A couple of weeks ago, my almost ten year old daughter, Krisalyn, was gearing up for a trip out to Virginia to see her twin cousin. Ayla, my older brother’s daughter, was born on the exact same day only a few hours before Krisalyn. From Skype chats to holiday gatherings, it is clear that these two girls adore each other. My mother kindly offered to travel with Krisalyn as an early birthday present for both granddaughters. It was a first for us – sending our third of four daughters halfway across the country, albeit with her Nana. The days leading up to the trip were filled with excited squeals and bubbling anticipation. Krisalyn did not reveal a single speck of trepidation or anxiety about the five days she would be separated from the rest of us.
In some regard, Krisalyn’s lack of ambivalence about the trip surprised me. She was the baby of our family for quite some time. Briella didn’t enter the picture until Krisalyn had relished (and occasionally despised) being the youngest of our bunch for over eight years. She has always been a homebody and often declares that she wants to live with me even into adulthood. I knew she would have a wonderful time on this trip, but I had anticipated at least a momentary freak out at the idea of being away from us for five whole days. But a freak out never really came.
On the day of her departure, she and I were packing up her belongings when I paused to take note of the transition I was becoming aware of in those moments. My little girl was individuating and sorting out her separateness from me to a new degree. This process of individuating is always at play throughout our development, but I do believe Krisalyn was experiencing a significant growth spurt these summer months leading up to the trip. As I reflected on the shift in how she situated herself with me and how I was now adjusting and situating myself with this more independent version of her, I felt that familiar heartache that accompanies so many chapters of motherhood.
I’ve been thinking about that ache for weeks now – trying to sort out what it’s inviting me to feel, to name, to release. In the past, I have presumed that it is a form of nostalgia as we realize that our children are growing, that time is going by, that our stories continue to plunge ahead whether we’re ready or not. And perhaps that’s part of it. But these past few weeks of reflection have led me to new insight about this maternal ache.
One of my favorite professors during my grad program helped me understand that too often we associated “growing up” with “growing big” when what we all really need is to “grow down” or to “grow small”. As I continue to journey alongside each of my daughters, I learn more and more about the wisdom behind these sentiments. We live in a western world that tries to convince us that the goal of development is to grow up and need less – to become self-reliant and independent. Its easy to understand how this mentality has gained traction. As we travel through the stages of physical development from infancy, through toddlerhood, childhood and on into adulthood our capacity to tend to our own physical needs consistently increase (until we come full circle and reestablish a need for physical care in the final stages of life). But I’m not convinced that our emotional and spiritual development follows this same logic. Instead, I actually believe that the maturation of the inner self looks more like a “growing down” – a delving deeper into the knowledge of all of our longings and needs throughout our life. Strength is about honesty and authenticity, not about cutting off and suppressing need. Courage is about living out of that honest and vulnerable reality, not about denying or rejecting our fears.
So back to that maternal ache. As I sat there preparing to send this child of mine off on an airplane, I desperately wanted her to understand that it is more than okay for her to still feel her own need – not for my sake, but for her sake. Individuation is about growing in our awareness that we really are separate human beings. There is a distance between my inner self and the people and world around me. And the same is true of your inner self. Individuation is about realizing more and more just how separate we are…and simultaneously realizing more and more just how much we need connection because of that separateness. I know better than anyone just how much my children have needed me and just how much they will still need me as they continue to grow and develop…just in different ways.
Just before we left the house to pick up my mother and head the airport, Krisalyn stopped me and said, “Mommy, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get out of the car when we get to the airport. It will be too hard to say goodbye to you.” I didn’t try to comfort her by denying that it would be hard or by telling her that she would be alright. Instead I held her and acknowledged, “Of course it will be hard kiddo. It’ll be hard for me too.”
Every time I go back to Colorado for a visit, I have a standing date with my friend Colleen Gottlob. We each commit to walking together around “our” lake in Littleton at least once, even if my visit is only for 48 hours. We call it “our” lake, because after Lucy was born, we walked either that lake, or the track right next to it nearly five times every week for almost five years up until I moved to Washington. On those walks, I got to know a lot about Colleen. At 55, she can add grandmother to her other roles of sister, wife, mother, aunt, avid runner, voracious reader, encourager, friend and fan. On my last visit, I asked her if she would be willing to share her story. She seemed surprised because she didn’t know what there was to tell. I reminded her that she is the most loyal, supportive and encouraging person I know and I would like others to get to know her as well. She agreed to let me interview her via email over a couple of week’s time, and this is what transpired.
