Ever since I joined the 21st Century and the digital i-volution and upgraded to the iPhone 4s at the end of February, I’ve discovered that I love to take pictures of flowering plants. Lots and lots of pictures of bright and colorful plants of all shapes and sizes, especially if they flower: trees, shrubs, bulbs, wildflowers, and/or weeds I would point, zoom in and out, then click and click some more. Then would upload them to Facebook.
Doing this on the few sunny and relatively dry and comfortable days we’ve had throughout the past two and a half months, has been like holding onto a lifeline through the morass of stress, anxiety, pain, and depression that I’ve been wallowing in. I have been soul deep in the muck and the mire of worry, fear, resentment, and the mental/emotional self-flagellation because of the broken, bent, and bruised relationships with my adult children and all the ways I failed them, despite all my efforts and desire to do and be different and better.
I let myself get so consumed with everything that’s going wrong and the stress of everything I have no control over, that I was incapable of celebrating and sustaining a sense of wonder and gratitude over the things that are good and getting better in my life and in my relationships with all three of my children, especially in my relationship with my son.
I had not spent more than 5 – 10 minutes alone with him, since before he moved out in January. In February he publicly (and briefly) labeled me his incubator while another woman was given the title of mom. Most conversations were short, abrupt, and awkward. During the few interactions we had, most of my maternal declarations of love, care, and concern were met with silence and deflected with a shift in conversational focus. March brought the news of his engagement and of spiritual growth and renewal in his life. With that came his stilted and deliberate efforts to engage and include me in his life, in limited ways. I began to feel hope that a bridge was being built.
On April 15th, we had a God moment and we broke through some of the emotional and spiritual barriers that have been separating us. All it took was me actually putting effort to overcome the inertia and bring order to the chaos I had allowed to reign in my environment. I stayed home from church and spent four hours cleaning: dishes, laundry, decluttering, and removing the debris because I knew he would arrive that afternoon to pick up his littlest sister to spend time with her. Part of the motivation was that I was projecting and assuming what he would be thinking and how he would be judging me if he arrived and witnessed the chaos. Part of the motivation was that I was remembering how happy and grateful he had been six months ago when he came in and experienced a sense of peace and calm when coming into our home after having spent time with some old family friends whose environment has continually been overflowing with disordered clutter. I was hoping to recreate that experience for both of us. As a result, he altered his plans on the spot and invited me to spend the afternoon with him and his sister, as a family.
We spent a couple of hours walking through the neighborhood and at the local park. We talked about a variety of different things and took turns playing with the little one on the swings and play structures. When we got back to my place, I was able to tell him how tangible his happiness was to me and how grateful and happy I was for him and that he has the people in his life that he does. I let him know that even though I have my feelings about the difficulties in our relationship with each other, I am profoundly thankful that he has a familial relationship with a couple who have given him the example of and included him in the realm of a God-centered, healthy and functional family . . . something no one in my immediate family has ever experienced and that I was incapable of providing for him.
At that point, I received such a gift – he came over to me, took my hands in his, looked me in the eyes and told me how thankful he was that I had never let him go or given up on him and that he was sorry for ever having made me feel like I had been replaced. From there we hugged, and of course, I cried. Then, he started ministering to me on spiritual matters.
Since then, there has been an ease in our conversations with each other and a couple of weekends ago I went with him and his fiancee when they spent the afternoon with the littlest one. We spent a couple of hours at the zoo, meandering, taking pictures, and just enjoying each others company. Today, while I was at work, trying not to melt down over the issues with my qualifier, I got a call from a random, out of state phone number. It was a man who was with my son telling me that he had been in a minorly major accident while commuting to work on his bicycle. He was shaken up and in pain, his phone had gone missing, and my phone number was the only one he could remember. When my son was injured and in trouble, I was the one who got a phone call – not his other “parents” and not his fiancee. That was such a gift for me to realize that regardless of everything that we’ve put each other through, I am the first call, at least for today.
Meanwhile, my oldest daughter has been growing farther and farther distant as her life has been hitting roadblock after roadblock. On the same weekend I had the breakthrough with my son, she reached out to me to follow through on something that had been promised her a few months before, and because of the logistics, cost, and physical limitations I wasn’t able to follow through as immediately as she was expecting and asking. Once it was finally accomplished, she completely went off my radar and didn’t respond to any efforts to connect on my part for the next couple of weeks. She contacted me at the beginning of this month because she needed something else. Honestly, I was relieved and annoyed in equal measure. Since then, she has spent time with me/us and now I even know where she is living. Yesterday she called and came over, out of the blue. We have tentative plans to hang out and take the little sis to the park this Sunday, which happens to be Mother’s Day.
A couple of days ago I finally joined the Instagram bandwagon and since then have been discovering all the different ways to adjust and edit the pictures I’ve taken of those beautiful and vibrant spring plants, among other subjects. I had disdained that app because I couldn’t see any benefit to filtering and altering the things I had seen and accepted as the only way to see and accept them. In the last two days, I have seen how changing the filter, shifting the focus, and focusing closer or widening the perspective changes the way I perceive those beautiful gifts from God.
Today, I realized that I have been so invested in the one perspective of lamenting the mother I was and regretting the mother I wasn’t that I haven’t learned how to accept and appreciate the mother I am along with the joys and gifts that my children are, just by being my children. So, whether I get to spend time with my adult children on Mother’s Day or if my pre-schooler has a meltdown or behaves “perfectly,” I can celebrate my motherhood with clarity, confidence, and most of all, gratitude.