write.

          1. Big hugs to you, Dawn!! Even though our stories aren’t identical, different players, different stage, you and I connect on so many levels, my friend. I think my Lily even picked up on it. You and I are on the same journey even though you’re in the “Ham” and I’m in Chi-town. I have missed you and your writing so VERY MUCH. I’m glad that Lily alerted me to this post. I haven’t gone on WordPress in many moons. It’s a time suck for someone who reads and digests things as slowly as I do. Plus I’ve been going through some shite, to be honest.
            You put into writing everything that I’m feeling and going through with my own children. I’ve even said to Lily, “Hey isn’t this great, you get to see me act like I did when I was 18!” I don’t think she found that amusing. LOL!
            Please email me at Leelabute@gmail.com and we will pick up where we left off. I still want to visit you and have our slumber party. Dawn and Lisa – just two crazy kids. :)
            Love and miss you!!
            Lisa xoxo

            EMILY!! I miss you too!!!!!! I will be in touch. As you can see, I’m still alive. Email me too if you have the time. :) BIG hugs to you and Cee!!

            1. Oh my! Just last night, I almost reached out… again. I didn’t want to bug you, as your last email said you were working on some things, and just needed to hide for a while. I totally got it, but have missed you Lisa! Chi-town! My favorite city!! If you catch up on some of my blog posts (see the New Year’s one) there might be a visit in your future gf! Welcome back!! Glad Lily had the good sense to send you today. ;-)

            2. I lurve you too! I just emailed you at your old email addy but I will forward it to your new one too ;D

    2. I know your mama is so proud of you ;D

      1. Thanks Em! :D You’re so kind.

  13. With the time difference, I couldn’t be the first comment on here, Emily… but Thank YOU so much for your ongoing support of my blog, as well as me. You are a true and good friend, and talented writer, who I love to read! Thanks for offering me this spot; it means the world to me. Truly. All the best in 2014!

    1. This is me being a self centered narcissist, and looking for credit, but didn’t I introduce the two of you? Ahem… I feel like I brought my two favorite people together and then left the scene. (Of course I could be totally wrong, but both of you are so gifted and just stellar individuals, wonderful human beings. I feel like this is a case of ‘birds of a feather…’) I wish I could jump through the screen and hug you both.) xoxox Gosh I’ve missed my peeps!

      1. And we’ve missed you!!! You might have introduced us. I can’t remember… can’t imagine a time BTW (Before The Waiting)! ;-)

      2. OH MY GOSH I JUST EMAILED YOU AND THEN I SCROLL DOWN TO SEE YOUR SWEET FACE! This is me being a happy Emily. I should not surprise me at all that Dawn runs with you, Gripster. You are two of my very favoritest people on WP. It makes me so happy to see you! Hopefully a post is in the works? :D

        1. XOXOX!!!!! I have such love for you, my Emily. Such love. :D

    2. My pleasure, Dawn! You deserve every single iota of support you get and then some. You continually challenge me in your writing, and I always feel edified and full after I read your words. You are welcome here ANY time, you just say the word.

      1. Wow. That is an honor, and a temptation… I think I’ll frame this. ;-) Thanks Em. Such a lovely day in Blogland.

  14. Reblogged this on Tales from the Motherland and commented:

    Here it is folks! The Waiting is over… I am guest-blogger on The Waiting today! If you love witty, funny, moving writing… you need to be following Emily at The Waiting. She rocks it every time. Today, she let me sit in, and I am very honored and excited. So run over there and check out my post; be sure to hit Like and make Emily glad she invited me.

  15. Very insightful. Got me thinking about my generational relationships and how some things will always be lost in translation. I’m glad that you and your kids were even open to having that conversation about what did and didn’t happen. That’s a hard one to have.

    1. It’s an on-going dialogue Lyssa. It’s not easy, but generally pays off. Some days, the conversation just gets us all tied up in knots, other days we each walk away knowing each other a little better. SO good to see you on here! Thanks for reading. Have you moved yet?

      1. I have moved, just a few days ago. Everything is crazy and we’re still waiting for all our stuff from the movers.

        1. Can’t wait to get your details. I wrote a post on New Years, throwing down the gauntlet. YOU are on my list girly. Be watching.

