Thursday, April 1, 2010

Motherhood: An Atonement

You can find me today posting an oldie but goodie at my neighbor Christine's blog, Coffees and Commutes. Thank you for having me, Christine! (Look for her post featured here next Friday!)

Today also marks the first in a new wave of Won't You Be My Neighbor guest posts at Never-True Tales, and I couldn't have started it off with a more articulate and timely offering if I'd tried. Please join me in welcoming Terresa Welborn of The Chocolate Chip Waffle. I only discovered Terresa's blog recently, but from first sight, I knew I'd found a kindred spirit of the blogging kind. The Chocolate Chip Waffle is nothing less than a harbor in the storm of the daily grind, filled with beauty and truth and words that buoy and shelter and restore. Thank you, Terresa, for sharing part of yourself here today.


Today I watched my two-and-a-half year old dig into his pb&j. Like a competitive eater, he was all business and appetite. Could it be that one year ago he nursed for the last time?

Once upon a time I nursed my four children, including twins. Together we rode the loop of time through moonscapes, breaking dawn, afternoon fog. A shared circle of mother-baby-hood.

An at-one-ment.

As close as it felt then, today it feels as remote as the aurora borealis. And I miss it very much.

The ingredients of mother's milk and mothering in general can't be replicated by formula or father or nanny. Not really. Motherhood is singular, holy.

Even as my children grow older, the mama-child circle continues: blow drying my girl's hair until it shines like warm honey, counting my oldest son's ever growing freckle collection, and debating the possibilities of an apricot fruit leather dinner with my toddler.

Mothering is an atonement.

We sacrifice ourselves, our bodies, the better part of our lives for our children. We hang on a mother's cross, side by side, apron strings stretching across continents, cultures, time.

Nails come in the form of a thousand choices. Nursing blanketless or supplementing, home schooling or public schooling, marathon running or couch potato ennui, homemade wheat bread or Orowheat multi-grain. {Which, by the way, tastes fine purchased day old and hasn't malnourished my children yet.}

Life is hard enough, but mothering? Apart from feeling near impossible most days, it's our cross to bear.

We are unsung heroines, older in our angst, our bones, our shortcomings than any Bible story, Old Testament or New. We are disciples of turning the other cheek, hallowed living, sacrifice. We must be. That is what defines us from father, aunt, grandmother, cousin.

Mothering is where all those years at summer camp pay off, as we pull together the infinite threads of who we are and who we hope to be, and braid them in with our children.

We become one braided cord together. Stronger. At least that's the idea.

Some days I stand, barely holding, the eye of the storm, and hope this heavy mothering thing will pass. But it won't flush down the toilet, can't be mailed to Uruguay, and survives time outs. I've tried.

I want to pass the bitter cup, but where? To TV? Daycare? Grandma? Public schools? I'm a user of these things and a periodic pusher, too, but they're like Botox on the wrinkles of motherhood. Short fixes for a much longer haul.

You see, I'm tired. Not anemic, just worn thin like a JC Penneys polyester pant suit.

But I want to be strong.



After eight years of mothering, many days I want off the cross. I want to go to a movie or take a jet to some remote, clean, childless place. But then I remember, slippered and casseroled, that my life is found in the giving of it, the losing of it. And that there's eternity left to get the hang of it.

I might just be a grandma by the time I figure this motherhood thing out. That's OK. Maybe then I'll write a book.

God, give us a long winter
and quiet music, and patient mouths,
and a little pride - before
our age ends.
Give us astonishment
and a flame, high, bright.

- Adam Zagajewski

Motherhood unfolds astonishment with each child, each sunrise. I want to be hungry for that again. To give myself to my children and know it is my ultimate offering. And to blaze in the refiners fire, the flame high and bright that helps us hold onto grace and not ghost away our days or scramble mad dash for a “Get out of jail free” card.

This thing called motherhood nudges us to learn and mellow. Where else would I find that each moon phase is really called, “My goodnight moon” as my two-year old son, Zack, points up to the sky?

And without motherhood, how else would the world have softening edges and green shoots and grow?

As many times as I curse using the safest four-letter-words I know, and walk zombiefied through my children's hearts and home, life has a way of pushing back. Creating a pause. And then I find another portion of myself to give again.

An atonement.

© 2010 by Terresa Wellborn. All rights reserved.

Please leave comments for Terresa below, and then I urge you to go savor all she has in store for you on her own blog. If you have a neighbor visiting you this week, be sure to snag the banner at the top of this post and link up!

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