Today, I am doing a reiterative post on day 16 from mayBE 2019.
The theme was on handwork. When you read that post, you can learn about how my life as a mom was once about mending, stitching, and making – in every sense of those verbs.
I had found this quote:
“When you can step back at moments like these and see what is happening, when you watch people you love under fire or evaporating, you realize that the secret of life is patch patch patch. Thread your needle, make a knot, find one place on the other piece of torn cloth where you can make one stitch that will hold. And do it again. And again. And again.”― Anne Lamott, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair
I used my hands a lot to make things for my children, to teach them how to use their own hands to make. They are all makers, artists, designers. They love to use their hands even as they have gotten older.
This is our role as mothers. We begin by doing and they watch us do it. Then they want to try and we guide their little fingers with blunt needles until they develop the coordination. Slowly, we give them more challenging tasks and their hands keep learning. We know when to step in with our own hands and when to give suggestions. When they couldn’t write their names, we would do it and slowly, one letter at a time would be added (or sometimes a child was satisfied that their name was one letter and never really uses the whole name). One day, they confidently wielded that crayon, declaring who they were.
I know they still watch how I do things – how I choose where to put my focus, how I commit and execute my projects, and of course, how I mend things.
But because they can do their own stitching now, I don’t mend things for them anymore. My role has changed. When faced with something needing repair, I can only remind them how to mend, how to fix a dropped stitch, how to know when to put more effort into untangling that knot and when to just cut it off.
Today, for the first time, I do not have children waking up with me on mother’s day. Not one. When they were little, my husband would ask what I wanted for mother’s day, and I would often say, “Not to see the kids.” I was always half-joking. As a mother of five, the morning would begin with constant decisions to be made and for one day of the year, I wanted him to take the lead first thing in the morning instead of all the children running to me. So he would always take the baby from me – there would always be a baby to nurse – and take the kids out of the house to give me a morning of quiet.
I have had a weekend completely by myself in my house for the first time. And for the first time, my five children are all in different places. One is in San José (Costa Rica), one is in Guatemala, one is in Calgary with her dad (about to board a plane back to Toronto), and two are in Toronto living in different places.
I am reading this book today, a new favourite:
On the first page, Kalman writes:
What do women hold?– Women Holding Things, Maira Kalman
The home and the family.
And the children and the food.
And the work of being human.
And the troubles
and the sorrows
and the triumphs.
And the love.
Men do as well, but not
quite in the same way.
And it is this time in motherhood where I hold more.
I hold the down the fort. I hold space. I hold the family’s unravelling balls of yarn. I hold children so they can mend themselves. I hold back my opinion. I hold my own – my own life, my own desires, my own destiny. I hold on when I have to. I hold hands when there are no more words for the longing of the past. I hold gazes in screens because I need to see more than what they are saying. I hold up the vision of brighter days when they forget that winter can feel like it lasts forever (and sometimes I also buy the plane ticket). I hold on to their wildest dreams when the world discourages them. I hold them accountable for their mistakes, hold them when they cry, and then hold them as they make amends.
Make a list of everything that you hold – from your favourite coffee mug to holding it all together. You can draw them too.
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