Sunday, May 12, 2013

If I Wasn't A Mom....

- I wouldn't know that you can go nights on end with little to no sleep and still be able to function.
- I wouldn't know my way around every nook and cranny of the Children's section of the Louis Riel Library.
- I wouldn't know I had the capacity to make loud guttural yells that could wake a neighborhood.
- I wouldn't have as much practice as I've had saying sorry.
- I wouldn't know how quickly and completely your kids forgive you.
- I wouldn't have beautiful long hair to braid.
- I wouldn't be able to catch myself in someone else's face and smile for just a moment.
- I wouldn't have the perfect excuse reason to avoid social situations when I feel like I just can't do it.
- I wouldn't be going to see Taylor Swift this summer.
- I wouldn't know nearly every word to every song Raffi ever wrote.
- I wouldn't know the smell of grass and sweat and tears and toothpaste all rolled into one.
- I wouldn't know the juxtaposition of sadness and joy over watching someone grow.
- I wouldn't have an audience whenever I need one.
- I wouldn't know how much sorrow you can feel when you see someone hurting.
- I'd have more time for myself.
- I'd probably feel like something was missing.
- I'd eat less Nutella.
- I wouldn't lie in bed at night wondering how badly I'm screwing up.
- I wouldn't know fear the same way I do now.
- I'd do way less laundry.
- I wouldn't have anyone to play Playmobil with.
- I wouldn't know that a little body fits perfectly beside yours.
- I wouldn't believe you could love three completely different people exactly the same.
- I wouldn't have my buttons pushed as often.
- I wouldn't be driving a van.
- I would miss being the witness to seeing the most amazing growth happen.
- I'd wonder what I was born to do.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cry If You Want To

One of my favorite songs has always been Holly Cole's "Cry If You Want To".

The last line of the song goes like this....

                Cry if you want to, I won't tell you not to
                I won't try to cheer you up, I'll just be here if you
                Want me,
                To be,
                Near you.

I've been singing that song today.
For Ellie.

At the girl's school, every student in grade 3-8 takes part in a speech contest each year.  That means that each student must write a speech, prepare it, and present it to their class.  The top two speeches in each class go on to the finals where the winners compete against the other finalists from their grade.

Ellie already knew last year what she wanted her speech to be about.

It was going to be about her deep love and affection for her dear beloved friend, Nikki - who she left behind in BC, with a trail of tears.  You can read a little bit about Ellie's friendship with Nikki here and here.

Words can't really describe how deeply Ellie feels about Nikki.

Nikki is really a part of Ellie and who she is.   In all my life, I don't think anything has touched me more than seeing Ellie say goodbye to Nikki when we moved back to Winnipeg.  Immediately after, Ellie followed us into our empty house and collapsed onto the floor and then into our arms sobbing as though her heart were breaking.   There are pictures of Nikki up all over our house.  Ellie still talks like Nikki talked and laughs at the things she said.  There have been mornings when Ellie wakes up crying and tells me she has had a dream about Nikki and it's made her miss her all over again.

So when Ellie said she wanted to write her speech about Nikki, I knew it was right.
She drew graphic organizers and planning maps of how she wanted to organize her speech to include all of the things she wanted to share about Nikki.  Her likes and dislikes, her favourite foods, her love of the swings, the ways she looks and talks, and all about how Kabuki Syndrome has affected her.

When she finished writing, she was so proud.  It was though this speech represented so much more than a requirement for grade 3.  It was a labour of love, and it honored Nikki and her role in Ellie's life.  It was perfect.

Ellie painstakingly practiced her speech.  She had it memorized and perfected and said it with great joy for her classmates and teacher.  A few days later she was asked to say it again for her other teacher along with 2 other students - as all three were tied for top spot.   Only two could be chosen to go on to the finals and a decision had to be made.  Ellie rehearsed and worked on her speech again, and said it with pride a few days ago.