    2. This is very true. Today I was trying to get C to explain why she colored the inside of her ear with a crayon. Something definitely got lost in translation because she just demanded graham crackers.

      1. Some impulses are simply unexplainable.

  16. Holy cow! As I hug and love and scold my four little ones, I am terrified! Can I hire a court stenographer to hide in my backpack and record all our conversations? Because no amount of blogging, photo-taking, recording and repeating over and over is going to set in their minds the childhood I’ve tried so hard to create. You’ve captured it here. And as much as you’ve terrified me, you’ve shown how it really might just be point of view, and that in the end, that’s okay, too. Thank you. This one will stay in my mind and change my day (week, month…?) Thank you for sharing. And now I’ll check out The Waiting, too!

    1. Please do: check out The Waiting! I think YOU will really love it! Let me be clear here: no amount of recording will change how this goes. You are raising thinking people; they will think. And often, they will think differently than you, or what you intended, etc… it’s good and bad. It’s hard. But it’s inevitable. I really appreciate your thoughtful feedback. Thanks!

    2. It is terrifying, isn’t it? You go to such lengths to create such-and-such a childhood for them, and then they remember very few of the things that you work hardest to make perfect for them. This may actually be a good thing, though, as no one needs clean laundry anyway ;)

      1. And perhaps it’s a good thing if they don’t remember everything. Maybe they’ll even rewrite their childhood narrative as a wonderful fairyland filled with silly hijinks, educational games and snuggling? Nah. (I’m still terrified when I think of how they’ll see me when they’re adults but it’s nice to be in good company as we try to facilitate these childhoods of theirs…)

        1. Stick with us, baby… if we don’t keep you out of trouble, you’ll at least have a lot of fun with Emily and I! ;-)

  17. unfetteredbs · · Reply

    Wow. This is fantastic. Expressed so perfectly…

    1. Hey Vanilla! Look at me! I’m on WordPress!! LOL!!
      Lily told me to come over and read this. She has good taste. :)
      Both Dawn and Emily are amazing at conveying my feelings. Dawn perfectly captures what the two of us are going through, right? She always nails it and it always sounds so effortless.
      Later Gator xox

      1. unfetteredbs · · Reply

        Don’t toy with your fans Gripster. We miss you. And yes she nails it

        1. Fans? LOL! This is why you’re my good friend. xoxo

        2. Come back to the dark side Grippy! Come back… or I’ll nail YOU.

          1. unfetteredbs · · Reply

            Haaa Lisa. See we missed you. And now you’re gonna get nailed. ( smirk)

    2. Thank you so much, Unfettered! I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

      1. unfetteredbs · · Reply

        It’s such a hard transition. I don’t know if in coming or going right now. They push and pull so easily

        1. It never stops… they push and pull differently as they get older. The stakes get higher, but you get better and better at figuring it out. Just breathe deeply, and find time for you. Don’t laugh; I’m serious.

          1. unfetteredbs · · Reply

            Ugh… One foot in and one foot out eh? No time right now but soon. Thanks :)

            1. It’s so easy to keep saying no time… but I’ve always found that there IS time; it’s a matter of not giving it to everyone else. The sooner your carve a sacred block of Mom time out, the more respect you’ll get from kids who see that you are important too. Ok, really, lecture over.

              1. unfetteredbs · · Reply

                Thank you for the lecture. I’ve taken notes professor and will do my homework :)

  18. I’m with JGroeber on this one. I have 3 little ones…a girl and two boys. They are 7, 4, and 2. This post IS terrifying. But, in a weird way, it’s comforting. I’m a worrier, and I think a lot about my own relationships with my siblings and my parents a lot, and worry about repeating patterns and behaviors, and worry about my kids’ perception…and I fight desperately to make sure my kids are not perceiving things a certain way. But, this post made me realize that maybe I need to worry less. I can only do the best I can with what I have, and even still, they may perceive, and interpret and misunderstand me. So, maybe I should let go a little more, and not worry about getting it perfect or fretting over their perceptions, because even if I think they are thinking one thing, they may not be. Because there is no perfect.

