20 Nov

This afternoon, as my middle child was having her violin lesson, my youngest and I hung out in the backyard with the dog, enjoying the weather that has finally begun to succumb to the truth that it is now Fall. She was playing on our playset, the dog was laying on his back chewing a huge stick, and I was seated on the patio engrossed in the final chapters of a novel. I just wanted to sit and read, enjoy the cool breeze and dying light. Escape. But my daughter, as always, had other plans. She wanted to talk, tell stories, engage me in childish inanity that I find difficult to properly process when I am not feeling my sharpest. And I am not, definitely not, feeling my sharpest these days.

Call it a midlife crisis – though I hope to live past the age of 84. Call it depression, or regret, or just a general malaise. I have always been one to do a lot of thinking, as my brain is this ever-churning machine, that howls when I wish for quiet. But these days, what I mostly do is doubt. How did I come to this life? Not just this particular point in life, but *this* life? I realize that this path has been cut mostly by my own decisions, some of them good, some of them bad. Mostly they were mine, but not all. Sometimes people make decisions for you by default, their actions taking away the options you wished or meant to pursue. You can’t control that. But sometimes even my own decisions feel foreign to me. And I wonder who the hell this is living my life. This isn’t who I meant to be. Who I wanted to be. Things are not turning out as I planned. And I am lost. So I doubt. What was the point of all that education when you don’t apply it? What is the point of loving people who don’t love you back? What is the point of exercising when you’d rather eat? What is the point of cleaning the house when no one except you ever sees it? What is the point of being kind to people who don’t appreciate your efforts? What is the point of taking care of everyone else when no one takes care of you?

How did I get here? Can I escape? And where would I rather be?

Back to the backyard…

She is stinking’ cute, this baby of mine. So sweet. And I realize this is fleeting, her desire to know my every thought, to even have my input. So, as much as I wish to disengage, to disappear in this moment, I force myself to close my book, and attempt to open my mind to her. To not just catch hold of this ephemeral moment, but honor it with my mental presence. She is skipping along the paving stones at the end of the patio, a few feet away from where I’m sitting. I’m a bit ashamed to say that I don’t even recall what it was that she was saying that caused me to present this query, but it was some fanciful story, twisting and turning, into an imagined future. I found myself asking her, “And what do you want to be?” I don’t know what I was expecting her to say, but it wasn’t this. She hesitated for only the briefest second, her hand coming up to her chin in a thinker’s pose, before turning to look me right in the eye, and respond, “You.”

I had to grab her quickly, and pull her into an embrace, bury my head against her hair, so she didn’t see the tears that instantaneously flooded my eyes. Because this wild, magical creature, this innocent child who still truly believes in Santa Claus, this baby so sweet her nickname is “Smoochie”, thinks I’m special. And it broke me to realize that. She doesn’t see me as I see myself. She doesn’t know my regrets, my disappointments, my fear, my sadness. She doesn’t know my loneliness. She sees me as strong, and capable. As kind and loving and thoughtful. She appreciates me. Flawed, broken, doubt-filled me. She knows my love, my protection. She knows my silliness. And she loves what she sees so much she wants to be me. Hell, most days I don’t even want to be me. But she doesn’t wonder why her mother who has a law degree is staying home, and working part-time as a substitute teacher, she just wants to be a substitute teacher when she grows up. She doesn’t know that I’m always tired because I hardly ever sleep well, she just knows that she is safe in her bed at night, and that her lunch box gets packed, her permission slips get signed, and her karate uniform is always clean. She doesn’t know that I worry about money, because I want her to have everything she wants, as well as needs, she just knows that her adventure-loving mom will take her to Maine in the summer, and there will be plenty of food to eat and appropriate clothes to wear.

She doesn’t need to see me any differently. But I do. I need to try more often to see myself from her point of view. Because to her I am enough. Because for all my doubts, for all my mistakes, for the missteps, the bad decisions, the moments and people that have turned into regrets, there are three things I did perfectly and wonderfully right. And while I might not have turned out to be the person I wanted to be, they still might. And they need a mother with passion, who fights for them, and teaches them the fine art of sarcasm. One who throws them My Little Pony birthday parties, and who takes away their electronics when they make bad decisions. They need a mother who reads, to them and around them. One who makes mistakes, and shows them how hard, but also how necessary it is, to genuinely apologize. They need a mother who shares their interests, and celebrates their triumphs, but doesn’t let them believe they are the center of the universe.

They need me. Flawed, broken, doubt-filled me.

And in *this* life, I have three amazing children, who look to me for everything. And it took the baby of the group to remind me that for all the myriad things I get wrong, I sometimes get this part exactly right. And in that moment, I found that I really do want to be me.



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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim