I’ve been trying to write a Mother’s Day post for three days now, locking myself in my office when Brett gets home and declaring, as the kids pass their perfectly capable father to come bang on the door to ask ME to get them a drink/sign their homework folder/explain why fish don’t have butts, “ASK DADDY! MOMMY’S WORKING! IT’S HIS TURN!” There’s a special tone of voice I’ve reserved for these moments, of course–mommish enough to pass as directed toward the kids but clearly intended for Brett.
Read between the lines: “Dear God, intervene already.”
Intervention is difficult though when Nella’s already lying on the floor, sliding her fingers under the door, crying, “Mommy, do you see me?” Because there’s only one way to answer that question in motherhood, and it is always “Yes.” I always see you. In my office, in my bathtub, in my sleep.
I managed to slip away to take a long shower tonight while Brett watched the kids play in the pool, but right as I went to lather my shampoo, I heard them coming…all of them. “We’re cold, can we get in the shower with you?” A minute later, I was crammed against the back corner tile, fighting for an eighth of the water stream while three kids in bathing suits drew pictures on the fogged-up shower doors–a cat, a bunny, a snake that slowly disappeared with more steam–and I tried to figure out how to rinse my hair with my tiny share of the shower head.
It is hard to find the place where they end and I begin, and while I thought I’d find it in the shower tonight but failed, there is always one place where the lines feel strangely clear–at an airport bar when traveling alone. My friend Claire and I have talked about this before, and so she sends me a photo a couple weeks ago, no explanation needed–a half-finished mimosa on a table in front of a window overlooking the runway and a stretch of planes against a cold gray sky.
“Ahh, I love it. I know that feeling,” I text back.
“I know you do. I took this photo specifically for you.”
It’s the one definitive place between two worlds and two people, and whether I’m departing to adventure away from them or excitedly coming home to get back to them, the airport bar scene is always accompanied by this electric energy and deep thoughts for me, heightened, of course, by the faint buzz of an airport beer. It’s where my intertwined identities separate for a moment, hover above like little spirits, and acknowledge each other:
“Oh hey, adventurous one that dwells within. I see you.”
“Hi, Mom. Nice to get a break, huh? You’re doing a good job, by the way. Fun working with you.”
“Hey–in case we don’t get this opportunity again for a while, I need to tell you this: I love them, but I love you too.”
“Don’t worry, I get it. And for the record, I love them too.”
And then they hug and get all tangled up again as I reach for my phone to find that picture of all three kids sleeping in my bed, the one where Lainey’s arm is tucked into Nella’s, and Dash is hogging half the bed. And I feel electric again–because nothing feels more electric than loving them.
I find it necessary to honor the part of me that is just me–to take quiet runs alone, say no to opening the office door sometimes, say yes to those trips that take me away, explore hobbies and talents and desires outside of my kids. I do it for myself, but I do it for them too–because it’s too much pressure on them to be linked to my every happiness, and I want them to find themselves outside of me as well.
But mostly, I lean in to the entanglement of it all, especially during this phase of our lives–to lean in to the fact that listening to the adventurous one that dwells within often means inviting Lainey to join me on a run, or scooting my magazines off the edge of the bathtub so Dash can climb in with me, or pausing work on the computer so Nella can sit in my lap and tell me what songs she wants me to play on Spotify.
She wants Justin Bieber who lures the other two in, and they’re soon laughing and dancing and shouting out what song they want next. “Pitbull!” Nella yells, and the twerking begins with the first beat. They shake their hips like Shakira on the “babybabybabybabybabybaby” part, and the girls fall to the floor in a fit of laughter when Dash’s interpretive dance goes awry. Every part of me is braided in this moment, right here, and there isn’t an airport bar in the world that can hold a flame to this.
It is during these times that I often do this thing I do where I imagine this moment is a sliver from the past and that my little old lady self has been given the opportunity to wormhole back to it. They can ask me to refill their cup a hundred times. They can shove homework folders in my face with stubby pencils that never write. They can demand for me to explain one more time why fish don’t have butts and fall apart when my answer isn’t what they were looking for.
In the end, I feel simply...lucky. There isn’t a cell in my body that isn’t stamped with love for them. That’s why I can wave goodbye when Brett takes them all to Chuck E. Cheese tonight while I stay home and drink wine with my book club.
Happy Mother’s Day and love to all those who feel this day in different ways–the memories, the heartache, the hope, the thrill, the hard work, the beauty, but most of all…the love.