As Thanksgiving approaches, I am reminded of a great book that I think all new mothers should read. I had commented to my youngest sister that I would give anything to go back to the days of teaching a preschool boy to drown Cheerios in the toilet. She was lamenting a stubborn three year old completely uninterested in potty training. I was dealing with an obstinate, ungrateful 18 year old man/child. Two days later she brought over a book that she declared a must read for me, given where I am in my life right now. After sailing through it, I want to suggest that it is a must read for all mothers. Whether we are at home raising tiny little people, or getting ready to launch young adults off to college, the message is relevant.
“The Gift of an Ordinary Day” ~ A Mother’s Memoir by Katrina Kenison, starts with a family’s move from suburban Boston to rural New Hampshire. The author’s mid life crisis was the impetus for the move. Her desire to live in a slower-paced environment and have her family more grounded, starts the family on a house building adventure that doesn’t end until the oldest is off to college. Her family consists of her husband and two sons, one of whom is getting ready to start high school, the other just on the cusp of puberty. During this transition, she reflects on all the moments long passed that caused her so much anxiety, as she worried about whether her boys would turn out alright. She notices her parents’ calm demeanor and relaxed attitude toward her sons and their increasingly independent behavior. She remembers all the moments with her boys when they were little that were priceless and mostly unappreciated at the time. Mostly, she tries to live in the present, and be truly aware of those ordinary moments with her family, cognizant of the fact that in 4 short years, these moments will be increasingly few and far between.
For me, the struggle that she writes of – the fine mingling of letting go and holding on – hits very close to home. I cannot make it through a single chapter without shedding a tear, all while trying to hide it from my husband. Each chapter offers up multiple quotes that resonate so strongly with my life, I feel like I could have written this book, although not nearly as eloquently. The description of the entire college application process, the pressure this age group is under and the reality that no kid can just be ordinary anymore, is something I am living daily. The uncertainty of how this will all end, and the desire to slow down the whole process, so I can have this delightful boy with me just a little longer, is ever present.
I also found it reassuring that another mother, and famous author at that, feels the way I do about so many things. The anxiety she experiences is something that I struggled with since I became a mother, but it did dissipate with time. My confidence in my ability to parent these boys to adulthood and in their ability to make good choices grew tremendously. Now, I am overwhelmed at times by all the struggles people in my age group are dealing with: divorce, illness, financial crisis, wayward teenagers and aging parents. My best friend’s mother always says “Little people, little problems; big people, big problems.” And she is so right! But this is the stage of life that I am in, and it will pass. And in so many ways, it is easier. I have time to myself. I get a good night’s sleep. I can go for a run when I want to. I can talk and reason with my kids. My husband and I can sneak out for a drink if we want to! I am lucky to have a job that I am as passionate about as I was about staying home and raising my boys. Really, even when it’s hard, it’s good. And this book reminded me of that on every page!
So, I am going to re-read this book while on an upcoming vacation. I am going to cherish every moment with my sons, even the difficult ones. I am going to revel in the times the six of us are all together, no matter what we are doing. I will create opportunities for them to have good memories of this phase in their life. And I am going to try hard to let go with grace, and trust that they will all wind up where they are supposed to be, with faith that I have done the best I can with the most rewarding, but hardest job in the world.