    1. Yes, let go a LOT! Honestly, you are totally setting yourself up for all kinds of hard things when you think for a minute that you have any real control over how they perceive things. Those little brains are taking it ALL in. Trust me. And they are generally, way more perceptive than we think. They get when someone is feeding them BS to help them feel better, or telling them their artwork is good, when they know they didn’t try. It sounds cliché, but if I had only understood one thing better, when I was a younger mom, it would have been: Let Go of my expectations. Let Go of so much control. Let Go of worrying and trying to make it all as certain way. Just be the their mom. Be the best mom you can, but don’t lose yourself in the process, because it’s YOU they need. Don’t be scared or “terrified,” just relax and let go. Ok, stepping off my soap box now… ;-)

    2. Okay, there’s this phrase I learned in high school German class (where else?) that goes Als ich kann. It means “The best I can do.” I think it’s really supposed to mean, “I’m so proud of this! It’s awesome! It’s the best I can do!” I say it ALL the time to myself as I’m schlepping through my day, but I mean, “Take this half-assed day that’s been like a crayoned Valentine with the stickers peeling off and something unsavory spilled on it. I made it just for you because I love you.” Ha! It’s simply the best I can do and it’s going to have to be enough, I guess. (BTW- I’m now following your blog. You had me at “Sometimes the bedtime routine makes me want to… bang my head against the wall.” That’s my life!)
      Als ich kann.

      1. Yes. I need to possibly say that phrase out loud every day. :)

        1. Also, Ich weiss nicht! (Which means, “I don’t know!” and always sounds better in German.) Where’s the ham? Ich weiss nicht! Where are my socks? Ich weiss nicht! What’s for dinner? Really?! ICH WEISS NICHT!

          The combo is killer for a mother with young children. I don’t know and I’m doing the best I can here. Which pretty much sums it up.

          1. No doubt! We are all just doing our best, and that should be “good enough.” ;-)

          2. ha!! That’s hilarious!!

  19. I squeezed my comments above, Dawn. I’m a little rusty. Thought I’d couple up with my daughter to sing your praises. :D

    1. What, are you a self-centered narcissist or something?? :-p Welcome back Lisa!!

  20. Dawn,
    This is beautifully written as usual. Example: “We, as parents, if we are clear about boundaries and open to truths, care in a way that takes in who they were, who they are, and who they aspire to be… balanced against the razor sharp edge of who we hope they might be.” This is a peek into the future for new parents that are so immersed in the complex and time-consuming duties of being a parent that they may not realize that like Emily says, “these days are fleeting”.
    As a parent of two 30-somethings, a grandparent of three, and a son who’s mother lives in the same house; I can relate to this post on so many levels. Conversations with my children reveal contrasting memories regarding their upbringing and conversations with my mom do the same with a twist. Perspective-wise it’s a little like one of those 3-D multi-level chess games. I’m more of checkers guy.
    Great post, thank you for sharing, and nice to see you here at Emily’s place!
    John

    1. Nice to see you anywhere, John! I’m always happy when you stop by TFTM, and I’m thrilled you took the time to read and share some wise words. I can only imagine the grandparent piece, for now… but I look forward to it, more and more– even if I (admittedly) grieve the passage of this time when my kids are home and growing up. That silly adage that it goes by so quickly, or is is all fleeting, is so f’ing true! Brings me to my knees some days, and is cause for singing others. Love what you have to say here… I admit, I’m good at chess, but 3-D… hmmm. Thanks for taking the time; it is much appreciated!

    2. “Perspective-wise it’s a little like one of those 3-D multi-level chess games. I’m more of checkers guy.” THIS. Such a great way of putting it John.

  21. ah, the waiting is very hard – very honest parenthood post, so well expressed. thank you Dawn x

    1. Thank you for coming by! I really appreciate the support. xo And thanks for the 2,000 notice… Yeah, Baby!! 2,000 followers… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=barWV7RWkq0

      1. ha ha yeah baby – great celebration!

  22. This was so interesting to read! What great perspective you have and so much wisdom! My hubby and I will be navigating the parenting waters as a Christian (me) and an agnostic (him) so I’m beyond curious to see how that will go. yay for guest posts! :)

    1. Thanks so much Stephanie. Something tells me you will take the lead… Agnostics tend to not. Lead. ;-) Either way, it’s all about taking it in and enjoying the journey. There will be bumps, no matter who you are. Thanks again for reading and commenting; much appreciated! Hope you’ll check out TFTM.

