Being a mother is one of the most exquisitely; painfully beautiful roles one can play and it is my favorite part.
The feel of my children turning somersaults in the watery world of my womb and nursing into the wee hours of the night, year after year felt like an eternity at the time, an eternity that passed by in the breadth of a second. Reading books out loud until I was hoarse, looking for gnomes and fairies on every single walk and in our yard, daily and making art together for hours seemed like it would be a part of my life forever- but I knew that that wasn't true. I knew that the little giggles and baby smiles, the tantrums and colic, the cuddles that fit their chubby little bodies into my lap, would someday pass and I was scared because that is what motherhood looked like to me. That is what I knew, what I had wanted since I was two years, sitting in my tiny rocking chair, nursing my baby doll while my mother rocked my brother to sleep.
So now, I look at these giants that came from me, well into the double digit years, mostly teenagers, and all definitely adolescents, and I wonder what motherhood means as it evolves and grows. I’m sure it varies from person to person, circumstance to circumstance but I always want it to come back to love, to know that it is rooted in this elemental piece of life.
My mother still mothers me as I head towards forty as her mother, mothered her as she headed toward sixty and I don’t believe there is an end in sight- thank goodness! Isn’t that what we do until we are cut off by the cessation of our breath? We seem to be driven to mother by an urge so deep and so primal that to deny it is to deny the air we need to survive.
This isn’t the need to manipulate our children’s movements or motivations or tell them how it should be or who they should be but the drive to encourage them to find themselves, help others, make the world a more peaceful, beautiful place and love all that makes them who they are. It is a drive to help them as long as we can without interfering to the point of their rebellion in the hopes that they have less pain and more joy than we can imagine, than we, perhaps, experienced in our lives.
I wonder on a daily basis if I am modeling enough love, acceptance, forgiveness and open mindedness and what I can do better. So, I offer suggestions and like many mothers I plead and praise, rant and rave, cry and laugh in turn because the stakes couldn’t be higher and there is no manual that fits each mother, each child and each moment- we just do our best. But that’s the best part, isn’t it? That element of adventure, of unpredictability that keeps us on our toes, that frustrates us and elates us, that makes it real, keeps us present and creative and wears us into a soft place (we hope) like the Velveteen Rabbit-- A place where we become our true selves; REAL, flaws and all-- Sticky like a mango in the sun, sweet and tart and juicy and full to the brim with flavor.
Sometimes, I wake in the middle of the night wondering: “Am I doing this right? Do they know that I am trying to meet each of them and help them on their journey as they continue to become themselves? It was so much easier when they were little, wasn't it? Do they know that I love them so much that sometimes I can’t breathe because there is no room left in my body for anything else but my love for them? Is this how my mother feels?” I know it is. And I know that they know. How can they not?—Deep down in the dark, rhythmic pumping of their hearts, they feel the beat that my heart played for them when they still swam in me, tethered by a spiraling cord that joined our blood. They know because I whispered it into their sleeping ears while they curled against me and when they came to me with scrapes and bumps and now, when we argue as they struggle to be separate and understand the newness of themselves and how they fit into this dynamic world. It’s the song a mother sings: Love, love, love, always and forever, love.
Often, on drives I will look with awe in the rearview mirror of our ancient minivan and count their heads- one, two, three, four. All of them there, still with me for this brief moment in our lives before we scatter apart and they seek their own adventures. Who knows how long we have? The only thing that is certain is that we have right now- nothing more, I remind myself. Why wait? So, I say it, knowing that they have heard it a thousand times and seen it in my eyes more than that, knowing that they may smile or roll their eyes a little bit to shrug off the less than cool proclamation of a mother’s love to her teenage child:
“You’re my favorite part of this life,” I tell them. “You’re my dessert- it’s the best part, you know- that’s you. If you forget everything else, remember that."
I don’t cry, I know that upsets and embarrasses them and I always try hard to sound relaxed but solid- I want there to be solidity there because these words are never really enough.
“We know.” They say.
And they do. But I will keep saying it until I can no longer draw breath to do so because that’s what mothers do, rooting ourselves deep in the foundation of our love, trying, always, to do better, to give more and to find the right words to pass on our most important feelings and thoughts, the legacy of our love for them. They know because we continue to chant our mother song long after our mouths no longer open, long after our bodies lose the ability to hold them and long after our hearts have ceased to beat, we chant to them through the ether: Love, love, love, always and forever. You are my favorite part….
Jessica's mother surrounded her with art and creativity from the very beginning. Jessica began her personal journey with motherhood with the birth of her son. She was influenced by her natural and Waldorf-inspired upbringing and brought those elements into her own parenting techniques along with some of her own ideas and made a constant effort to follow her instincts. She lives in Maine where she unschools three of her four children who are now eighteen, sixteen, fourteen and twelve and makes art with them as often as possible. She is a fiber artist and author of the book The Gnome Project: One Woman's Wild and Woolly Adventure and she strives to say the words "Thank you" and "I love you" every single day.
Jessica's favorites on her journey through motherhood: