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Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

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mother’s fears

Depression Doesn’t Care: Success & Suicide, One Year Later

One year ago this week, there were two prominent suicides in the headlines – prominent because the names attached to them were celebrities. The word prominent means important, so the phrase is problematic to me. Because, it’s their lives that were truly important. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain — and all the other lives that were lost this year, this lifetime to suicide —they have all been truly important. And as a society, we have failed them all.

I have never had a Kate Spade bag – indeed, I’ve never spent more than several dozen dollars on my purses. I’m a schoolteacher. I can’t afford that kind of luxury. I’ve been in one of her shops – an outlet shop at that – precisely one time. I really didn’t know that much about her… just about her bags. (Even in an outlet, those bags were way out of my league.)

Anthony Bourdain, on the other hand… I knew him well. Well enough to call him Tony…  when I saw him… on TV. Which means, I guess I really didn’t know him at all, despite being a devoted follower. I adored his irreverence, his passion for the “F” word, his bawdy, unshaven charisma. He made me laugh; he made me want to try bone marrow (I will. It will still happen.); and he never made me feel out of his league.

Both these celebrities left young daughters behind. And that fact hit me really hard. Because while they are not as young as the Spade and Bourdain girls, I too have daughters And I love them so incredibly much. So much so that I would face demons and slay dragons if I had to in order to protect them.

But Spade and Bourdain faced dragons they couldn’t slay. They could no longer face their demons. And that tells me the darkness they felt was way beyond anything I could ever possibly comprehend. And that terrifies me.

Because one of my beautiful daughters struggles with demons of her own.

She struggles with depression. She struggles valiantly. She struggles openly. Nevertheless, she struggles. And despite the national and international dialogue that has recently opened with regard to mental health, a stigma still exists. And so she struggles with stigma, too.

My oldest daughter is a surgical resident in one of the most competitive, prestigious surgery programs in the nation. She has just finished interviewing for a fellowship in the most prestigious, competitive programs in the nation. Indeed in the world.

She is beautiful. She is bold. She is successful.

She is smart. She is kind. She is important.

And despite all of these things, she struggles… with feelings of inadequacy, of worthlessness, of hopelessness. She feels incapable and unlovable in this harsh, often unforgiving world. Not all the time. But often. And all alone.

And even though I her see brilliance and worth – even though I know how far she is from inadequate and hopeless and incapable and unlovable, I can’t help her see it. Because when she is inside that darkness, when those demons are commanding her mind, she sees nothing else. And that terrifies me.

Being a surgical resident can be isolating and debilitating. These young doctors work themselves to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. The schedules, the expectations, the demands that are put upon them are unforgiving

And the stakes are so high. Life and death rest in their hands – literally. Surgery can be debilitating for both patient and surgeon. It can ruin lives and it can end lives — on both sides of the scalpel.

Surgical residents have one of the highest suicide rates in the nation. Competition within the field isolates individuals. Everyone is jostling for accolades, for fellowships, for attending acknowledgements, and for attending positions.

In no other place in her life has my girl ever felt so very disconnected.

And what makes her situation even more complex is the relationship she has with her occupation. Love-Hate would be an understatement. She loves her job. She feels tremendous pride in her program and her abilities. The operating room is her wheelhouse and her respite. She is cloistered there. Time stops there. Her destiny unfolds there. She feels no pain; only passion. She feels one with her mind and her body and soul. Her hands are trained; her skills are seamless; her mind is taut.

But when she steps away from the cocoon of that OR, all the demons are back at her door. Howling.

It’s comparable to an unhealthy, abusive relationship. It builds her up. It knocks her down. The highs are super high. The lows… indescribably low. And the constant push-pull of it all wreaks havoc on her mental health.

As a mother, this breaks my heart and causes me endless worry.

I know she struggles. But thankfully, her program knows it too. She has not kept it secret. She advocates for herself and for others who may be feeling the same.

She helps lead a wellness committee for fellow residents, working to promote healthy scheduling and healthy dialogue between administration and her peers.

She tutors adult GED students every Tuesday night at a local library, connecting with people outside the research lab and operating room, spreading love and hope even as she so often feels neither.

She is a member of a book club, connecting with colleagues both socially and cognitively on issues more abstract than tissue and tumor.

Most importantly, she has seen a counselor – a mental health provider who has given her tools and techniques to fight the good fight.

Yes, my daughter works hard to stave off the demons, to grapple the dragon, to defeat the disease. As a mother, I would fight it all for her if I could. But I cannot. It is all hers to slay.

And my daughter is capable. I know that. She is kind and loving and genuine-hearted. She is capable and strong and talented and tender.

I just pray every day that she sees it too. That she can see through the darkness.

Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain could not.

People with everything can find themselves feeling depleted and defeated. Suicide knows no demographic. It knows no bounds.

Talk to your loved ones. Acknowledge your loved ones. Make sure they know you see them and you get them. Love on your loved ones. And then make sure they get the help that they need.

Struggling Is Not Failing: New Life and the Worries Born With It

I love seeing new things – things I’ve never seen before.

A few years back, I saw my first fox. She was making her way across the neighborhood green space under cover of darkness, but the streetlights revealed her unmistakable fiery fur and trotting stride. She was beautiful.

I was in awe.

And then yesterday, I saw my first great-nephew. He was lying sweetly in a nest of swaddling blankets, tiny paper finger and toenails topping long, fragile fingers and long, slender feet. He is beautiful.

And I am in awe.

He came early. Seven weeks early. And his mama suffered. She was put on hospital bed rest and then filled with the fumes of a hazy, magnesium hell to battle the preeclampsia ravaging her body.

It was not fun. Nor was it effective. He “broke” her belly (as my sons say) via C-section the very next day. At 33 weeks.

But he is 33 weeks of pure perfection. Surprisingly alert, his eyes dance inside a noggin tiny enough to fit in a teacup, his elfin features glow beneath a widow’s peak of dark, twiggy hair.

This newborn child is beautiful. And so is his newborn mother.

She is pure perfection. Her eyes smile through the pain of incision, through the fog of postpartum, her freckled features deceptively serene beneath her halo of glossy, dark hair.

Because she is the perfect newborn mother — full of self-doubt, full of concern, full of fear.

She worries about milk supply and let down. She worries about milestones to be met and schedules to be set. She worries about bonding time and spending time with her twiggy little nestling when she’s discharged and he’s left behind in the NICU.

