Child

Child,

You are joy.

In your laughter

I hear my soul speak.

 

Child,

You are innocence.

In your sweetness,

I recover my solace.

 

Child,

You are kindness.

In your praises,

I unearth my security.

 

Child,

You are love.

In your adoration,

I find my needs met.

 

Child,

You are vulnerability.

In your needs,

I discover my meaning.

 

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Challenging Love

There was a time when life was pure and simple. Each day was a new discovery, and one sought with innocence and without fear of failure, rejection or heartbreak. Those childhood years, while recollected easily by most of us, are left behind with little remembrance of what it truly felt like to be so free.

As adults, it is perhaps impossible for us to ever be that innocent and liberated again, and probably there are biological imperatives surrounding this. With every disappointment in our lives, we learn to build walls and to convince ourselves to be careful, to be suspicious, to avoid vulnerability. Indeed it is important to be careful sometimes and certainly, vulnerability isn’t synonymous with self-preservation; an activity we flock to so naturally.

I’ve called myself an open book many times in my life. I’ve also frequently been told I shouldn’t be one. I make myself vulnerable in all sorts of relationships, and you can be damn sure I’ve had my heart injured more than once. Let me say that in no way is this an attempt to draw comparisons or assume I’m better or superior to anyone, but I’m personally happy I live my life that way. To me, healthy, successful relationships are founded in part on transparency and open communication, and then built on understanding, empathy and trust (among other things). To leave myself open to hurt is to also leave myself open to being understood. To open the pages of my heart to be read by others is to allow them to know and comprehend my story; where I’ve come from, where I am at present, and where I’m headed – at least as much as is within my ambit. Expressing my raw emotions and impressions to others allows me to feel authentic in a moment or inside of the expanse of an entire relationship, knowing confidently I’ve not held back any part of myself. I’ve given the relationship as much chance at thriving as possible, by genuinely pouring out my heart. I’ve poured out kindness and love on another person both by focusing on all the wonderful things I see in them, but also by pointing out areas where the relationship could be healthier. I open myself up to my intrinsic desire to change the things about myself that I can; wanting to improve myself and make the relationship better, recognizing I can only choose to change myself.

I’m not willing to risk a life of regret and misery, resenting those who have hurt or disappointed me. I’d rather thank them for the lessons they helped me learn. I’m emphatically unwilling to settle for a mediocre or merely content life rather than one that is overflowing with joy, satisfaction and even opportunities for astonishing growth fueled by pain. I’m loath to even consider the possibility of sharing my life in the context of a romantic relationship with someone who doesn’t push my life over the edge and into an experience of love, elation, discovery and evolution that I cannot experience by myself. Sure, love comes easily to me and I find myself feeling love towards strangers sometimes. But mind-blowingly passionate, expansive and selfless love is something rare and worth searching out and waiting for. I no longer believe in ‘one true love’ but I do believe that two people who are right for each other will mutually desire and deliver each other unsurpassed ecstasy and make one another continuously strive for more – more love, more joy, more wisdom, more transformation, more achievement, more exploration, MORE.

Of course, I remember many happy childhood moments with my family and the many blessings I was bestowed. However, I don’t recall what was going on inside me during my earliest formative years. I would imagine, though, that when I’m able to quiet my mind, accept my circumstances, and flow forward with a smile, that peace I feel is probably similar to the innate peace that lived in me as an innocent child. The immense love I’m able to feel in my heart is probably a reflection of the love that filled me to the brim as a youngster, unafraid of how vulnerable it could cause me to be. I imagine that the desire I have to make others happy is something preserved still from that time, when love was paramount and still unblemished.

My goal is to seek such unbridled passion, such courageous love, and to continue to regard life’s struggles as gifts, no matter how hard they might make me push myself. From another perspective, I’ll endeavor to see others as innocent, grown up children, like me, who have just been hurt by life and thus to remember that when they hurt me, it is probably not with that intention. Finally, I challenge myself to draw from within me the innocent, fearless love of a child, combine it deliberately with the wisdom of an open-minded, optimistic adult and accept the realities of life’s disappointments with a smile.

Love, Enduring.