K: Colleen, recently you told me that you just received the best compliment someone could have ever given you. Tell me what was said and why it was so important.
C: While I was working at an outdoor buying show for Boone Mountain Sports and 32nd West, I went over to say hello to a woman, Susan, whom I only know as an acquaintance. She said she had seen me walking around and been trying to figure out where she knew me from. Even though she couldn’t place where we had met, she said what she remembered about me was my kind face. I think that was a big compliment. It was not about my outfit or my fitness or my shoes. It was about me.
K: So, it seems easy for people to comment on outward appearances, but less on the character of a person. Why do you think that is?
C: Krista, this question is hard. I am going to try to think this through… it is easy to compliment people on their outfit, shoes, purse, new hair cut or color. But, to compliment them about what is on the inside, you would have to know them or have been paying attention to them. That takes some time, generally.
I love the opportunities I have had to meet people in so many situations. Some I may just get to have a conversation with only one time. You have to open yourself to the possibility of maybe getting laughed at or facing a negative reaction or even a bit of heart hurt. I think I have always been willing to risk my heart. And I have received from it. I have just a few couldn’t-ask-for-better-friends. And I am thankful for them every day.
K: I’m so glad that you mentioned the risk required in order to be known by others. How have you calculated that risk? In other words, have you chosen certain people to open up to? I am not sure I am so “open”. What makes someone safe for that risk? Or worthy of it?
C: I don’t think about the risk at all. You never know what some people are going through or their past life experiences. I try not to take things personally. So, I don’t know that I choose anyone. I think they are just where I am. If someone becomes a friend, I am thankful. If not, there will be another person sometime. The ones that become a friend are very important to me. I am very thankful for my close friends. I feel like I love them like a mother lion. I am on their side and love them no matter what.
K: Before I ask you about your mother lion prowess that I have experienced from you, I’m curious about what your risk has afforded you in relationships. You said, “I think I have always been willing to risk my heart. And I have received from it.” Can you give me some examples of what you have received?
C: Well, I received your friendship as a gift and you are one of the most important people in my life.
K: I like how your answers bring me down from the clouds and back to reality. You’re right. Our friendship was a risk that has paid off immensely. Maybe someday I will write about how our friendship came to be. I’m glad you took that risk for me.
I have often struggled with an inability to receive. I have believed that somehow, I’m not worth the attention or the money or the time and effort that others want to spend on me. Thanks for modeling what it looks like to receive goodness from others for whom you have risked your heart. Speaking of modeling…back to your mother lion prowess. I have seen this side of you in action with your kids. One thing you always did that I’ve tried to model is jumping through whatever hoops necessary to just see your girls, even if it was only for five minutes. That simple act showed me how a mother can be her kids’ biggest fan just by making time to see their faces and kiss their cheeks. Where and/or when did you learn how to do that? Who has been a model for you?
C: I think this takes a couple answers. The first one is a man I worked with when I was about 20. I worked for a veterinarian for 7 years from when I was 18-25. I did front desk, tech work and some light bookkeeping. I can’t even remember his name. It might have been Jim. He was one of the techs. Every now and then his young son would come in. I noted that he always made a big effort for his son and would really get down low to hug his child every time he saw him. He mentioned it in passing one time as he was giving his son a big hug. Jim told me his father didn’t hug him and he didn’t want to be the same with his children.
The second part of my answer is that I am not sure. I love my children. I always wanted them to feel special. Every child should feel special by their parents/grandparents. I wanted them to feel like I loved them unconditionally. I do. I am not sure I have felt that a bunch in my life from others. There are only a few that make me feel that way.