She worries about nurturing him and guiding him and loving him well enough to one day set him loose in this big, scary world with all the tools and confidence he needs to flourish.

She has so many worries. But those worries make her the perfect mother. Because that’s what good mothers do. They worry. And I would worry if she weren’t.

Really good mothers strive to always do the right things — the best things — for their little ones, no matter how big they get. No matter how old.

But good mothers never do ALL the right things; they never do ALL the best things.  Because mothers – even the really good ones like my niece – they’re only human. So they struggle.

But just because you are struggling doesn’t mean you are failing.

I saw that on a meme just yesterday and it spoke volumes to me as a mother, as a wife, as a writer, as a teacher.

Because just like my niece, I am struggling.

Because another new thing I saw this week was a brand new classroom — in a brand new school system. And it has left me full of self-doubt and fear and concern. I am full of worries.

I worry about school supplies and letting people down. I worry about the schedule to be set and the milestones to be met. I worry about bonding time with my students and spending time with my twins.

I worry about nurturing them and guiding them and loving them all well enough to one day let them loose in this big, scary world with  all the tools and confidence they need to flourish.

I want to do all the right things, all the best things. And I know I won’t do all the right things all the time. I won’t always do the best things. I have so many worries. But hopefully those worries make me a good teacher.

I struggled a lot last week. My niece struggled a lot last week. But we both have to remember that struggling doesn’t mean we are failing. Humans struggle — we’ve been doing it since the Garden of Eden. We trip. We fall. We get back up again. We persevere. We triumph. We excel.

It’s all about the perseverance. And Grace.

Because thanks to the grace of God, if our intentions are pure, and our efforts are hard, and our passions are strong, we will not fail. Struggle, yes. Fail, no. We can do this hard thing.

So Lauren, you and me — and all the mothers and teachers and humans out there — we can all do this hard thing. By the grace of God.

I am in awe.

 

 

 

My Own Daughter Battles Depression: Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and a Mother’s Fear and Admiration

There have been two prominent suicides in the headlines this week – prominent because the names attached to them have been celebrities. The word prominent means important, so the word is problematic to me. Because, yes, their suicides are important – but it’s the lives behind the suicides — and all the others that have occurred this week, this year, this lifetime —that are truly important. And as a society, we have failed them all.

I have never had a Kate Spade bag – indeed, I’ve never spent more than several dozen dollars on my purses. I’m a schoolteacher, after all. I can’t afford that kind of luxury. I’ve been in one of her shops – an outlet shop at that – precisely one time. I really didn’t know that much about her… just about her bags. (Even in an outlet, those bags were way out of my league.)

Anthony Bourdain, on the other hand… I knew him well. Well enough to call him Tony…  when I saw him… on TV. Which means, I guess I really didn’t know him at all, despite being a devoted follower. I adored his irreverence, his passion for the “F” word, his bawdy, unshaven charisma. He made me laugh; he made me want to try bone marrow (I will. It will still happen.); and he never made me feel out of his league.

Both these celebrities left young daughters behind. And that fact hit me really hard. Because while they are not as young as the Spade and Bourdain girls, I too have daughters And I love them so incredibly much. So much so that I would face demons and slay dragons if I had to in order to protect them.

But Spade and Bourdain faced dragons they couldn’t slay. They could no longer face their demons. And that tells me that the darkness they felt was way beyond anything I could ever possibly comprehend. And that terrifies me.

Because one of my beautiful daughters struggles with demons of her own.

She struggles with depression. She struggles valiantly. She struggles openly. Nevertheless, she struggles. And despite the national and international dialogue that has recently opened with regard to mental health, a stigma still exists. And so she struggles with stigma, too.

My oldest daughter is a fifth year surgical resident in one of the most competitive, prestigious surgery programs in the nation. She is beautiful. She is bold. She is successful.

She is smart. She is kind. She is important.

And despite all of these things, she is struggling… with feelings of inadequacy, of worthlessness, of hopelessness. She feels incapable and unlovable in this harsh, often unforgiving world. Not all the time. But often. And all alone.

And even though I her see brilliance and worth – even though I know how far she is from inadequate and hopeless and incapable and unlovable, I can’t help her see it. Because when she is inside that darkness, when those demons are commanding her mind, she sees nothing else. And that terrifies me.

Being a surgical resident can be isolating and debilitating. These young doctors work themselves to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. The schedules, the expectations, the demands that are put upon them are unforgiving

And the stakes are so high. Life and death rest in their hands – literally. Surgery can be debilitating for both patient and surgeon. It can ruin lives and it can end lives — on both sides of the scalpel.

Surgical residents have one of the highest suicide rates in the nation. Competition within the field isolates individuals. Everyone is jostling for accolades, for fellowships, for attending acknowledgements, and for attending positions.

In no other place in her life has my girl ever felt so very disconnected.

And what makes her situation even more complex is the relationship she has with her occupation. Love-Hate would be an understatement. She loves her job. She feels tremendous pride in her program and her abilities. The operating room is her wheelhouse and her respite. She is cloistered there. Time stops there. Her destiny unfolds there. She feels no pain; only passion. She feels one with her mind and her body and soul. Her hands are trained; her skills are seamless; her mind is taut.

But when she steps away from the cocoon of that OR, all the demons are back at her door. Howling.

It’s comparable to an unhealthy, abusive relationship. It builds her up. It knocks her down. The highs are super high. The lows… indescribably low. And the constant push-pull of it all wreaks havoc on her mental health.

As a mother, this breaks my heart and causes me endless worry.

I know she struggles. But thankfully, her program knows it too. She has not kept it secret. She advocates for herself and for others who may be feeling the same.

She helps lead a wellness committee for fellow residents, working to promote healthy scheduling and healthy dialogue between administration and her peers.

She tutors adult GED students every Tuesday night at a local library, connecting with people outside the research lab and operating room, spreading love and hope even as she so often feels neither.

She is a member of a book club, connecting with colleagues both socially and cognitively on issues more abstract than tissue and tumor.

Most importantly, she has seen a counselor – a mental health provider who has given her tools and techniques to fight the good fight.

Yes, my daughter works hard to stave off the demons, to grapple the dragon, to defeat the disease. As a mother, I would fight it all for her if I could. But I cannot. It is all hers to slay.

And my daughter is capable. I know that. She is kind and loving and genuine-hearted. She is capable and strong and talented and tender.

I just pray every day that she sees it too. That she can see through the darkness.

Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain could not.

People with everything can find themselves feeling depleted and defeated. Suicide knows no demographic. It knows no bounds.