I knew that today was the day Ellie was going to find out which two students were going to go on to the finals from her class.  In the afternoon I got an email from her dear teacher, telling me that she had just broke the hard news to Ellie that the other two students had been chosen instead of Ellie.   She wanted to let me know that Ellie was terribly disappointed and had been crying.  In fact, she'd been hugging and crying with Ellie but thought Ellie needed some hugs and extra love from me.

My heart sunk.

I knew how badly Ellie had wanted to present her speech in the finals.  I knew how much she wanted to honor her friendship with Nikki.  I knew how hard she'd worked.  I knew her heart would be broken.

I drove to school early to be with Ellie and I found her waiting for me in a chair in the office.  The second she saw me, she collapsed into my arms, lay her head on my shoulder and sobbed.  Gigantic tears spilled from her eyes as she held on for dear life.  All I could do was stand with her and hold her tight and cry with her.  If you knew Ellie, you'd have cried too.  When she cries heart-broken tears there is nothing sadder.  

I held her there, for awhile, and we cried together.  I didn't try to stop her and I didn't care.
I remember being ashamed of my tears all through my childhood.
They came easy and fast and at all the wrong times.
I hated my tears.
But now mine mixed with hers and I tried to honor them by standing in a public place, with people around and letting them fall.

We walked arm and arm to our van and I held her awhile longer in private.

She was disappointed, I knew.
But she was crying tears for more than a lost speech contest.
That speech was about far more than winning a trophy.
They were also about a hole in her heart.

Ellie's tears have been flowing on and off for the rest of the day.

At bedtime they began their silent roll down her brown cheeks, and I climbed up into her bunk bed and held her awhile longer, not saying anything but I love you.

Sometimes that's all you can say.

                I'll just be here if you 
                want me, 
                to be, 
                near you.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Sasha Long Legs

Sasha still likes to sit on my lap sometimes.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't like it a whole lot more than she does.  She's the youngest and it's no mistake that I often call her "baby".  In my head and my spirit she will always be the baby.   Just a day or so ago Sasha was on my lap sitting with her back pressed against my chest and my arms wrapped around her.  For the first time, her legs caught me by surprise.  They hung down, one on each side of my own legs and nearly touched the ground.  They are long, lean, and strong.  When she tries to curl up on my lap her legs fold and bend to let me wrap my arms around the whole of her.  I can hardly reach around them as the little "ball" she used to be able to contort herself into isn't as tiny as it once was.  Her legs are growing and so is she.

When Hannah,  Ellie and Sasha were little I prided myself in how our girls went to bed without any back-rubs, snuggles, or cuddling.  A story, a prayer, a kiss and "I love you" and it was done.  Lights out, door closed, sleep now.  They were trained well and I patted myself on the back for my fortitude and discipline in teaching them how it should be done.

Lately Sasha has been asking for me to rub her back for a few minutes as she's falling asleep.  Most nights I say I'll do it for 2 minutes while I sit on the side of her bed.  But there are times when she can't sleep and I have the time, that I will crawl in beside her, under her flannel quilt and burrow my nose into the nape of her neck and spoon my body behind hers.  I rub her back and her legs and breath in the smell of shampoo, little-girl sweat, laundry soap, and the mystery smell that each of your kids has that you can't put your finger on.  Maybe that smell isn't as delicious as they get older, but when they're still as little as Sasha is, it is a lovely thing.  I stay by her side and rub her back and legs in a circular pattern while keeping my nose pressed up against her neck.  Her body is warm and tired from a long day of learning and living.  Her breath gets slower and her body rises up and down and soon you can feel the heaviness of sleep overtake her.

It's in those minutes curled up in the bottom bunk that I've been marking as sacred.  Those long legs grew faster than I was expecting.  Her body takes a lot more of my arm length to stretch around.  I look at Ellie and all 5 feet 8 inches of Hannah - growing, growing, growing and I wish I had said "yes" more often to back rubs and snuggles and breathing in their scents as sleep came slowly.   I wish I had taken less pride in the closed door and the quiet child and more time to listen to their breath.

People always said time would move fast.  Sometimes I willed it to move faster.  Those long legs beg me to stop and give them a rub.  They've got some growing left to do.