      1. And yea, you’re spot on, he’s agreed to even come to church and support raising them religiously as long as he doesn’t have to lie about his beliefs. :)

        1. That’s pretty much how I did it… although I ended up throwing myself into the role! Something we Moms tend to do!

    2. It is kind of crazy the way religion ends up playing itself out once a kid is brought into the equation. My husband and I had been married six years when we had our daughter, and a specific faith tradition had never really played a prominent role in our relationship until she came along. Now that we have her, we’re falling back on a lot of the things we practiced with our families as kids.

      1. Yea, it will be so interesting to see how it changes once we have kids! We knew early on that we wanted children so we talked about it while dating too and I told him, if it was just us forever, most of this wouldn’t matter, but since we’re raising small humans together, it should be discussed beforehand. Glad you have things you did as a kid to share with C!

  23. Beautifully written. It was painful to read because I know my own children will interpret what I give them very differently than how I see it.

    1. How wonderful to have you read my post. You know I’m a fan of yours, so I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. It is painful, in one sense, but it is very freeing when you realize that they’ve grown up to be what you hoped they’d be: intelligent, thinking individuals. In the end, if you play your cards right, you are still their center of gravity, but they’re bound to rotate on their own. ;-) Thanks for coming by!

  24. When I read this story, I thought of how my own mother must have felt when I converted to Catholicism (from the evangelical tradition I was raised in). Now that I’m an (adoptive) mother of two, I think a lot about all the ways I’m passing on not just the forms of faith, but an actual hunger for truth — just as you seemed to have done for your daughter. This inspires me. Thanks!

    1. Thanks so much Heidi. We all find our own journey, and what our kids take from it– as you learned in your own conversion, may be an entirely different from what we think we’re putting out there. Thanks so much for reading my post and sharing your thoughts. I’m honored that it inspires you!

  25. What a wonderful piece. There’s so much I’d like to answer to, but my magic talking stick would run out of sparkle. So, can I just say that children, particularly girls, tend to come around once they are parents themselves. They become less intense (though just as sincere) and they no longer see things in black and white. Waiting till you’re in the empty nest zone is too late. You had a life BC and you need to rediscover a new one for yourself well in advance of PC. Last but not least being a mother may not solely define who you are but it’s like belonging to the mafia: you can never leave it and you cannot be dismissed but (as a gran I speak from experience) you do get to be reinstated for active duty. Take heart. :)

    1. What a wonderful response, Maryanne! Thank you. I have heart, and know things will morph more than a few more times, before this dance is done. I could not agree with you more… on every single point! Well said. Thanks so much for reading my post and taking the time to share your thoughts; it is much appreciated! Hope you’ll check out Tales From the Motherland, and weigh in there as well. ;-)

  26. So glad I came to read this, Dawn…I know some of the story from reading your blog…and I’m happy to be introduced to another great blogger AND mom! It’s hard to give our kids the freedom they need…and ‘allow’ them to think for themselves…even if in that thinking, they are not thinking the way we ‘think’ they should.:) I have three grown children…they are as different as day and afternoon and night…but there is a thread of similarity that runs through each of them. And one of them wants to have nothing to do with us and another wants to have so much to do with us that she bought a house we could share…go figure. :)

    1. Thanks for visiting The Waiting, Vivian, I just know you’ll love Emily’s posts! She is wonderful. I always tell people, we put all the same ingredients in the bowl, and got three entirely different cakes. Yes, there is a similar frosting on all of them, but very different cakes! Can’t even imagine one of YOUR kids wanting nothing to do with you. That pains me, as I wish I’d had a mother who knew so much about kids! Emily… this is a blogger for you to follow. All of you with young children. Vivian’s ideas on books, crafts, activities for little guys are brilliant!!

  27. Dawn-
    This post struck at my VERY CORE.
    Where to start?
    First, we are Jewish.
    So many of my friends are reform, and even conservative, and when their children grown up and embrace Judaism beyond what was experienced in their home, they have such ANGER towards my friends – their parents. “You didn’t raise me right; you didn’t give me a strong enough Jewish upbringing. All the sacrifices made are somehow forgotten. It cuts at them.