Talk to your loved ones. Acknowledge your loved ones. Make sure they know you see them and you get them. Love on your loved ones. And then make sure they get the help that they need.

Unfortunately, getting help isn’t easy. Because the help they need is usually not covered by health insurance. And that is absolutely unacceptable. And that is just one way society has failed those battling with depression and anxiety. And that refusal helps fuel the stigma.

The stigma that if you battle depression you are weak. If you suffer from anxiety you are not strong.

But the tide of public opinion continues to shift. We can help break down the stigma and shame — by sharing our stories.

This weekend, countless celebrities took to social media speaking out and recounting their own struggles, hoping to show others that they are not alone. There is strength in numbers. Help bring hope and recognition. Share your stories. Share your struggles. This blog is my attempt to help as well, small though my platform might be.

So to all you out there fighting the good fight and battling the dark beasts — keep fighting. Stay strong and stay brave.

My sister shared some wise words about bravery with me this weekend.Being brave is not what people think it is. People who are fearless are not brave. Its easy to battle something if there’s no fear involved. The truly brave individuals are those who are full of doubt and fear, but who battle through it anyway. That is the definition of bravery.

You are brave.

You are strong.

You are important.

If you need someone to talk to — you don’t have to be suicidal to call — reach out. Call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 .

 

 

The American Opioid Crisis: Why Parents of Even Young Children Should Stay Vigilant

My family and I (three toddlers, a preteen in braces, two adult daughters, two husbands and a too small budget) just got back from the beach for a quick weekend get-a-way.

While there, I stressed about all the normal things a mama worries about when taking her kiddos to the beach: sharks, jellyfish, sunburn, drowning, strangers, lightning strikes… and not necessarily in that order. All are typical mama bear worries. But I stayed close and vigilant, and I felt secure in the knowledge that I was taking all the proper precautions.

What I did not worry about was an opioid overdose.  I mean, why should I? My boys are three – hardly in the demographic danger zone. And my adult daughters do not use and never have.

Turns out, I should worry. An opioid overdose could pose a very real threat to all of us, despite none of us being addicts. I’m not talking drug abuse anyway. I’m talking overdose.

But just what does that differentiation matter, if none in my family is a user anyway?

Apparently, a lot. Because this morning I saw a story on the news about a 10-year old boy in Miami who died of a Fentanyl overdose on June 23rd. Yes, 10, and yes, Fentanyl.

And while there have been other stories seemingly like this one — of young children, toddlers and elementary aged — who have died of overdoses after accidentally ingesting controlled substances, those stories are usually followed up with accusations of parental drug abuse. And arrests. And pictures in case files of crack pipes and needles and mysterious powders on the premises.

This was not that kind of story.

This boy’s mother has not and will not be charged. His parents are completely innocent of all wrong doing. Their child  did nothing wrong. Did nothing risky. He had simply gone swimming and played in a neighborhood park.

Authorities believe he inadvertently came in contact with the highly-lethal Fentanyl either while visiting a neighborhood pool or afterwards on his walk home. It would’ve only taken a milligram or two sitting on a towel or park swing, which he then either absorbed or inhaled or ingested after unknowingly touching the synthetic substance.

This is horrifying on every level. Everyone knows toddlers and children everywhere touch anything and everything. And then their curious fingers wind up in their mouths way more often than any mother is comfortable admitting. But up until now, the fear has been strep or staph or the common cold on those doorknobs and monkey bars and tabletops. Not highly lethal doses of drugs. I can’t imagine that was ever a consideration. Up until now.

I watch the news. I’ve seen the stories. Our country is in a major opioid crisis. Deaths from overdose have risen 110% in some parts of our nation. Fentanyl is one of the reasons.

Now, I know first responders have to be cautious. I know they use gloves and carry Narcan. I know they are trained to spot the symptoms of overdose — in others and themselves, as they are at risk of coming into contact with the drug and its users every single day. Of course, they have to be super cautious.

But I never thought I had to. As long as I am careful about who comes into my house and whose house I let the boys into, I assumed we were all in the clear. Clearly, I’ve been wrong.

So what do I do now? How do I protect my children, all of us, from such a dangerous and almost invisible substance? Protect them from a drug that can kill in doses as incredibly small as grains of sand? From a drug that has no smell or taste? From a drug 100 times more potent than heroin? From a drug that can cause an overdose in mere minutes?

The stories and statistics send me into hyperventilation and hypervigilance. I already wipe down buggies at grocery stores and tables at restaurants. Now, I will be on the lookout for strange powders, I will carry wipes with me everywhere I go, and I will swab any and every available surface — whether it looks clear or not. Lysol stock will soar from my diligence.

And sadly, playgrounds and public toilets will receive my most earnest attentions. Addicts use these places. I’ve seen movies. And, if that weren’t enough, I’ve seen evidence that points to this reality.

While travelling this weekend, my husband and son were forced to use an Atlanta gas station restroom. Not necessarily our first choice, but when a newly potty-trained toddler tells you he has to go – you’d best proceed to the nearest available option. (We used the lawn of a small country church on the way home – much cleaner, and we knew God would understand.) But back to that city gas station — Security knocked on the door when Mike and Parker were in there for longer than the allotted two minutes posted on the door, revealing to me how very naïve I truly am, and how very dark our world truly is.

Because as a mother, if I see a father and his young son go into a restroom and take a little longer than what would be deemed normal, I think “mom-of-toddler” thoughts. I automatically assume that the poor dad is in there juggling britches and Mickey Mouse underpants and that toy dump truck the kid had with him, while helicoptering his tyke over the toilet seat away from the dangers of e coli bacteria. I do not think “security-guard-in-urban-setting” thoughts. I do not automatically assume that the grown-ass man in the toilet with the toddler is either: 1) up to no good with a sweet, little innocent, or 2)  he’s up to no good with a sweet little innocent in tow. Either way is horrific and apparently, a very real occurrence.

I guess there are a hell of a lot more things on this earth than are dreamt of in my rose-colored philosophy. So while I was vigilantly keeping an eye out for sharks, jellyfish, sunburn, drowning, strangers, and lightning strikes, I didn’t realize that there are potential dangers lurking out there far deadlier than sharks and far more random and lethal than lightning strikes.

But I will be taking proper precautions for those now, too.

And I will pray. A lot.

