Mothers & Daughters...Adversaries, Friends & Everything In Between

It is well documented that the mother/daughter relationship is tricky. I have friends who are estranged from their mothers, ones in enmeshed relationships and everything in between. It is a very strange thing, to be in relationship with someone who literally was your first home. I know this applies to all mother/child relationships, but there is something unique about the mother/daughter dynamic (mother/son, father/son, and father/daughter, of course all have their own baggage too). 
There are a lot of expectations on both sides, whether they are spoken or not. Perhaps this comes from the fact that subconsciously, I think all children hold their mother most responsible for their childhood experience. If yours was difficult, then it's probably mom who wasn't nurturing enough, who should have stayed home, should have worked, etc. Even when the problem was obviously dad, say he's an abuser, somehow we still hold mom responsible for not standing up to him, for not appeasing him, for staying with him or for leaving. Maybe that's even why our society still blames women when they get raped, based on how she was dressed, how much she drank and where she was when innocently walking alone. 
No matter the reason, being a mother and being a daughter is an intense experience. I've written poetry documenting some of these feelings, the tidal wave of gratitude, fear and fathomless love I felt becoming a mother for the first time. The way becoming a mother reshaped how I saw my own mother and her mother before her. I've written about the pain of parting ways with some of the beliefs my mother taught me about God, life and myself. There is a true awkwardness facing a reality that your parents can't speak into, that they don't know or fully understand. And while it feels juvenile to me to have those feelings, it makes sense. For years, your mother is the steward of your experiences. She's the keeper of the memories. It's mom who knows your friends, teachers, boyfriends. Mom is the one in tune with your inner angst, joy, heartache. She creates, cultivates and monitors your environment.* Heck, she IS your environment for those first several months and years of your life. To move outside of that influence is both terrifying and critical for true adulthood. 
There are a lot of things I know my mom did right. It brings me great comfort as I confront her humanity. One of the things that I treasure most is that my mom was the one who woke up with us every morning. While my dad slept til 9, mom got up at 6 to make breakfast, pack lunches, set out our vitamins and sit at the kitchen table with us. Every. Single. Day. I don't have one childhood memory of my dad in the early morning, unless we were taking a road trip. While that is weird and maybe even sad, I cherish those hours spent with my mother. There is a true comfort and confidence that comes with that peaceful yet busy attention. It buoys you as you face the world each day. 
Lucky for me, I am the morning person between Tim and I just as my mother was. When Macy started preschool, it was decided that I would get up to get her ready for school each day. I love this time with her. And while I have always loved it, it has become more precious to me of late. Macy is turning 7 in a few weeks and every morning (at least the ones Penny sleeps in) I get a full hour just me and her. She eats her breakfast and I pack her lunch. Often I will read her a Bible story. We discuss her ideas about God. We talk about school and her friends. I give her hugs and kisses and we laugh together. 
She's currently recovering from a sinus infection and just started back at school yesterday. Emotions are right at the surface. This morning she fell out of her chair, hard. As she was crying, I picked her up and held her. I sat her on my lap while she let out her feelings. As she gets older, these moments grow fewer so I marveled at the joy of her sitting on my lap, both my arms wrapped tightly around her. There is nothing sweeter than receiving comfort from your mother and now, as an adult, being the one who gives it. 
I've been feeling down about myself lately, wondering what exactly it is that I do all day and if it is enough. It's sad that I'm in this place. Tim doesn't understand it, believing strongly in all the things I do. I made a list of all my responsibilities and that made me feel better. But all in all, as an achiever, at some point, the lists can be very long and you still fight this feeling of inadequacy. It's not so much whether you're doing enough but should you be doing more. It's a terrible mentality and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. At some point, I have to give value in my head to what I already know in my heart. What I do matters greatly. Maybe someday I will transition to a time where my day to day tasks look more accomplished, when my resume reads impressively, when I have titles and recognition. But in this time of lap-sitting and lunch-making, I must remind myself that in these moments, I am contributing to society in a big way. When we raise confident, loved children, good things happen in the world. And that's all I really want, to a be a part of something good. I can only hope that this time with Macy brings her courage to face the world at large and make it better, one morning at a time. 