I have known some children (roughly the same age as my children) who have lived with me for a time. One of them calls me every mother’s day. I also love them a bunch. I would stick up for any of them and be on their side and hopefully they feel the lion love. There are also a few adults. When they trust that I will (hopefully) never hurt them, they fall into a lion love category for me…
Who was a role model? Possibly, the people that treated my children the same way as I tried to. My oldest daughter’s high school counselor was still calling to check in on my oldest daughter when she was 25. She was someone that I really admire. Another time, the same counselor took care of a problem for a student that was not in her half of the alphabetical part of her kids. I will always remember her for how she went above and beyond. She was also completely trustworthy. My current employers were also a wonderful example. In a time that I was separated, they (among others) took care of some financial things for me and my kids. They also took a lot of care of the many, many young people who worked for them…really cared for them, talked to them, including my youngest child…including many who still come visit them when they are in town.
K: You said that when others trust that you won’t hurt them, they fall into the lion love category. That sounds like part of your protection of them comes when they trust you. That is a brand new thought/concept for me. Can you say a little more? I’d like to understand better.
C: Let me think. I hope they know that I love them. I hope they know that I would not hurt them intentionally. I hope and pray I say the right things and help them make good decisions. I hope I help them with their self-esteem. I hope I am positive. I hope I am discerning. I feel like I am encouraging. Some of them are just in my world for a time – so, I guess it gets to be a bit of a friendship for just a little while.
K: I know our friendship seemed like it might have been for only a little while, but it still stands strong even with my move away from Colorado. So, if you had a chance to share one last piece of advice or thoughts to younger women and/or moms, what would you tell them about friendship.
C: Try to remember that nobody is perfect. We all screw up. Accept your friends despite their faults. Try to remember them, write to them, call them, send them a “thinking of you” text or card. Try to not let time go by without checking in. Pray for them. Make time for them.
K: So, what you’re saying is just…
C: Love them.
K: Again, you bring a simplicity to your encouragement – not denying that loving is challenging, but that nevertheless it can and should be given liberally and without condition. Thank you so much for extending that kind of love and friendship to me. I hope others are inspired to go forward and do the same. And blessed are the ones who get your lion love – they will have their biggest fan in you – indeed, a gift worthy of receiving.
Colleen Gottlob is a mother to two young women and grandmother to one little lady. When she is not working as a merchandise buyer, you can find her running the mountainous trails of Evergreen with her favorite four-legged companion, Tillie. Her favorite drink is iced Bhakti Chai.
*Sunday Specials are a weekly round-up of happenings on the web-o-sphere. So enjoy your coffee (or late night beverage) while checking out what’s caught our attention.
I know you’ve been led to believe that it’s the girl’s fault; the way she dresses, the shape of her body, her flirtatious nature, her mixed messages. I know you’ve grown-up reading and hearing that since guys are really “visual”, that the ladies need to manage all of that by covering-up and keeping it hidden; that theyneed to drive this whole physical relationship deal, because we’re not capable. That’s a load of crap.
What is happening across culture is, per usual, more complicated than some assume. Americans are not intrinsically allergic to Christians, but rather certain expressions of Christianity. The pope’s popularity helps us understand exactly which types of Christianity people resist.
Using the coupons was even worse. The stares, the faux concern, the pity, the outrage — I hated it. One time, an old, kind-looking man with a bit of a hunch was standing behind me with just a six-pack of soda, waiting to check out. The entire contents of my cart were splayed out on the conveyor belt. When he noticed the flash of large white paper stubs in my hand, he touched me on the shoulder. I was scared that he was going to give me money; instead he gave me a small, rectangular card. He asked me to accept Jesus into my heart so that my troubles would disappear. I think I managed a half-smile before breaking into long, jogging strides out of there, the workers calling after me as to whether I still wanted my receipt.
Composite Mothering by Christine Canty
Please share with us what caught your attention this week.
It was one of those Chamber of Commerce autumn days in Colorado – the kind that makes you know God loves you so much to allow you to live here. The skies were crystal blue and there was a slight chill in the air. The park near our house had a big open field and I thought it might be perfect to try out the new kite my 4 year old son had gotten from his Dad. So I bundled up my son and his 2 ½ year old sister and we headed to the park, a short walk from our house.
Having arrived with everything , I proceeded to explain to my son that he had to run real fast so the wind would catch the kite and the it would lift it high in the air. The work of running had to be done first to get it to catch on the air. This required help so after watching him try so hard to create the lift, I began running beside him and letting the tension of the string loose at the right time.