Four Toddler Tragedies Over Memorial Day Weekend; A Cold Start to Summer

I was sitting drowsily on the couch this Memorial Day weekend watching our boys play. The four of us had just awakened from a blissfully long nap. Each boy was playing quietly – a rarity in our house – in his own separate corner. One with his alphabet puzzle; one with his police cars. Occasionally I caught the blur of cardinals and wrens from the corner of my eye as they swept in for seeds from the feeder off the deck. School was officially over, Mike’s and my summer was two days old, and we were slipping into it like a pair of favorite flip flops: light, easy, unencumbered. All was sweet with the world.

Then I saw the news. The first of four horrific stories I would hear over the weekend. All involving toddlers our boys’ age. I saw the first on a small, local news source: a three-year-old drowned in a pool at a local neighborhood. My heart wobbled. My eyes welled. My thoughts went out to that poor family. That precious little girl and the fear she’d faced all by herself, her loved ones not knowing until it was too late. My heart cracked along with my voice as I asked the universe, WHY?

The next news came two days later. This one, even more horrific (how can that be possible, you ask?) because a felony murder charge and four counts of cruelty to children followed in its wake. Yet another three-year-old, this time a boy, had drowned in a pool. And this time, the sweet baby not only fought his way through to the other side alone and frightened, but had pretty much been fighting his way through to the other side, alone and afraid, his entire life. The only ones ever there to comfort him most days were his three other siblings: a four-year old and a set of one-year-old twins. On Monday, they’d been left alone in their home for over fourteen hours, needing food, diaper changes, and comforting. But most of all, needing love. A parent who cared. My heart cracked wide open. This time I begged the universe for an answer to WHY?

Later that night, my eldest daughter texted Mike and me with a simple request: “Don’t let the boys around lawnmowers.” We were putting the boys to bed and I didn’t have time to respond. But I knew it wasn’t going to be good. She was on 24-hour call.  As a surgeon on trauma, most of what she sees isn’t good. Especially on holidays. I was afraid to learn the story behind her plea. I snuggled Tate a bit harder, as we finished his lullaby. Then I slipped him in amongst his blankets and kissed him goodnight. Mike had Parker in the other room, and I knew he was doing the same.

It wasn’t until later that I learned the full story. (Trauma call doesn’t give surgeons a lot of time to make phone calls.) But when I heard, my hand flew to my mouth. I fought back the urge to scream. Yet another three-year old. This one made it, thankfully. But he lost a leg. To a massive, zero-turn lawn mower. It chewed and hacked at him until there was nothing anyone could do to save it. But they could save him. And they did. This time, the boy’s father had been there. He’d borne witness to the carnage.

And then the final news. Again, from Monday. Again, on Memorial Day. Because the cold, callous universe took full advantage of the beginnings of summer and all the seemingly joyous things that should come with it – family reunions, pool parties, greening lawns – to delve roughshod into innocence and destroy it. Again, on Monday, a father, arriving home after a quick trip into town for BBQ supplies… he backed into his driveway and unknowingly pinned his toddler son between his truck and the house.

This is a story that keeps repeating itself. I’ve heard it so many time. Two times in the last year, it has reached the national news. Children of former NFL stars, both three-years old, were accidentally run over in the past year. One by a parent. One by a family friend. And now this toddler (who thankfully lived). All three cases have been accidents.

As all these over Memorial Day weekend have been accidents, even the one with the murder charge. No one intentionally set out for any of this to happen. And I can’t imagine the guilt that they all feel (yes, again, even that mother). They know they were negligent — one criminally so –but they were all negligent and they know it.

And please believe me, I’m not casting stones here. Not at all. Because we’ve all been there (though most of us haven’t been in the place that the second mother was. I don’t EVEN understand how anyone can ever be in that place). But as for the others, we’ve all been there. I for sure have – a fact that rips through my heart and wedges deep in my conscience.

I’ve been the parent who hasn’t gotten off her cramped, sweaty knees and stripped off my gardening gloves to go see where my three-year-old twins have wandered off to. Just three more minutes. Three. That’s all I need to plant two more marigolds. What can go wrong in three minutes?

I’ve been the parent who hasn’t put proper latches on the basement door because the boys know – they’ve been told time-and-time again – not to open that door unless Mommy and Daddy are right there. They know those stairs – those sixteen, crazy-steep stairs — are dangerous. But they’re good boys. They listen to their parents.

I’ve been the parent who gets preoccupied with my phone while the boys are playing in the yard and their daddy is due home. Even when I know – and they know – he’ll be backing down the driveway any minute. They’ve been taught to stay out of the way of moving cars. Never mind their fascination with all motorized vehicles. They know better.

But here’s the thing with toddlers (and, honestly, kids all the way up to age 25, when the rational part of their brain finally matures — but especially toddlers) — we can say they know better, but they really don’t know better. Because they don’t know. They really don’t.

To “know” means to have the facts and information and skill sets to understand a situation; to have an awareness gained by experience. And our babies don’t have that awareness, those skill sets, that experience. What could happen means absolutely nothing to toddlers.

They only know they want to swim in that pool – that same pool they played in with their mommy last night. They only know their daddy is out there on that great big lawnmower. They love that lawnmower. They sat on it once while it was parked under the deck and it was a memory they cherish. Just like they cherish daddy. Oh, how they love him. So of course, they want to run out to greet him as he comes home.

And from a toddler’s mindset, how could any of these things be dangerous? They’ve played with them all. They’re not like the outlet that jolted them when they put a fork in it, or the hot stove that blistered their thumb last week, or the bumblebee that stung their pudgy foot last Wednesday in the clover. There’s nothing to fear with these fun things. They really don’t know any better.

As parents, we’re the ones who have to know better; we have to do better; we have to be better. It’s a big responsibility, and one we can’t put on our toddlers. It requires diligence and vigilance.

And yes, accidents happen. All the time. I hear the stories constantly. And when I think of all the horrors that can sweep in and destroy families in a single breath, it stops me cold. I shudder in horror. And of course I ask WHY? Because there but for the grace of God is not just a saying. It’s the truth. All these young victims have been my boys’ ages. Almost all had parents just like me: loving, caring, trying to do their best. But our best can be better.

So, as we slip on into the summer season – and then later fall and winter, and then back into spring and summer again on this endlessly spinning planet — let’s be attentive to our babies. Let’s live in the moment. With them. Because that is where they reside. In the moment. And those moments fly by. And soon enough they’ll be grown. Or else they won’t.

