Thursday, May 16, 2013

Listen to your Mother

I participated in Kansas City's inaugural Listen to your Mother Show last weekend, in spite of the first impression I made on these gals.

The evening went beyond well; all 14 women - some of whom had not spoken publicly, or at least publicly about their topics of choice that night - commanded that podium with grace and class. (Even I held it together and did not say anything inappropriate) (Dr. Phil calls that "growth")

For those of you who were there, here is a snapshot of the night, courtesy of Karen Ledford Photography. Michelle Burdick had just read an emotional and gut-wrenching piece. Her last words to me before she read it were "Make me laugh."

That's what I do.

So after she sat down I made sure to point out that she did a fantastic job reading and - more importantly - her a$$ looked fabulous from my vantage point. Truly it did.

Here is that moment:

"You did a fantastic job! And your a$$ looks fabulous!"

And for those of you who weren't there that night, here is the piece I read. I adapted it from a Lawrence Journal-World column I wrote a couple of years ago. Cheers!

It was a hot summer evening in 2003. Why I decided to take our four kids to the pool by myself I have no idea, but it was time to head home.

Ellie was nearly 6 and did not want to leave. Amelia, age 4, did not want to follow my stroller overflowing with baby Caroline and all of their gear while two-year-old Luke wriggled around like a new puppy in my arms.

As I paraded my circus to the exit, I noticed a couple relaxing in lounge chairs, feet up, drinks in hand, reading their magazines while their two school-aged children frolicked safely and happily in the water.

Feeling like the old woman in the shoe, I looked at Jodee and her husband, Kevin, with uncontrollable envy, forced a smile upon my haggard face and said, “You make the pool look like so much fun.”

Jodee looked up from her Glamour and smiled. “Yes, it finally is fun,” she confirmed. “You’ll get there, too, though. I promise.”

After hearing hundreds upon hundreds of elderly women tell me to “enjoy this time because it would not last forever” as I wrangled and wrestled my blossoming crew with little grace and much exhaustion…

Out of the grocery store, wailing for candy; out of the mall, traumatized from trying on shoes; out of every bathroom in the Detroit airport, terrified of the Motor City’s automatic toilets…

After being told to “enjoy this time” by so many well-intentioned but clearly amnesic old ladies, it was refreshing to hear a mom acknowledge that some of “those times” were not, in fact, enjoyable at all; that there actually is storm before some calm; and… best of all… that the storm would eventually pass.

I filed this promise away in my brain for many years while tossing the last pacifier, potty-training the last toddler and wiping the last bottom.

I never thought about it while tying the last shoe, filling the last sippy cup and buckling the last five-point harness

And it never crossed my mind when I pulled off the last set of training wheels, cut the last hotdog into choke-proof bites or marched my last baby off to kindergarten.

Every moment of every day was spent turning these precious little beings with few useful skills into moderately independent and functional humans, kissing and hugging their sweet and often messy little faces along the way. Consumed with the never-ending task at hand, I really did not have time to think about Jodee’s promise again.


one hot summer evening in 2009, while my husband and I were relaxing by the pool on a family vacation, skimming through magazines and sipping ice-cold beverages while our kids frolicked safely and happily in the water, when I noticed a woman loading her children into strollers and arms and hands, and I suddenly remembered Jodee and Kevin kicking back six years earlier.

The moment Jodee had promised would come 2,190 days before had finally arrived.

Tears welled as I grasped this milestone we had unconsciously reached. Our family now complete, my work in the trenches of baby and toddlerhood was permanently over; diapers, naptime, The Wiggles, all were behind me now.

And though the turmoil of the teen years with a whole new load of worries loomed ahead and though the job of parenting would never ever end, I refused to think about that. For, as hundreds upon hundreds of elderly women had told me over and over again, I need to enjoy this time. Because it will not last forever.


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