I’ve been thinking and pondering about what to write about our experience on Saturday. Of course, I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, it was something that is very difficult to put into words.
Photography by Karen Ledford
I stood before 300 people and told them stories about my little guys when they were young. Funny tales that I can look back on now & laugh, although those first years with two kids were some of the most difficult I’ve experienced. I don’t really have sad stories in me. I prefer to make people laugh, and I’m lucky that life has handed me more funny than sad. Never was I more reminded of this throughout this experience.
My mom is kind, funny, considerate…and she has always been a presence in my life. She and my dad have always supported me. They have always thought the best of me and wanted the best for me. Both of my parents have believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. They’ve stood by me through it all. They love my husband as if he were their own son. They adore my children and want to spend time with them as much as they can.
Like me, my mom was incredibly lucky to come from a loving, supportive family. I hope with my whole self that what has been passed down through her lineage has been passed on to me. I owe everything I am to my mom, and I’m thankful for her every day.
Thank you Ann for the ability to share this experience with others around the country, and with my hometown. Thank you to Erin, for asking me to be your partner in this labor of love. Above all, thank you to our lovely cast-our new friends-for telling your stories to us, for believing in Listen To Your Mother, and for making Saturday a memorable and wonderful evening.
Photography by Karen Ledford
Without further ado, I give you my piece, “Building Character”:
As a kid, I loved Calvin & Hobbes. When Calvin would be knee deep in a project that his dad wrangled him into or get into a sticky predicament, and he’d start to complain, Calvin’s dad would remind him that he was “building character.” We brought our oldest son home from the hospital a little over 7 years ago & we’ve been building our little characters ever since.
My husband and I marveled at everything our precious baby did. He could not have been more perfect. When Noel, our oldest, was barely 1, we found out we were expecting again. I surprised my husband, Elliott, with a positive pregnancy test on Father’s Day. We remember it fondly when that holiday rolls around, and he reminds me that I should never surprise him like that again.
While we were still blissfully unaware of how two kids would turn our world on its ear, I mean, grow & fill our hearts with abundance, Noel learned to walk. One day, we were outside in our backyard, grinning to ourselves as Noel toddled around sniffing flowers and picking dandelions. He toddled toward us, treasures in hand, a giant toothy grin on his face. We smiled right back at our sweet boy, as he brought us…something that wasn’t a fistful of dandelions. This had…a tail. As he drew closer, we could see that it was a rat that a stray cat had deposited in our yard.
I screamed DROP IT! As my husband grabbed the nearest stick he could find to bat the DEAD RODENT out of his hand. Noel immediately burst into tears. The more we yelled and freaked out, the more upset noel got and the tighter his grip became. We eventually got the special gift from his hand and I ran him to the bath while I said over & over DON’T TOUCH ME! very calmly.
Just when you think you have it figured out, the universe will take the opportunity to point it’s finger at you and laugh. Especially if you’ve been smug. New parents: don’t brag about how great your first baby is. While Noel was a dream, Lennon was…I don’t want to call him a nightmare, exactly, but he was a challenging infant. He never slept, except in fitful catnaps, day & night, and he had reflux, so he cried a LOT.
One day we’d gotten him to sleep in a bouncer, and sat back in our living room to let him sleep ( you see, he sensed when I wasn’t around and would wake instantly if I wasn’t close by enough). Our plan was to let Noel play quietly while we snoozed on the couch for a few minutes. All was peaceful, for approximately 30 seconds. I heard Noel pitted-pattering around the room and peeked through my sleep deprived eyelids to see him standing over Lennon with two pan lids in his hands. In slow motion, I reached out to stop him, but it was too late. CRASH! Went the makeshift cymbals! Lennon began shrieking, and has slept with one eye open from that day on.
Another lesson I learned is that although your oldest may like babies, doesn’t mean that he will instantly fall in love with your new baby. I recall several times, when I’d try snapping photos of my two babies together. I’d place the baby gently on the toddler’s lap, and while I’m preparing to get a quick picture of this tranquil moment, Noel would stand up, dumping the baby on the floor. Noel- you have to tell me if you’re done holding Lennon! Okay, let’s try you putting your arm around him instead. No! That’s too tight! How about putting your hand on his leg?
Meanwhile, the baby is teetering over from his already precarious position, and the toddler is running off to play with a dust bunny he’s spied under his bed. The serene pictures I’d envisioned instead involve a tipped over baby, crying, a blur of green striped PJs, and, of course, the dust bunny.
The early years of motherhood were the Character Building years. Now that my boys are older, and I am wiser, have the beginnings of a wrinkled brow, and a lot of gray hair, I can safely say that I’ve got this. My children love each other and are each others preferred playmates, despite the occasional argument. They will let me take their picture together. They may make silly faces, but no one falls over. I also know that they’d only give me a dead rat as a gift if their grandfather put them up to it.