So don’t waste or regret a single moment.

pool

Four Toddler Tragedies Over Memorial Day Weekend; A Cold Start to Summer

I was sitting drowsily on the couch this Memorial Day weekend watching our boys play. The four of us had just awakened from a blissfully long nap. Each boy was playing quietly – a rarity in our house – in his own separate corner. One with his alphabet puzzle; one with his police cars. Occasionally I caught the blur of cardinals and wrens from the corner of my eye as they swept in for seeds from the feeder off the deck. School was officially over, Mike’s and my summer was two days old, and we were slipping into it like a pair of favorite flip flops: light, easy, unencumbered. All was sweet with the world.

Then I saw the news. The first of four horrific stories I would hear over the weekend. All involving toddlers our boys’ age. I saw the first on a small, local news source: a three-year-old drowned in a pool at a local neighborhood. My heart wobbled. My eyes welled. My thoughts went out to that poor family. That precious little girl and the fear she’d faced all by herself, her loved ones not knowing until it was too late. My heart cracked along with my voice as I asked the universe, WHY?

The next news came two days later. This one, even more horrific (how can that be possible, you ask?) because a felony murder charge and four counts of cruelty to children followed in its wake. Yet another three-year-old, this time a boy, had drowned in a pool. And this time, the sweet baby not only fought his way through to the other side alone and frightened, but had pretty much been fighting his way through to the other side, alone and afraid, his entire life. The only ones ever there to comfort him most days were his three other siblings: a four-year old and a set of one-year-old twins. On Monday, they’d been left alone in their home for over fourteen hours, needing food, diaper changes, and comforting. But most of all, needing love. A parent who cared. My heart cracked wide open. This time I begged the universe for an answer to WHY?

Later that night, my eldest daughter texted Mike and me with a simple request: “Don’t let the boys around lawnmowers.” We were putting the boys to bed and I didn’t have time to respond. But I knew it wasn’t going to be good. She was on 24-hour call.  As a surgeon on trauma, most of what she sees isn’t good. Especially on holidays. I was afraid to learn the story behind her plea. I snuggled Tate a bit harder, as we finished his lullaby. Then I slipped him in amongst his blankets and kissed him goodnight. Mike had Parker in the other room, and I knew he was doing the same.

It wasn’t until later that I learned the full story. (Trauma call doesn’t give surgeons a lot of time to make phone calls.) But when I heard, my hand flew to my mouth. I fought back the urge to scream. Yet another three-year old. This one made it, thankfully. But he lost a leg. To a massive, zero-turn lawn mower. It chewed and hacked at him until there was nothing anyone could do to save it. But they could save him. And they did. This time, the boy’s father had been there. He’d borne witness to the carnage.

And then the final news. Again, from Monday. Again, on Memorial Day. Because the cold, callous universe took full advantage of the beginnings of summer and all the seemingly joyous things that should come with it – family reunions, pool parties, greening lawns – to delve roughshod into innocence and destroy it. Again, on Monday, a father, arriving home after a quick trip into town for BBQ supplies… he backed into his driveway and unknowingly pinned his toddler son between his truck and the house.

This is a story that keeps repeating itself. I’ve heard it so many time. Two times in the last year, it has reached the national news. Children of former NFL stars, both three-years old, were accidentally run over in the past year. One by a parent. One by a family friend. And now this toddler (who thankfully lived). All three cases have been accidents.

As all these over Memorial Day weekend have been accidents, even the one with the murder charge. No one intentionally set out for any of this to happen. And I can’t imagine the guilt that they all feel (yes, again, even that mother). They know they were negligent — one criminally so –but they were all negligent and they know it.

And please believe me, I’m not casting stones here. Not at all. Because we’ve all been there (though most of us haven’t been in the place that the second mother was. I don’t EVEN understand how anyone can ever be in that place). But as for the others, we’ve all been there. I for sure have – a fact that rips through my heart and wedges deep in my conscience.

I’ve been the parent who hasn’t gotten off her cramped, sweaty knees and stripped off my gardening gloves to go see where my three-year-old twins have wandered off to. Just three more minutes. Three. That’s all I need to plant two more marigolds. What can go wrong in three minutes?

I’ve been the parent who hasn’t put proper latches on the basement door because the boys know – they’ve been told time-and-time again – not to open that door unless Mommy and Daddy are right there. They know those stairs – those sixteen, crazy-steep stairs — are dangerous. But they’re good boys. They listen to their parents.

I’ve been the parent who gets preoccupied with my phone while the boys are playing in the yard and their daddy is due home. Even when I know – and they know – he’ll be backing down the driveway any minute. They’ve been taught to stay out of the way of moving cars. Never mind their fascination with all motorized vehicles. They know better.

But here’s the thing with toddlers (and, honestly, kids all the way up to age 25, when the rational part of their brain finally matures — but especially toddlers) — we can say they know better, but they really don’t know better. Because they don’t know. They really don’t.

To “know” means to have the facts and information and skill sets to understand a situation; to have an awareness gained by experience. And our babies don’t have that awareness, those skill sets, that experience. What could happen means absolutely nothing to toddlers.

They only know they want to swim in that pool – that same pool they played in with their mommy last night. They only know their daddy is out there on that great big lawnmower. They love that lawnmower. They sat on it once while it was parked under the deck and it was a memory they cherish. Just like they cherish daddy. Oh, how they love him. So of course, they want to run out to greet him as he comes home.

And from a toddler’s mindset, how could any of these things be dangerous? They’ve played with them all. They’re not like the outlet that jolted them when they put a fork in it, or the hot stove that blistered their thumb last week, or the bumblebee that stung their pudgy foot last Wednesday in the clover. There’s nothing to fear with these fun things. They really don’t know any better.

As parents, we’re the ones who have to know better; we have to do better; we have to be better. It’s a big responsibility, and one we can’t put on our toddlers. It requires diligence and vigilance.

And yes, accidents happen. All the time. I hear the stories constantly. And when I think of all the horrors that can sweep in and destroy families in a single breath, it stops me cold. I shudder in horror. And of course I ask WHY? Because there but for the grace of God is not just a saying. It’s the truth. All these young victims have been my boys’ ages. Almost all had parents just like me: loving, caring, trying to do their best. But our best can be better.

So, as we slip on into the summer season – and then later fall and winter, and then back into spring and summer again on this endlessly spinning planet — let’s be attentive to our babies. Let’s live in the moment. With them. Because that is where they reside. In the moment. And those moments fly by. And soon enough they’ll be grown. Or else they won’t.

So don’t waste or regret a single moment.