Love so sweet;
Spoken without barriers.
Delicate kisses;
Given without condition.
Through growth and transformation,
Surmountable challenge and incomparable delight,
Uncontrollable laughter and tears of exasperation,
I grow alongside you.

With perceived inadequacy and inconsistency,
Held by a heart of love overflowing,
I adore you more each day.
Be patient with me, always.
You are abundant love, unfolded.
You challenge me to selflessness,
Remind me of the joy in simplicity.

Birthed of my body, fed by my breast:
My marvelous child.

elijah bath

Love Lessons from a Toddler

Having a toddler is a joy, most of the time. At 21 months old, Elijah amazes me with his intelligence, imagination, and aptitude for learning. He has a wonderful sense of humour and can make me really laugh. He is caring and affectionate, and when he asks for me by name, the sound of ‘mama’ consistently melts my heart. He is talented, too. He can throw a ball like a 10-year old and I’m grooming him for major league baseball (he takes after his mother). Perhaps he’ll be a world-class drummer too. Oh, and a comedian. He’s already a charmer; with those beautiful blue eyes and big dimples, he can flirt with a pretty girl like nobody’s business (yes, we’re going to have our hands full).

For all his positive attributes, I am so blessed. And I’m also blessed by his more difficult personality traits, because they are teaching me patience, perseverance, tolerance, and control. I am sure that he is also preparing me for other difficult situations and relationships in my life, and I am doing the same for him. But darn, sometimes he is a very stubborn, difficult and frustrating little guy! This past week, he has been testing my patience, without a doubt.

Elijah wakes up around 5:15; sometimes earlier, sometimes a tad later. He still has occasional nights where illness or teething wakes him at even more unfortunate times. Though I can manage getting up early, I do love sleep, so the transition to consistently early mornings has not been an easy part of motherhood for me. At times I have felt almost resentful, but I quickly remember my place, and that the trade I have made has been more than worthwhile.

The last week, Elijah hasn’t quite been himself. He had a cold which turned into a minor ear infection that is just now clearing up on its own. I couldn’t figure out why he was so ill-tempered, but now that he’s back to his cheerful self, I know it was just because he wasn’t feeling well. For a couple of days there, I was afraid we were entering an unpleasant phase. Though he is saying many new words and even stringing together short phrases, he can’t yet explain when something is wrong.

All children cry of course; it’s a natural part of development, and hopefully a normal, respectable part of adulthood too. Nevertheless, it hurts to see Elijah’s eyes well up with tears when he is really upset or hurt. On the other hand, he has his “I want what I want and I want it now” cry. When he cries for something he really wants but can’t have, he screams in a way that hurts my ears and conjures instant and extreme irritation in me. This doesn’t happen very often but as he has gotten more mobile, able to reach higher places and has gained a greater understanding of his limited world and all the things he could potentially have, his determination has also grown stronger. We are navigating the difficult period when he sees all his options, but does not yet understand why he cannot always have his way.

During the week, I drop Elijah off at daycare at 7:30. I send breakfast with him and he eats it there. I often pack a breakfast pita accompanied by fresh fruit or a homemade smoothie. Sometimes, he is hungry enough that he eats some or all of his pita in the car. Late last week, I decided to send hot oat bran with cinnamon, dried figs, coconut oil and honey. I knew he’d love it, and I often feel I should mix up the breakfast offering at least a couple days out of the week.

We got into the car, and within a couple of minutes of pulling away, Elijah began asking me for bread, which is what he calls his pita. “I don’t have any bread for you today”, I told him. “Bread!” he asked louder, emphatically using sign language to say ‘please’, hoping that being polite would deliver his request. “I’m sorry, Elijah, Mommy didn’t pack bread today”, I replied. I had packed some cheerios for the ride, anticipating he might get hungry. I reached into the back seat and put a handful into the cup holder of his child seat. This was utterly unacceptable to him, and the screaming began. He became red faced, closed his fists tightly, kicked his feet…..and the cheerios started flying. I tried over and over to calmly explain to him that I had chosen a very tasty breakfast for him today, but it wasn’t possible for him to eat it in the car as it required mixing with milk and heating. Unfortunately, he couldn’t hear me because he was shrieking at me. And as hopeful as I was, he realistically couldn’t understand the rationale I was trying to relay to him. I decided to just ignore him. The more he screamed, the angrier I started to feel. It took every fibre of self-control I have not to yell at him. Then, it took every fibre of self-control I have not to cry. I felt in that moment like the ‘little mama that couldn’t’. Why is my child screaming like this? Why can’t he understand that I don’t have bread, and cheerios will have to do? I didn’t want to teach him to react to a difficult situation by yelling; I didn’t want him to remember his mother’s loss of control; and I knew that yelling at him would only escalate the situation.

