I Am Mom Enough

It’s a striking image, isn’t it? A boy old enough to be in preschool still nursing from his mother’s breast. I believe the ‘shock factor’ intended has been achieved here in the United States. People are appalled – tagging the Time magazine cover photo as ‘sexual, indecent, extreme, crazy’ – and on and on the list goes. Yet when you open to the story matching the cover photo, something is lost in translation. 

Attachment parenting is actually the topic being discussed, as shared in The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears. I’m not going to get into the debate here, but it has stirred something in me as a mom. I was one of those who subscribed to ‘The Ferber Method’ – let your baby cry until they understand you’re not responding or they fall asleep. I had fears about ‘holding them too much’ and having them end up ‘spoiled.’ There’s no question in my mind that were I to have another child today (which I am not, lol) things would be very, very different. What Dr. Sears recommends is holding them as much as possible – to help your baby feel safe and loved. While there are indeed extremes on either side of the conversation, I’m a firm supporter in the style of parenting that supports being present for our children rather than setting them aside to become strong and independent on their own. 

Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.  ~ Author Unknown

As I thought about it, I realized the whole process my husband and I have been through with our older two children through the difficult teenage years has redefined who we are as parents and the style with which we respond to our children. R-E-S-P-O-N-D. Not react. There’s a difference. Having been raised by a mom (I love very much) who feels it’s her duty to do everything in her power to ensure I take the ‘right path,’ it’s been an inner struggle to figure out who I am as a parent. My husband and I began our entry into parenting teenagers with the intent to set the boundary and ‘make them follow it.’ HA! What a shock when we realized how impossible that is. 

It’s taken time, very open communication, letting go of our own pride, allowing vulnerability and being patient with one another to come to this place of co-parenting. Our goal is no longer to make our children bow to our demands, but to allow them to find their own path at this tender age of exploring who they are, seeking their independence and making their own mistakes. It’s the falling down and getting back up that will open their eyes to the inner character they already have in place. Our job is to support them as people, to talk with them about how to set their own boundaries and to be there when they fall, assisting them in picking up the pieces. 

Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children. ~ William Makepeace Thackery

I want to say this, too: however my mother or my husband’s mother may have been – I believe we are given exactly what we need in one form or another. My mom’s style of raising me may not be my own, but it worked for me as a child. Part of our challenge when we become parents is to sort out who we are as children from who we are as parents. We are not our parents, nor will we likely follow exactly in their footsteps when we raise our own children. I was blessed to have a mom who did everything in her power to give me all she felt I needed, to protect me from being hurt and to teach me how to look inward when life wasn’t going the way I’d hoped. Without a doubt, I have brought these gifts into being a mom myself…just in a different way. 

As Mother’s Day approaches, I’m remembering just how graced I am to be living my dream. From the time I was a little girl, I envisioned ‘growing up, getting married and being a mom’ as my future. As these blessed beings whom I’ve been entrusted to care for over this short period of time spread their wings to fly, the love and adoration only grows deeper. There was a time I found no fulfillment or value in being a mom. That’s no longer true. Instead I’m filled with overwhelming emotion at the beautiful gift I’ve been given….these three amazing children who chose me to be their mom. And that’s enough. I Am….mom enough. This is my calling…and I’m overflowing with joy to answer. 

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Whispers of Forgiveness

For me, the guidance so often comes like the softness of a whisper. Just the thought of it reminds me of the moment in the movie ‘Phenomenon’ when John Travolta’s character pauses and looks up at the trees, swaying gently as though the winds are whispering mystical secrets across the branches and through the leaves. 

Forgiveness is the sentiment, the prayer, the truth coming through this week. I’m not someone to hold a grudge, and I can move forward pretty easily. Letting go, cleaning out, creating change…all seem to go ok for me. And although we have been working through the challenge of parenting three teenagers, I truly couldn’t imagine what forgiveness has had to do with it all. And yet….a minimum of three occasions brought the word into my consciousness, with the first two being on the same day. 

I believe forgiveness to be the act of letting go–of blame, of how we wish it could have been, of what we feel was done to us, of what we wanted but didn’t get. I also believe that the Universe is guiding our every step, and although we have free will, there is a path, a purpose we are here to carry out. 

When I looked up forgive in the thesaurus, it seemed pretty clear: ‘stop blame and grant pardon.’ In this particular situation with our son, I have searched within myself to find what it is I need to let go off, to forgive in order to continue healing and moving forward. There’s nothing I’m upset with him for–he’s not harmed me in any way a parent holds onto. What I did realize when the word first began to speak to me, is how tightly I hold onto that little boy image–sweet, loving, needing his parents, finding his every desire fulfilled within the confines of his family. THAT is a difficult thing to release and move past LONG after our children have already chosen to do so. Yes, I’m ready for this next step of our lives, my husband and I together, however I’m becoming very aware of just how much I’m subconsciously holding onto our children–and what was. This is their time to move on, to ‘cut the cord’ so to speak, and to become fulfilled in who THEY are. 

A bit of AHA! in that awareness, yes, and yet the process has continued on–‘there is more releasing to do, Jackie.’ Somewhere within that word–forgiveness–is enfolded another word–‘surrender.’ In order to truly forgive we have to surrender to the Universal truth that there is purpose in EVERYthing. Even when WE cannot see or feel it. And so the journey goes deeper: another strong truth of being a parent is that when our children are unhappy, when something isn’t going quite right, when there are ‘ripples’ in the smooth surface of their lives–without even recognizing what we are doing, we turn the finger toward ourselves. Guilt, sadness, responsibility begin to bear down hard upon our hearts. 

I could tell you with full honesty that we have done our very best raising these three beautiful souls. And yet, my mind knows there will surely be SOMEthing within them that will feel differently at one point or another in their adult life. As humans, we are so programmed that someone else’s unhappiness is somehow OUR fault. The greatest lesson my son is teaching me is that it’s not my job to make someone ‘ok.’ I can’t take responsibility for his happiness–something that is less visible when they’re little and dependent upon us. But these are young adults in my home now–making their own choices, honoring their own desires. It’s no longer mine to choose their next steps. 

And so this is my choice today: to forgive myself for not being able to ‘fix it.’ To release the negative energy of blaming myself for the unhappiness, chaos and struggles of those around me–especially of my children. I know this sounds simple….and I also know it will require the stamina of my soul to acknowledge its truth on a daily basis. Still, I’m choosing it. Forgive. Let go. Honor what IS rather than what I wish it to be. I’m no superwoman, and yet I can see so clearly how I’ve been trying to be. Forgive ME. Release ME. As my light shines, so then do the lights of those around me. When I forgive and release ME, I forgive and release those around me. 

*Thank you to Joss Burnel for her post Forgiveness vs. healing