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A Tale of Two Mommies

Why does the world spawn so much violence? How is it that so many people house so much hatred in their hearts? I find it incomprehensible. It leaves me feeling overwhelmed and broken. Which is ridiculous when I consider the ones who literally are overwhelmed and broken.

I was planning on writing about all our Christmas plans for the upcoming week and the ensuing traditions that will unfold. But instead, watching the morning news and surfing my social media sites, I’m finding that such a blog post is entirely too saccharine, entirely too unpalatable amidst all the vitriol and violence technology has brought me this week.  The cyber bullying of a teenage boy; the terrorist attack in a Berlin Christmas market, the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, and, most heart-wrenching of all, the Aleppo refugees struggling to find safety and loved ones in a war-torn life.

I can’t even.

One of the first unfair, unjust developments of this holiday week hit me on Saturday morning when I became aware of the twitter tirade against our beloved Canes quarterback – a high school student and the top junior player in the nation. He’s just a kid, folks. And while he’s not, technically, still a babe in arms, he’s a baby with an arm and he should not have to brace himself against the nastiness spewing from computer screens and smart phones simply because he chose to go play football at a college that he believes will be the very best fit for his life and his future. Key word here: HIS.

Now I know he has the stature and statistics of a man. I know he’s the number one recruit for 2018. I know he’s been heavily touted and scouted since he came up from the eighth grade. I know he breaks records and slings laser beams. But in the end, he’s still just a kid. He loves sour patch kids and his baby sister. He can’t buy tobacco or drive after midnight. He should be dealing with group projects and impending Senioritis. NOT with cyber bullying on a global (or at least Southeastern Conference scale) just because he picked an ACC school.  He’s a KID, for goodness sake’s! Heck, he may even still believe in Santa Claus. And all of this hatred is being spewed over a GAME! A game designed to instill joy and an escape from reality on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons. My mother’s heart aches for him.

But if I’m being honest here, it aches the absolute most for his mama. Because when somebody attacks your baby – no matter how young or old – it tears a mama’s heart into brittle, jagged confetti. When my girls were growing up, I’d get all kinds of bent out of shape if anyone so much as looked at them sideways. I remember being ready to sucker punch a school bus bully when my baby girl was a kindergartner. I refrained. But I was ready. And just last year, an arrogant asshole of an attending said some hurtful things to my eldest, and I was ready to tear out his external carotid artery with my bare hands. But, again, I refrained. I don’t know how in the world I could refrain if there were basically thousands of ill-tempered SEC fans bad-mouthing my baby on social media for all the world to see. And it’s not limited to social media. Yesterday, while out and about town doing some Christmas shopping, my husband and I – proudly sporting our Canes championship shirts – had to listen to not one, but two negative nellies pontificate on our quarterback’s decision. I was thunderstruck. Really? Who are they to presume to know what’s best for him? All they had in their minds was what would benefit them and “their” team. (As if they truly had anything more than season tickets (maybe) and a college diploma (even more unlikely) and jersey purchases invested in those teams.) And that got me thinking — if WE had to listen to those zealous fans politic for their team, how many more have he and his poor family weathered over the last five days – and indeed the entire season? His mom’s grace is made of firmer stuff than mine, that’s for certain. I admire her poise and her polish. Her motherhood is paved on the high road, and I stand in awe.

So there’s that mama’s pain.For her, it’s been the best of times and the worst of times. But that mama’s pain pales in comparison to the anguish of the mama I saw on the nightly news this weekend. The mama who lost all her babies beneath the all-too-real onslaught of bombs and ensuing rubble in Aleppo. For her, it’s been the worst of the worst of the worst of times.

She was covered in dust, blood parting her swollen face like a Picasso portrait. She wandered aimlessly around a makeshift hospital crying in anguish. But still she finds the tenderness to comfort a toddler boy, hands and bare feet caked in chalk, forehead marked in blood. Both of them are marked in blood —  the blood of the scapegoat that their people have become. A people punished brutally for the sins of others who care nothing for them or their plight. This sweet toddler boy (a boy roughly the age of my own toddler boys) is devoid of tears, his pudgy face paralyzed. Almost. If you look closely, you’ll spy the tiniest, quivering lip. He bites it instantly. He’s learned early to hide the hurt. But the mother – the mother who is not his – she wails. Her tears trace through the dust and drip to the floor, a floor smattered and smeared with blood and grit. All of her babies, lost. All. And then, she’s joined by a young teenage boy (a boy roughly the age of our young quarterback), and he’s carrying his infant brother. A baby brother who did not survive. These three broken humans huddle together, searching for comfort that cannot possibly come. As the reporter proclaims, they are “exhausted beyond words by a life beyond description.”

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My mama’s heart agonizes for them. This Syrian mama, this mama whose pain is unreal to me. Cannot be fathomed by me. Pain that is the result of real weaponry, the result of deadly weaponry so far beyond the rantings and ravings of selfish cyber bullies that it seems ridiculous to discuss the two situations in the same blog. This young Syrian teen, this teen who, rather than throwing bombs into end zones, has been on the receiving end of bombs that have ended whole families. This precious toddler, who faces an existential lack and want and void that God-willing, our toddler boys will never, ever encounter. I cannot fathom the pain. My soul runs from the comprehension. It does not want to know. Does not want to understand. It would break me.

As a mother and an American, I feel guilty. Guilty for being so privileged by destiny that I live without such incomprehensible pain and loss. Guilty for uttering my previous, selfish, “God willing” statement. Guilty that I cannot do more than pledge a donation and remember these broken members of the human race in my prayers. Guilty that I am able to sit here, drafting this blog amidst my Christmas lights and wrapped presents, while making road trip preparations, drafting Christmas dinner grocery lists, and doing last-minute, on-line shopping. How can this world be simultaneously benign and oh-so-malignant?

A mother’s pain is a jagged, cutting pain. I have never felt pain like it before. And while I have felt a mother’s pain, I have never felt pain like either of these mothers’ currently feel – my football mama’s pain and our Aleppo mama’s pain. Both pains are torturous; but one is debilitating.

And I am helpless in the wake of their respective pains.

In this season where Christians celebrate a young virgin mother — a mother who also felt the pain of a world that turned against her son, a world that despised and destroyed him — I am saddened that we have not come very far and we have not learned very much. We are still doing terrible things to our sons. And to our daughters.To all fellow humans. We tear each other apart for our own selfish gains. And so often, we use God as the impetus. We destroy in the name of God the Father…  or the god of football. Which is the more ridiculous? I do not know.  I am disheartened.

