Full Circle

motherhoodIt doesn’t feel like it was all that long ago (It was) that I sat across the counter from my mother, her elbows propped up on the blue Formica of her kitchen while I laid bare the troubles and worries of my pubescent heart. I can’t remember any one specific conversation, (I’m sure they were all riveting and incredibly important) but I do remember that she was there whenever I needed someone to listen, willing to give me her eyes and her focus and most of all, her time.

I never thought about what that time meant to her. I didn’t think about what she might be sacrificing, what dreams or pursuits she might not be pursuing. I didn’t think about the sleep she wasn’t getting or the books she wasn’t reading or the conversations she wasn’t having.

Of course I didn’t think of those things. My head was too full of teenage boyfriends and friendships and swim meets and SAT scores and all the general injustices that accompany adolescence. My head was too full of my own future to spare anyone else a thought.

But now my future has landed me here. In my own mother’s shoes with a house full of children, the oldest starting high school in just a few months, the next two on the brink of those critical teenage years. Suddenly, I am on the other side of the counter at 11:47 PM when my eyes are screaming for sleep and my husband is drifting off and I haven’t had a conversation with him since 1963 and if I could just say hello . . . But there are still bills to pay and emails to answer and laundry to fold and there’s my daughter on the stairs, still awake because she just needs to talk. (SHE. JUST. NEEDS. TO. TALK. At Midnight. When everyone else is sleeping. And there is an early appointment that means everyone even the three year old needs to be out of bed in six hours. Wearing something besides pajamas.)

So we talk. For however long it takes (FOREVER) and with whatever words are necessary. (Have you tried…? Have you thought about…? Those feelings are real… I understand… I hear you… I hear you… I hear you…)

I channel my mother in those moments. My mother, and God, because heaven knows I don’t have enough patience to handle them on my own. The brutal honest truth is that sometimes I have dig deep – DEEEEEEP – inside myself to find those “Let’s talk about it” words. Because I don’t want to talk about anything. Really I just want to take a shower by myself without anybody knocking on the door and telling me they need their blue jeans dry before the morning and also did I write them that check they asked for because the field trip is tomorrow and they will not be allowed on the bus if they don’t have the check IN THEIR HAND and can I just bring the checkbook to you right now and you can write it for me real quick? Here’s a pen. And a towel so you can dry your hand.

How didn’t I see? How didn’t I realize how tired my mother was?

I didn’t sit down to write a tribute to my mother, though she most certainly deserves one. I didn’t even really sit down to complain, though I’ve managed to do a fair bit of that. I suppose I’m just reflecting on the funny way life brings us full circle, turning us around so we see things from one side, and then the other.

Because, now I see both sides. I know how much my mother’s listening meant to me because I lived it. And I’ve got that knowledge to go on when it absolutely isn’t humanly possible for me to listen/help/comfort one more time. Maybe ever again if I don’t just get some sleep. When I am JUST DONE, I recognize that surely my mother had those moments too. And she survived.

There’s a phrase my mother used to say that never held a shred of meaning for me in the moment.

“If there’s a war in the middle east,” she would say, “you children would find a way to make it my fault.” When that sentiment is echoing around in my brain, (because yes, Mom, my kids do the same thing to me) I wish I could pull my children clean through to my side, fast forward them into adulthood so they could SEE the injustice of being blamed for so many things. (My shoe is lost. My homework is ruined. I don’t like this dinner. My uniform is dirty.) Somehow though, I don’t think the lesson would be quite the same if the learning happened that way– All look, and no live. I don’t really think it would stick.

Instead, we’re left to push through our own experiences, collecting wisdom like tiny grains of sand, hoping one day they might add up to something big enough to hold in our hands. I realize now I shouldn’t be all that surprised if, in a few more years, I recognize that whatever wisdom I’m holding in my hands looks an awful lot like what my mother is holding in hers.

8 thoughts on “Full Circle

  1. Carol Bennett says:

    As always, beautifully said. The part you need to consider is that you will barely blink and you will be on another side of that circle where the nest is empty and you wonder if you sat up and listened ENOUGH when they needed you, if you dropped everything and shot hoops with him even though you had just showered and would get all sweaty, if you had given enough (and the right) guidance, and on and on. It goes so fast…enjoy that ride. There will soon come a day when you can sleep late, shower alone, and fix whatever dinner you want, but you would give it all up just to have them all back little again with their sweet voices to fill the emptiness of your clean house.

    • pahbradley says:

      How true that is Carol…I long for more time, longer talks, and almost feel selfish when I am with them and want every moment I can pull from them and the grandchildren.

  2. MOM says:

    Gosh, being responsible for everything, mean I am responsible for this? Thank you, Jenny. I know that you know that the blessings are so great that it almost makes me cry to count them. When I think of opportunities that chose to ignore, I know that not one thing I could have done would have ever brought me the JOY that my family brought to me…and that JOY lasts forever. Knowing you know that is bliss.

  3. pahbradley says:

    Jenny, You said so perfectly what moms feel and I know in doing so gave tribute to your mom. You are a great mom and all of us feel the same things but with the gospel we will be able to bring joy and Christlike love to our children as we learn with them. Even after all these yrs I am still learning to be a better mom. It never ends. You work magic with words and fill our hearts in doing so.

  4. Caryn Caldwell says:

    This is such a beautiful tribute to motherhood, whether you meant it that way or not. And I think you sound like a WONDERFUL mother. You may be tired and stressed and frustrated, but still you sit there and talk to you daughter and help her feel listened to and loved. And that is worth everything. Someday she will realize that. And someday, because of your example, she will likely do the same thing with her own children. And they with theirs. And on and on. All because you followed your mother’s example and listened even when you didn’t feel like it. You are amazing.

  5. Lauren Wilde says:

    Thank you for this. I noticed it posted on the day my second son was born. It’s been an adjustment being a mother of two. It’s been an adjustment being a mother at all. It’s stretched me in ways I didn’t even know I needed to be stretched, and it’s become glaringly obvious recently that God gave us families to help us become what HE wants us to be. And I guess he wants us to be like him—a perfect parent. It’s a life-long quest.

    When I read your second to last paragraph I laughed because I know I did that to my mother, and my three year old does it to me. And I had the thought sometimes we still do that with my Heavenly Father—blame him for stuff that isn’t his fault and that he’ll take care of perfectly anyway.

    You’ve given me a lot to ponder.

    I just finished reading ‘Love at First Note.’ I thought it was adorable. It made me want to bust out all my piano music (it’s in storage while we’re moving around for school.) And I wish Elliot Hart were real because I really want to hear those two songs he wrote for Emma. You make them sound amazing.

    Thanks again.

    • jennyproctor says:

      Lauren, thank you for your comment! First, I’m so glad you enjoyed Love at First Note. It was so fun to write! And I’m glad you were able to relate to Full Circle. I agree wholeheartedly that our families are the greatest laboratories for life God ever could have given us. Perfect environments for learning patience and unconditional love and endurance. It’s comforting to know there are other mothers out there that feel the same, that face similar challenges and find strength in their faith as we all shoulder on.

      Thanks for reading, and for commenting! It means so much when readers reach out.

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