When I was little I wanted little to do with my dad. He was wonderful and kind and knew just the way to do my hair for dance class, but I eagerly anticipated my mom’s return home. He loved me regardless. At the age of thirty, I finally figured out that I could love my dad through projects and road trips. It wasn’t the same kind of snuggly, chatty love I shared with my mom, but equally as profound.
My mind jumped to the thirty year wait ahead before Freya and I would have the relationship I longed for. I tried to model the same beautiful routines and relationship her birth mom Laura had developed, but I always felt as if I were falling short; time with me was the consolation prize.
There were no “how to books”. Tears dripped down my face as I prayed lonely prayers. My saving grace were the afternoons when I was the only parent home, slowly connecting, building trust, charting our own path.
Parenting is humbling, all of it. I set out with visions of idealic strolls through the park, sweet cuddles and cherub like grins. Then I was thrown into the role of non-bio Mom with an infant who only wanted my wife.
Contrary to my fears, Freya and I found our own kind of love while she was still small. It began as soon as I was able to let go of the image in my head of how our relationship “should be” by making huge baking messes in the kitchen and painting together in my studio. While her public admiration is usually reserved for my wife, our late night chats and back scratches are something that Freya and I share with a unique sweetness. Our love is different, but equally profound.
I have learned that sometimes love comes sweeping in, other times it builds to grand heights over time. Regardless of love’s pace, letting go of what a mother/child relationship “should be” in exchange for authentic connections will win every time. Sometimes, it will even result in a batch of cupcakes.
The other day started with a ridiculous argument with my wife over medicine cabinet organization. I stomped around furious, cleaning as I tend to do when I am mad (instead of working on some writing I had to do).
When I was calm enough to sink into a spiritual book, I opened it up on my phone and the screen was completely blank. This was followed by an email from work saying that plans had changed in a huge project. My heart sank to my feet as a long awaited endeavor had been seemingly crushed. I reach out to talk to a friend who was unavailable.
All of a sudden other friends started calling and texting to check in on me. A routine call to a parent turned into a cosmic conversation about the gift of surrendering to the perfect universe.
It took a while for my body to wear down enough to stop. Humbly, I crawled into bed still experiencing pain from my surgery. It’s only at that moment that I was ready to go back to surrendering to the healing process and the perfect universe in which I call home.
It is now four weeks after my appendix, ovary and Fallopian tube were removed along with the offending 16cm cyst. My belly is no longer purple and I can do things like drive and shower without pain. Unfortunately, a slow walk to drop off our six year old at school resulted in an emergency stop at a park bench in the middle of my walk and a two hour recovery in bed with lingering pain for the rest of the day.
My physical therapist friend saw me out and texted congratulations for such a feat. I replied with moans and this is what she said, “The middle of recovery it is the hardest to appreciate both how far you have come, and how much your body will continue to heal.”
At this moment I feel as though truer words have yet to be spoken.
I used to wear pants. They were colorful and funky, thrift-shop finds and occasional splurges. With my pants came self judgement. “Why are these too tight? I need to eat less or exercise more. Why am I not taking care of myself? Why did I think I could even pull off wearing these pants in the first place?”
Then my in-laws gave me a few pair of spectacular tights. Not only were they colorful and fun, but when I wore them, I just felt happy. That extra few pounds that would come and go, did so without my self torment. Although my bike commute quickly tore up my fabulous leg wear, I replaced the tights with equally adventurous leggings and haven’t looked back since. Now I work and play without self shaming.
We all need tools to help us let go. One of my favorites is Lycra.
My kids love to read a classic Sesame Street book called, “I Can Do It Myself”. In it, Ernie and Bert comb their hair, get dressed, and make their beds all by themselves. It’s great encouragement for early childhood independence. However today I saw the cover and had another thought; sometimes I can do it by myself. Other times I’m really grateful for the community of support that lifts my family and me through thick and thin.
If I were to write a sequel, it would be titled, “I am Glad I Do Not Always Have to Do It Myself”
A gorgeous elder shared the elevator with me in New York. I commented on her joyful red nails. She said it was her way to brighten up the daily nightmare that is our current political reality.
Sometimes the frivolous is a necessity.
Our neighborhood is ugly. All of the houses were build in the sixties (the raised ranch genre is limited). Even though I intellectually knew it was a wise purchase because of the schools, commute, and yard, I still inwardly cringed while strolling down the street.
All of a sudden today I saw beauty for the first time. Not in the standard concrete steps or routine brown paint but rather in the soul of each house. I gave thanks for the neighbors who have brought over food and helped with kid care during my recovery. I smiled at the connection with the other two mom family with twins living on the corner and the three generations of Vietnamese neighbors we are lucky enough to live next to. My heart went from door to door, thankful for the community we call our own.
After five long years and all of a sudden, I live in the most beautiful neighborhood one could imagine.