Finally, the kite caught on the air and up it went into the heavens, circling and dipping on the air currents. A little thing brought such great joy to the little boy.
The perfect day was even better as we 3 watched the kite sail. With a little persuasion from me, he even relinquished the string long enough to allow his little sister to hold it.
It’s funny how certain times stick in your brain and bring a smile to your face, 34 years later. As I watched him continue to hold the end of the string and look with wonder at the kite caught on the breeze, God brought a thought to my mind. My little boy was the kite, I was the string holding on to the kite, and God was the wind that lifted it into the air. It was very necessary for God to hold my little boy up, to help him grow into a good man. Running alongside him that day, I realized we were a team, God, me and the little boy. What a joyful thought!
Psalm 127:3: Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.
Submitted by LaRue Fleming
In an effort to model wholeness, or τέλειος as I have written about elsewhere, I am going to describe the opposite and equally compelling mystery of the love I found in Ikea with the extreme contempt I discovered in Costco.
Like so many others, I too have fallen prey to the lure of a big box store full of more-than-mediocre quality items in bulk at discounted prices. Ever since I discovered that Costco sold diapers and formula at nearly half the cost of grocery stores I have made weekly trips there for my goods and sundries. In Colorado, I seemed to time my visits where I experienced the giant warehouse nearly empty and I had free reign to peruse at my leisure. Generally, that time was Friday nights. Karl and I would take the kids and sit them side-by-side in the giant carts and meander our way through the warehouse stocking up on everything from dog food to underwear. And the luxury of also being able to skip making dinner at home and instead dine on hot dogs and pizza slices available in Costco at a cheap rate proved equally satisfying.
However, that scenario has not been the case in Seattle. Whether living in the city proper or overpopulation, I can not for the life of me find a time to shop at Costco when I don’t have to park at the back of the lot and sell my soul for a cart just to get discounted fruits and vegetables and milk. Don’t forget the milk! I have tried arriving the minute they open their doors in the morning. I have also tried going over my lunch hour. I have tried arriving thirty minutes before closing time. I have gone on weekends and weekdays, and even holidays. All this trying has led to no avail. There was one time when it seemed like I would be able to drive my cart down the aisles without being forced into an unhappy charade of bumper carts. It was Black Friday. Since Costco is already discounted and wasn’t offering extreme pricing, the store was only moderately busy. O, how I wish every Friday was Black Friday at Costco.
Alas, that is a dream of time gone by. When hope was high and life worth living. Because the tigers come at night, in the morning, and during the day with their cart’s wheels soft as thunder. And they tear your hope apart and they turn your dream to shame.
Now, I wait in one of ten lanes behind six cars to fill my car with cheap gas. Then I get at least 2,000 of my 10,000 daily steps just by walking from my car to the store’s entrance. Then, I traverse the landscape of bulk specialty items like camping equipment and lawn fertilizer on my way to the back of the store only to realize after I added another 2,000 steps that they no longer sell Tillamook Tilla-Moos. Those slices of happiness were apparently on a month-to-month lease at Costco and have recently been evicted.
Then, I patiently wait outside the dairy room rubbing my hands together preparing to shiver. I am pausing to allow the cul-de-sac refrigerator room to empty, and am cut off by another more aggressive cart driver who wore a coat and didn’t need to warm up first. If men experience road rage behind the wheels of their powerful cars, I am a woman who experiences cart rage behind the wheels of my powerful over-sized Costco shopping cart. I fantasize pushing past the island of seasonal confectionaries and ramming the ankles of the one who cut me off. However, I practice my deep breathing techniques and remain controlled and only think angry, expletive thoughts.
I finish my trip having added an additional 4,000 steps because I forgot to get toilet paper and end up in a check out line with four carts in front of me. Because the line is so long, I am conveniently placed waiting in the snack section and taunted by a giant vat of Milk Duds. I am already going to spend a whole paycheck on only ten items, so, why not add the Milk Duds? I won’t even pretend that they will last until my visit next week. Because really, the only thing that gets me through this ordeal every week is a giant vat of something. Given it’s size and caloric content, it should last a long time, whatever that vat of something is, but given that I am feeding my contempt what it demands – sugar to comatize my anxiety – I confess it may be eaten by the time I drive home. Not really. But only because I don’t even like Milk Duds.