* I recognize that not all children have a mother like mine. There are instances where the father is the more in-tune, nurturing parent. While I acknowledge that happens, because it wasn't my experience, I can't speak into that dynamic.


I've always said that the first and second birthdays are the hardest. Then Macy turned 3, 4, 5, & 6. So far, there hasn't been a birthday yet that hasn't thrown me for a loop. Even though I anticipate my children's birthdays with excitement and I really enjoy making plans to celebrate them, somehow I'm still surprised when they actually happen. Kind of like how you feel when someone who's been sick for awhile finally dies. They were ready. They were looking forward to it. And on behalf of them, you were ready for them and celebrated their release from pain. But for yourself, it's still sad and somehow shocking. I still don't get it. 
My little Penelope is turning 1 year old tomorrow. For those of you who don't know, it took us 2 and a half years to conceive Penny. There was a time that I wasn't sure if we would ever get the pleasure of having another child. That process was such a learning experience for me and very personal in my relationship with God. He spoke to me in those places of longing, loss and impatience. There were times I really thought I was pregnant and wasn't. I tried to tell myself not to get my hopes up only to find myself disappointed time and time again. I remember one month, God actually asked me to thank Him that He did not give me a child. Ouch.
One year into the process, we were fired from ministry. Initially, God was asking me to trust Him with the timing of another child. That turned into a season of Him asking me to trust Him if there was to be no more children at all. And finally, asking me to thank Him for my empty arms. He reminded me that my arms were not empty, that He had already given me a child, whom I loved very much. At the end of all of that, we lost our friend Ryan to cancer. He was 30. In our grief, we clung to each day and to each person whom we loved. And in the midst of that grief, we conceived my precious treasure Penny. 
As I may have eluded in other posts, and will surely discuss many times in the future, my theology has changed a lot in the last few years. It's been a difficult but mostly intentional process. But there are a few things in my faith experience that are incredibly personal to me, times in which I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was working. This fertility process and the timing of the gift of my second and final child is by far the one of which I am most convinced. 
I had a difficult pregnancy which resulted in me slowing down a lot. Her birth was totally nuts (somehow it took 5 days of false labor and then only 1 hour and 52 minutes for her to be born) which resulted in me biting my husband at one point (bet he was wishing I'd had time for that epidural). We went through a very painful post-partum season with Tim's depression, which was so much more severe than we ever could have anticipated. We had the privilege of being loved through crisis. Our life was literally held together by the people who love us. Somehow, in all the darkness that was this year (and we are SO not done), Penny has been the shining light through it all. As much as we've cried, our moments with her have been almost entirely pure joy. She is a gift. I call her my treasure (and then promptly sing Bruno Mars). 
I am so proud of the fact that I have spent night after night rocking her to sleep, nursing her, reading to her, feeding her (which feels like an Olympic sport these days), kissing her, holding her and talking to her. I have not taken her babyhood for granted. When I had my first baby 6 years ago, I was more anxious, almost seeing the baby phases as something to hurry through. Boy, did I regret that! Babies do require a lot of care, duh. But then when I didn't know if I'd ever have another one, I promised myself I would savor it. As much as this year has thrown us some very painful curveballs, ones that we never intend to repeat, I have so many moments with her that have changed me forever. She's changed all of us forever. 
She's made Macy a big sister, which I'm convinced has been as big of a gift to her as it's been to us. I've never been prouder of my oldest than when I've seen her day after day welcoming her little sister into her world. She has grown tremendously this year and I hope they will always have each other. There's just nothing sweeter than watching your kids love on each other. 
There have been moments this year when I've felt anxious about the passing of time. Like an hourglass, the time of Penny's babyhood felt like it was slipping through my fingers. In those moments, I've reminded myself that I really have done the best I could to treasure her, and that the time passing isn't within my control. I only get to decide what I do with the time I'm given. And so, with a heavy heart, I laid her in her crib tonight and kept my hand on her back until she fell asleep (this isn't me just being super nice, it's actually the only way she'll sleep:) And I came in here to capture my thoughts, knowing that the next time I see her, she'll have magically turned into a one year old.