But I am still hopeful. Because despite the fact that we are all inherently selfish, I know we are not all inherently cruel.

So I offer up words of kindness, words of prayer, and pledges of money and solidarity. It is all I know to do.

But I pray it will be enough. If enough of us do it.

 

Slimes and Smells and Streptococcus

Never leave a hot dog on the stovetop to ferment in its own juices for three days. Never. The scum that accumulates on the surface of the water is nothing compared with the slime that surrounds its circumference upon extracting it. Not kidding, here. I made the mistake of taking it out of the pot with my bare hand and the slime slipped over it like a mucous-y, amorphous blob. It just kept sliding and slipping until it nearly covered my  wrist. So much slime for such a small, seemingly innocuous hot dog. Mike almost threw up. It was like something out of Ghostbusters or Nickelodeon. But it was nothing — I say nothing — compared with the slime that has sluiced from the boys’ noses this week. I wish I’d thought of bottling it up and sending it to Universal Studios to lend some authenticity to the Kids’ Choice Awards this spring.

It all began on Monday — doesn’t it always? The boys had slept terribly, if you could even call it sleep. There’d been multiple coughing fits and periodic wailing virtually all night long. There’s this feeling I get deep in my mommy marrow when I hear my babies – any of them, whether it’s my girls in their twenties or the boys in their twos — cough that raw, rattily cough. It’s a maternal, visceral reflex – like someone has taken a potato peeler to my womb and is shaving off slender curls of it while I’m simultaneously plunging from a tremendous height. That’s what it feels like — except worse. Because I would rather have someone scrape my uterus with a peeler while simultaneously freefalling than to hear that cough coming from any one of my babies’ chests. Needless to say, Monday morning, even before my alarm went off at 5:30, I decided that I was taking the day off and taking them to the doctor. I figured it would be ear infections – our old, familiar foe.

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Now taking a day as a teacher – particularly a teacher in Bartow County – is no easy feat. The first order of business is finding a sub, and finding a sub in our district is akin to unearthing the Holy Grail in the kitchens of Hell. The task has not always been so daunting… Our county used to subscribe to a computerized system that allowed teacher to post their needs online and allow open and able substitute teachers to log in and select a job at will. That was long before systematic budget cuts and various and dubious central office expenditures. Now, we must call subs ourselves – from an alphabetical sub list that also includes interspersed but clearly-marked food nutrition subs in the mix… and let’s just say, woe to the unwitting teacher who accidently calls and wakes a food nutrition individual at 5:30 in the morning for a CLASSROOM position… Now procuring a sub wouldn’t nearly be as Sisyphean a task if the subs were allowed to work more than three days a week in our county. You see, if a sub works more than three days a week, our school system would then be required to provide benefits. (Heaven forbid! and Thanks, Obama.) So the subs naturally work for other systems when they can, and only take Bartow jobs when the pickin’ is slim. And apparently the pickin’s were bountiful this past Monday morning because I called close to forty phone numbers before I found a taker – almost an hour later. But at least I had a sub – and a work comrade, who just so happens to be my best friend and department chair, willing to leap tall buildings and run copies and keep an eye on my classes. So I had that going for me…

Now chalk it up to Monday morning and being sleep deprived, or to just plain old twinility (the disease I contracted immediately upon turning fifty with twin toddlers), but when Mike asked if he should call in late and give me some help getting the boys to the doc’s I said, “Honey, they’re two-and-a-half now. Surely they will walk themselves into the doctor’s office these days. It’s no big deal. We’ll be fine.”

I should’ve just said, “I can do this hard thing…”

Because hard it was. And do it, I did — extricating screaming twin toddlers, terrified of getting yet more shots from that pesky pediatrician, out of car seats and into the office building, all the while avoiding giant SUVs and juniper hedgerows. Each boy was saddled up on a love handle, and the diaper bag and my handbag were slung across my back. I looked like a pack mule from Nepal. Parker managed to stay in place as I trudged to the entrance, but Tate slid ever-so-slowly down my thigh until I barely had him off the ground, his arms straight above him, his legs kicking wildly as he shrieked like a child sacrifice. I’m sure the white-haired octogenarian who held the door for us thanked her lucky stars right then and there that she was past childbearing days as I bore my children past…

Once we were actually in the office, the clinginess ended (for a little while, anyway) once they spied the vast row of empty waiting room chairs lining the back wall. There must’ve been fifteen of the vinyl-clad things, just waiting for some lads like them. Like American Ninja Warrior wannabes, they promptly began inch-worming up and over one chair arm and under and through the next, giggling like the healthiest, happiest toddlers alive. Nary a cough could be heard. “Can’t you at least LOOK sick while you’re cavorting?” I pleaded.

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Now I’ve known our pediatrician since Caitlin was not even a year old. He treated both my girls until they were out of high school and well into college because they refused to see anyone else. He is a longtime friend and trusted advisor, and I prayed he would remember that I’m generally a smart and intuitive mother. That I’m not the mom who brings her utterly healthy and hyperactive tots to the doc for no good reason and who, therefore, in the most ultimate of ironies, exposes them to some serious seasonal scourge. Every mother’s maternal marrow is bound to be wrong every now and then, right? I just prayed he would remember that while examining my apparently healthy and histrionic twins.

We were only in the waiting room for a few minutes before we were called back. It’s amazing how quickly a toddler twosome can go from charged electrical currents to fixed static cling. They glued themselves to my calves tighter than the compression hose I’d worn while pregnant with them.

Dr. Payne smiled his hellos as he readied his stethoscope for the first squirming, screaming son in my arms. Between the two of us, we managed to pin him to the table so he could get a good listen and look. It was at that instant that not just one, but both boys decided to make the smelliest of deposits. The sound was raucous; the stench was hellacious. It was like I’d fed them both radioactive waste — radioactive waste simmered in cesspool broth. The whole room reeked of it. I swear, I could see the stench shimmering off their shorts. Dr. Payne just laughed it off and pressed on. I did notice he didn’t do any genitalia checks, this time around…

My fears and misgivings proved warranted. My maternal marrow rang true, once again. The boys’ strep tests (which I think they now hate more than the dreaded vaccination needle) came back positive. My diagnosis had been wrong, but my instincts were on point. Their diapers (which I was able to change between the actual swabbing for strep and the final results), came back to haunt me a few days later when I unearthed them from the diaper bag where they’d been festering and fermenting, forgotten, in the back of my van.

