best bun ever

there is some place where each of us feels it. the butterflies. the wide eyed “where am i”, the deep introspective “who am i?” i am not sure where that is for you. the place that pushes you, makes you feel somehow socially awkward , a bit of a misfit. you know the spot that forces you slightly outside of your comfort zone. (as i write this i realize that perhaps my farm is the place that a lot of you would find uncomfortable, sheesh) anyway, for me, i feel it smack dab in the middle of my daughter’s beloved dance studio. and these feelings have been heightened these last few days,  the culmination of months of hard work:  the recital weekend.

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we entered the world of dance 5 years ago.  the entry was easy,  i was ushered in by my dearest teenage friends and their then professional dance mom, one of my favorite people ever. these were madeline’s first teachers, they allowed me to sit there giggling and watch the classes, the taught madeline the grace of ballet and showed me the ropes of dance momhood. heck, they did madeline’s bun and make up for me.

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each child is different and each needs us, their parents,  to honor those interests. madeline loves the stage, she thrives up there and i strive to provide her with the opportunity to grow and delight in this medium. alas, i am definitely not your traditional dance mom. it is hard for me to be authentic in that space. i feel clumsy and dirty. it is just in that environment that i have felt so odd in year’s past. this year however, we rocked it. i shed my fears, put on my best flannel and got the bun on the first try, only needed 3 bobby pins.

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you know, i think we are doing this dance pretty well, my daughter and me. we are creating our own rituals, friends come to celebrate, we dote on our favorite dancer and honor the place that has become integral in her life:   ms. adrienne’s dance studio. so, for all of you dancers and dance moms out there (traditional or not) hope your recital weeks are perfect.

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for everyone else i wish you  joyous comfort when you are most likely to feel  uncomfortable. i invite you to glory in the beauty of yourself even when those beside you don’t feel similar. for the differences in our worlds are just what make it all so lovely and full of wonder. allow yourself and your children to push outside of your familiar zone, for it is there i hope you will learn to accept yourself and others most fully.

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the big give

She broke the bread into two fragments and gave them to the children, who ate with avidity. “She hath kept none for herself,” grumbled the Sergeant. “Because she is not hungry,” said a soldier.  “Because she is a mother.” said the Sergeant.”

from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables

There’s a reason we call it ‘giving birth’.

All of us were born. We all have a mother who gave us birth – gave us this precious opportunity to be alive.

I’ve heard it said, mostly by unhappy people, that no no one ‘asks’ to be born (though not everyone would agree with that statement).

In fact, I think, that often the best gifts are ones we did not ask for.

I’ve been contemplating the work of parenting, mothering and being mothered, this week. I’ve had time in the car to think. Lulah’s first dance recital is going on and we’re doing more than the usual amount of commuting to Cookeville for rehearsals. I’m thankful that it’s a pretty drive. It also helps that the recital is great. Cookeville Leisure Services does an excellent job all around. The facilities and instructors are all wonderful and the kids are learning and growing and having fun, too.

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While driving back and forth, 44 miles each way, on clear days when Paul is home alone, hustling to transplant tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and everything else before the next rain comes, I think that birth is just the beginning of the giving.

I’m not complaining. I’m giving. It’s my job, and it’s a reflex.

It’s difficult to understand just how much how our parents gave us until we become parents ourselves. It certainly isn’t quantifiable. The giving and receiving in loving familial relationships is as natural as the exchange of inhalation and exhalation. From where I stand now, I finally begin see how much my parents did for me as I was growing up. I was a dancing little girl too, with cute dance costumes to buy and recitals to attend. I had marvelous birthday cakes and parties, good food, learning experiences, and lots of love.

Now it’s my turn, driving to dress rehearsals, washing delicate tights and leotards and listening to the excitements and worries of the new performer.

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And this is just the external form of giving. We have received so much more from our mothers, our parents. Sometimes what they intended to give, sometimes what was inevitable. We receive hair color, face shapes, spinal curves, attitudes and deeply rooted moral frameworks. We often inherit gestures, preferences and aesthetics as well. And we are given experiences. Whether it’s growing up in deep woods, suburban labyrinths, or dense city streets, we were brought along for the ride in the environment our parents chose for us. We learned, largely by example, to adapt, and hopefully thrive and enjoy, the place we occupy in the world. In turn, whether we mean to or not, we pass variations of those same themes on to our own children.

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No one could have told me how much I would give, and want to give, as a mother. I did not know how much time I had on my hands to share. I did not know how private my own mind was, until it was occupied by thoughts about my children. What did I think about before? I remember knowing the chords to many songs on the guitar. I spoke passable bahasa Indonesia and studied commentaries on the Yoga Sutras from time to time. It can be shocking, how many things that were once central have flown into the periphery of life. If there’s anything that has prepared me for this radical change, it is the love and care that was poured into me by my parents. Because of their example of being patient, compassionate and loving when I was a tired, hungry, grumpy child in need of a cuddle, I now stand a chance to give my loving attention to hungry, tired, grumpy children in need of a cuddle (even when I am in no better shape than them). And, because I witness my parents now, in a later segment of the life-long act of parenting, I can believe that perhaps one day I’ll give time to those other pursuits again.

In the meantime, I think long and deep on what I want to consciously give to my children. Levon and I sit together in the Performing Arts Center and watch quietly. Lulah is on stage, turning before our eyes from a round faced baby child into a beautiful and strong little girl. My heart is so full. I want to give her what was given to me, so that she can succeed in being who she is. It’s a big give and I’m willing.  I’m a mother.

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From Carol Ryrie Brink’s excellent book, Caddie Woodlawn, in the words of the heroine, Caddie’s, father:

“It is the sisters and the wives and mothers, you know, who keep the world sweet and beautiful. What a rough world it would be if there were only men and boys in it, doing things in their rough way! A woman’s task is to teach them gentleness and courtesy and love and kindness. It’s a big task too – harder than cutting trees or building mills or damming rivers. It takes nerve and courage and patience, but good women have those things. They have them just as much as men who build bridges and carve roads through the wilderness. A woman’s work is something fine and noble to grow up to, and it is just as important as a man’s. But no man could ever do it so well. I don’t want you to be the silly, affected person with fine clothes and manners whom folks sometimes call a lady. No, that’s not what I want for you, my little girl. I want you to be a woman with a wise and understanding heart, healthy in body and honest in mind.”