    I was not raised with any kind of religious values, it is The Ex who had much more of a religious upbringing, who knows all the prayers and the tradition and has insisted Little Dude go to Hebrew school at least twice, if not three times, a week. I am so happy that my son is embracing his religion and is a proud Jewish boy. But I see the rumblings of dissatisfaction. That I don’t keep a kosher home. That I don’t go to services EVERY Friday night.

    And his rewriting of our interactions is so painful. He’s 10, so maybe his brain is just not fully developed. “mom, don’t go bonkers again!” “When was the last time I went bonkers?” “I dunno, when I broke the lamp.”
    Which was 2 months ago. How do I navigate the murky waters of his reality vs mine? I don’t know, but I think it’s time for a post.

    It’s all so hard, Dawn, this mothering thing, and I only have one. He’s ten, and I don’t know where the years have gone. I’ll blink, he’ll be 20, and out of the house. Oh. My. God.

    1. Samara, thank you so much for your very thoughtful and personal response. This is a tough one, but universal in many ways. I have found my boys to be so much easier than my girl in countless ways, and yet SO much more challenging than my girl in some very clear ways. Boys are not as dramatic, not as emotionally tied up in us (both are grand statements, that do not apply to everyone!), but they are exhausting. They are sneakier; they can cut to the heart with their bluntness; their changes are hard for a mother to bear witness to, and not feel like you are giving them up. My love affair with my boys is so special and intense… and I know that when they are old enough, I will be replaced. That is different with my daughter.

      The kosher piece: we simply let my daughter claim portion of our kitchen counter; got a 2 burner hot plate; she has her own plates/cooking equip, and she keeps kosher in my kitchen. Trust me, it has not always been a smooth road, but it’s getting easier. (Read this for more on that: http://talesfromthemotherland.me/2012/02/10/ode-to-girl-interrupted/)

      If you aren’t ready to live more conservatively, within the Jewish faith, that needs to be an open discussion with your son and Ex. I could not have done it, and it certainly has been a source of issues between my daughter and I.

      NO, his brain is absolutely not fully formed! Most people don’t realize that our brains are not fully formed and finished growing until about age 24!! Seriously (I live with a brain surgeon). Navigating murky waters is a bitch. It’s always murky, even when you think it’s clear. Just stay calm, and state your own truths. Leave room for his. Try: “hmm, I didn’t realize I went bonkers, but then maybe you and I see that a little differently.” Great way to give him is perception, but not lose yours.

      Either way, 13-15 years from now, your little Dude will have one version of how it all went down, and you’ll have another. All of our hopes, as mothers, is that those versions meet somewhere near the middle. Thank again for taking the time to read, and share your wonderful feedback. Much appreciated!

      1. And thank you, for giving me the wisdom and benefit of your experience. All that you just shared with me took time and effort.
        That is the magic of WordPress. Or maybe it’s just the magic of Dawn.

        1. The magic of WordPress, bringing us together. I left a very different, long comment on your blog today. Great stuff!

          1. Which I just read.
            Thus starts my love affair with yet another blogger.

  28. You will never know how much I needed this post TODAY. Thank you.

    1. I’m glad it helped, however it helped.Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Much appreciated.

  29. […] my penchant for rebelliousness?) I never make them. But today I read an amazing guest blog over at The Waiting and it got me thinking that a “2014 Remembrance List” might not be a bad […]

  30. […] one day, while continuing to procrastinate and avoid the issue all together, I read Dawn’s guest post over at The Waiting. Dawn, who writes at Tales From The Motherland, has shared so many wonderful posts that always seem […]

  31. Thank you for your honest words about motherhood. I found this sentence to give me goose bumps, ” That was when I realized that the lessons we hand to our children, the messages we believe we are giving, and sometimes the very experiences that we all shared together, are not always seen and experienced the way we intended or believed they were delivered.” Truer words have seldom said so clearly about the struggle as a mother. I am learning this both as one, to my four children, and as a daughter with oceans of words and experiences that were delivered with different intentions than received. I will be back for more. ~Best

    1. Thank you so much for this lovely comment. Your words are both thoughtful and meaningful, and I really appreciate that you took the time to read and then leave such wonderful comment. Thanks! I hope you’ll check out Tales From the Motherland, and let me know what you think about some of my other posts. ;-)

  32. Pretty! This was an incredibly wonderful article.
    Many thanks for providing these details.

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