Suddenly, he stopped crying for a moment and said “Go-Go”. “Go-Go” is Elijah’s name for Gordon – one of the trains from the Thomas & Friends series. Gordon is Elijah’s most recent favourite in his expanding collection of engines. I looked around, and there was Gordon on the seat beside him. “Is that what you want?” I asked. “Gordon?” I stopped the car on the side of the road, got out, and gave him Go-Go. A smile crept onto his face; he giggled to himself, looked at me thankfully, and was again in good spirits. After a couple of minutes, he called me. I turned to look and he was offering Gordon back to me, kind of like a gift of apology for his recent outburst. I took the train and put him on the dashboard. Elijah enjoyed this immensely, and Gordon kept that place the remainder of the day. Somehow, that wooden train with the smiling face reminded me to keep calm and remember that Elijah is effectively still a baby, and it is my job to teach him how to behave. My example is the greatest lesson I can provide, and by using my self-control to stay calm, I showed him that even in the face of a difficult situation, there are appropriate ways to react. It’s a very good thing he didn’t know what was actually happening inside of me.

Throughout the day, I reflected on the events of our drive and how frustrated I felt. I began to feel irritated with myself for being so hard on Elijah, considering that he is going to be 2 years old the day I turn 32. I have had the benefit (or in some cases, the disadvantage) of 30 extra years of experience. It reminds me of my childhood and being told that, as the older sister, I should know better. He needs to test his boundaries; it’s part of normal child development. So, I decided that as I have regrets about some of my parenting choices, I will try not to dwell on them, but rather learn from the experiences. Hopefully I can pass that same message on to Elijah.

That evening, when I returned home, I was enthusiastically and joyfully greeted, and I felt relieved and content. Elijah ran over to me and planted a kiss on the end of my nose. I’m sure he had no idea how mature, meaningful and utterly needed that perfectly planted peck was, but I realized something important in that moment. In his 21 months of life, he has already learned two of life’s most important principles: he understands that he is unconditionally loved, and he unquestionably knows how to show love to others. This greatly pleased me and motivated me to keep trying my best as a mother, while remembering that just as I don’t expect him to be perfect, neither can I expect perfection of myself. And even when I miss the mark, he will love me just the same.

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Mothers in Sync

This poem was written by my mother. She shared it with me this weekend after I shared my blog with her. I didn’t know that she liked to write, or that she could express herself so beautifully in poetry. Of course, I know she’s a brilliant woman, but had no idea we had this in common.

This poem was written shortly after I was born. I am wholly touched by the depth of emotion encompassed in this work, and so appreciative that she shared it with me. Especially now, being a mother too, I can grasp what she was feeling in the moments she wrote this piece. I love you mom!

Blood – we share.
Your beauty astounding, as you take your first breath. I chasing mine.
As I acknowledge your existence, mind racing, love-fear-joy- strangling me.
Raw, exposed, reality overwhelming.
You touched my heart and soul, beyond words.
Mind filled with fear, fear of responsibility for another being, of making mistakes.
Heart filled with pride-love.
Soul, to share with another.

Time stands still

You lie in my arms, warm and safe.
Here, time stands still.
These precious moments I photograph with my mind’s eye.
Like a porcelain doll, so soft and perfect.
I want to keep you here forever,
Sleeping in this rocking chair,
Innocent and peaceful.
Beautiful in your simplicity,
Yet profound is your capacity for love.
Stay with me forever,
Teach me how to love you,
Let’s make time stand still.

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