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As I pen this post, my hair is greasy, my shirt is caked in snot smears and curry stains, and I’m in dire need of a shower. It’s been a long and exhausting week of sleepless nights, antibiotic-filled syringes, nebulizer treatments and forgotten hot dogs. But I learned two things about myself this week. Ok, maybe three. One: trust my instincts, no matter how hard my children try to prove me crazy. (I should never have doubted myself… I’ve already raised two girls who are quite skilled in coercion and diversionary tactics, after all.) And Two (and Three): hot dogs and dirty diapers do not resurrect well after three days and three nights of sitting in their own juices.

 

 

For my Four Babies. And my Thousands More…

Motherhood is a fearsome and wondrous thing. It is a paradox of ginormous proportions, full of sacrifice and salvation, hazards and hallelujahs. It requires strictness and softness, discipline and wild abandon. It is both bright and beautiful, and dark and draining. It is savagely, insanely strong, and it is fragile and insanely frightening.

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Right now in my life, I am two kinds of mother. I am the up close and personal and the long-distance devotional. Up close and personal motherhood demands wide arms and an even wider lap. There must be snuggles, and tickle monsters, and story time chairs, the occasional cupcake for breakfast, lots of crusty snot kisses and all manner of privacy lost. Long-distance devotional motherhood brings late night phone calls, biweekly FaceTimes, and random text marathons. There are Easter, birthday and Christmas goodies to be mailed, numerous road trips to be made and blessed reunions to be had. Both types of motherhood come with daily prayers, loads of laughter and plenty of tears. But the recipe for each is unconditional love for all of eternity.

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This week, after reading several heartbreaking and anger-rousing personal narratives by my students, I have been reminded – once again for perhaps the two hundredth time or more as a teacher – that my definition of motherhood is not everyone’s definition of motherhood. And this crushes my mother’s heart to its very core.

In my sixteen years as a secondary teacher, I’ve seen battered teens, homeless teens, molested teens and drug-addicted teens. I’ve seen young adults haunted by all manner of familial demons. They’ve ridden the storms of failed marriages, felt the trauma of ripped families. They’ve suffered the stigma and shame of home evictions. They’ve borne the weight of sibling deaths and parental suicide. Some are bitter; others blame themselves. Some are searching for love in proverbial dead ends. Others are hardened to love and are angry. If they are lucky, the anger is redirected into extra-curriculars that are sanctioned by society and school. But that’s not always the case. So many young men and women have taken up the cross of rejection and dejection, denial and guilt at a very young, very impressionable age.

As a mother, I am not blameless. Not by a long shot. I flung my own two beautiful daughters into the howling, painful abyss of a failed marriage. They know all too well the agony of a home ripped to ruin and the struggle to balance a broken family. I take my job as mother quite seriously, I always have, and yet I have done irreparable harm. Even the most careful and conscientious among us does. Add into the mix all of the hardened, the jaded, the marred, the scarred, the vicious and the cruel mothers out there, and I’m amazed the world still has any goodness and grace left in it. I honestly am.

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Motherhood is tough. I know it. I own it. At times it feels impossible. So much is out of my control. Then on top of motherhood, add the calling of teacher — with so many more lives entrusted to my care, along with so many more restrictions, so many more unknowns and so many uncontrollable origins and angles and — suddenly — I’m overwhelmed, I’m terrified, and I’m inept.

This week, two former students — now mothers themselves– suffered mightily at the hands of a callous universe. One was a vibrant young mother taken way too soon, leaving behind a precious, precocious toddler. I taught this young mother. I knew her. Her life was hard. Her path was littered with difficulties, with uncertainty, with confusion. She was torn asunder in the push and pull of it all. She left Woodland’s halls and my classroom walls several years back, and I immediately lost touch. Did I do enough? Could I have helped? I’m haunted by my inadequacies. She was bright. She was talented. She had such potential. I feel that I failed her.

The second is a beautiful, strong, spiritual mother who has had to face more in her young life than any mama sixty years her senior should ever have to face. In just over a year and a half, she has lost two of her three children to an incurable and mysterious illness. Twice she has held tiny hands and kissed tiny noses while praying mammoth prayers amidst tubes and wires and ports and invasive medical procedures. And twice the prayers and the tests have accomplished naught. This week she said goodbye to her beautiful baby girl. Her wide arms and wide lap have suffered two unspeakable losses. I can’t fathom her pain. I can scarcely breathe when I even imagine her loss, her agonizing, mother’s grief. Yet her faith has never waivered. Her strength and her confidence in God and His Will is always intact. Again, I am haunted by my own inadequacies. I am a mother, and I am a teacher, but I am nowhere near the mother and teacher that this young woman is. I never had the privilege of teaching her, but she has taught me so very much about the grace and love and strength of a good mother. I am in awe of her.

Motherhood is a fierce and fragile and frightening thing. I pray every day that I am doing my absolute all to nurture and mold these four precious gifts I have been given. It is a tall order. Two are out of my nest and far from my loving arms. I can’t wrap them up in hugs and kisses anymore. Not physical ones — at least not very often. But they make me proud on a daily basis. And I worry over them on a daily basis. And while my arms and lap aren’t THAT wide, my love IS – it is deep and wide enough to travel the distance so that my girls feel it when they need it. It is always with them. I hope they never forget that.

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And then there are these boys. Whew! I’m new to boys. They challenge my patience and my perseverance every day. They keep me hopping, that’s for certain. But my arms and lap are here for the here and now, always ready for a snuggle, and a story, and to wipe away snot.

And then, there are my students. For I find teaching to be a responsibility closely akin to motherhood. So I suppose I am THREE kinds of mothers right now in my life. And my students challenge me daily, as well.  Can I ever be enough? Do enough? Care enough? to truly be a help in this, their hour of need?

To be given the opportunity to mother my babies, both born to me and gifted to me in the classroom, is a responsibility I take very seriously. I try every day to be worthy. Some days I fail. I would like to believe that on many days, I win. I pray that I have enough. Enough love to show them that they are beautiful and perfect and worth only the very best. Enough strength to offer stability in their tilting, whirling worlds in Dallas, in Knoxville, in Euharlee, and in Woodland High. Enough joy to help them find sunshine beyond their personal raging storms. Enough wisdom to teach life and not just lessons, so they might learn independence and discipline, autonomy and connectivity, outspokenness and humility. Lord, help me to have enough, to be enough, to love enough.

For all of my babies. For them all.

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