MONDAY

You are still in your Christmas pajamas and it is after 3 o’clock. I am making one last attempt at walking you to sleep in the late afternoon light of the master bedroom. Your feet dangle out away from my body now as I cradle you against me like the baby I swear you were just moments ago. Your mouth hangs open on my breast and your eyes roll back, and then finally flutter closed.

”I have to poooooop!”

Your older sister sprints past us and flicks on the bathroom light as you whip your head up to investigate the excitement over my shoulder. I stop mid-dance and decide getting upset isn’t worth it—you will just skip your nap today and we will all survive.

”I’m tinkling. Now I’m pooping. Oh, that was a funny noise!”

You are sitting on the floor of the bathroom now, watching your sister relieve herself. Neither of you feel a bit of shame—sometimes she even appreciates your support. She waves at you from the toilet and you lean forward. I wonder if you are considering trying it out yourself soon. Either way, you clearly admire her and think she is hilarious.

”Wipe me, please, Mama!”

You race me for the toilet paper—your current favorite mess to make. You love to unravel it and then try to fix it before coming to get me. “Uh oh!” you say, and point back to the bathroom, your eyes wide in a pretend panic.

”It’s okay!” I tell you, as I do multiple times a day. “We can fix it.”

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SUNDAY

I tuck the two inch auburn curl into a Ziploc bag, willing it not to fall apart. You are nearly two months past your fourth birthday and I have just trimmed the tiniest bit of your hair for the first time--you didn't have much of it until a year or two ago. You stood on your stool in front of the kitchen sink, peeling a hardboiled egg as I combed it all onto your back, and then combed it again and again before that one snip. It is Sunday afternoon, before the big weekly house clean, and there are dirty dishes piled on the counter and sticky floors beneath my feet. This is the only time of day the sun lights up this part of the house, and your hair looks like it has about a hundred different colors in it here in front of the window. Your Minnie Mouse shirt is too small but you dressed yourself and we aren't getting out in the cold today, so it's okay. 

I expected myself to cry, and maybe I would have if I had planned it out and built up a little anticipation. Another ending, another beginning--isn't that the broadest rhythm of mothering? I got a drastic hair cut two weeks ago and you have been asking me to cut yours since then, but I didn't put anything on the calendar. Instead I started the day by shopping for funeral outfits for later this week, came home to you watching your father cut snowflakes from paper and asked you on a whim if I could trim your hair real quick. We've spent the last two days discussing death together since your great grandmother passed Friday morning, and you suddenly look like a much more mature version of yourself. It was time.

You jump from the stool to offer an egg to your sister, your remaining curls now evenly bouncing behind you, but she mistakes your gesture for an invitation to play chase and runs across the living room with a wide grin showing off the gap in her front teeth. She pumps her left arm when she gets going fast and lets out a shriek of joy.

Endings and beginnings, and oh, these moments between them. 

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18 Months

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One and a half. 18 months. In so many ways it feels like it can’t be possible—the time goes overwhelmingly fast these days. But I would also swear you have always been with me. You were the promise of morning after a long, dark night. You were born and placed on my chest beneath a big, full early June moon, but to me you may as well be the summer sun herself. Colors are brighter, everything I see seems to be drawn with more detail than it did just over a year and a half ago. Your very existence warms me.

You spend much of your time on my hip these days. You are still independent for your age, but when I come into a room you drop what you are doing to run into my arms and settle onto my lap. You like to see what I am doing and try to help. You love your sister but also need space away from her when you are busy. You flip through books, fill boxes and remove each item one by one, back into the dog and sit down so she will kiss your head, and color with both hands. You repeat almost any word we ask of you and use a dozen two word phrases, like, “All done,” “Good girl,” “Love you,” and, “Good morning.” You love music more than anything.

You love your Dada, but have become more of a Mama’s girl recently. You love to be “Side!” (outside). You know your animal noises and sing along with songs. You come up to me and say, “Tick-uh, tickuh, tickuh,” when you want me to tickle you. You are somehow both brave and cautious. Soft and intense. Giggly and relaxed. So, so yourself. I don’t relate to you much at all with my anxious personality, but I admire you insanely.

I love you, sweet Reed. You are the best thing.

There You Are

The first of December. The new year calls out to me and I am answering with a list of hopes and dreams and for the first time trying to be okay with feeling giddy in anticipation of a new beginning. I feel so much and always have, but have heard, “You’re fine, quit that,” so many times it has become my subconscience. You talk too much. You feel too much. You are too much, Jordan. The voice inside my head has shamed me for too long, so I have decided it is time to stop feeding her.

For almost 30 years, I have mistaken the meaning of the comment, “I can’t handle you.” I have been on the receiving end of it and internalized it as a reminder to not give too much or try too hard or show my cards or be my whole self because that whole self is not compatible with love or companionship or friendship or whatever, when it actually has nothing to do with me at all. I have learned this because I have recognized myself feeling it toward my daughters but have known at my very core that they are not doing anything wrong by simply having feelings and expressing them in the best way they know how in that moment. When their feelings feel like too much for me, it is because I have not dealt with my own big feelings and I do not have the capacity to take on someone else’s load when I am strugglig to carry my own.

My daughters are not too much and I never want them to feel like they are. And I know I can tell them that a million times but how they see me treat myself as a woman and wife and mother and daughter and friend is actually much more important in how they will go on to view and treat themselves throughout their lives.

So, I am taking off the robe of expectations I’ve put on every day of my life, for my girls and for myself. I will no longer drown myself in guilt for feeling like I failed to meet them. I will just be, and be okay with that.

My dreams for the new year are exciting, but being here now is beautiful and heavy and well worth my time, too. The holiday season is illuminated with more magic now as a mother of young children than it was when I was a young child myself, already anxious about so many of the things I’ve written above. I don’t want to wait another month to take off the things that I do not need to be carrying.

So, because I am a sucker for symbols and signs and the outward reflecting the inward and yada yada, and no longer embarassed of that, I cut off my hair. I dug through my beliefs about what a pretty woman should look like based on what I heard growing up (thin, long haired, probably blond, big boobs, always wearing makeup but looking natural enough) and said to myself, “Is my greatest goal to be someone else’s idea of ‘pretty?’ No, it never has been.” I have never been to the point of chasing that end at all costs (Even while nursing two babies, I am small chested and have never looked into any sort of enhancement. But I did allow my mother to give me blond highlights throughout elementary school.), but I did believe it when people told me, “You look better with long hair.”

And I think at some points mthroughout my teenage and young adult years, I hid myself in that space. I wasn’t thin or blond, but at least I met one of the requirements of being adequately feminine.

But what the hell does that have to do with being myself? I am female, yes, and I am proud of that in the sense that it has given me the ability to grow and birth and breastfeed my children, but the way I look has little to do with who I am and how I take care of myself and my husband and my girls and my friends and my home.

And in this season, having hair past my collarbone was actually decreasing my overall quality of life. I wore it up most days because when I didn’t, my toddler grabbed two fistfuls of it and I spent the next bit of time untangling it from her tiny fingers. It didn’t make me feel lovely or serve me—it mostly made me feel annoyed. So I got rid of it.

And I feel much lighter. I watched my hair fall onto the floor around me in the salon last weekend, and I started laughing. Hello. There you are.

When I walked back to my car, I allowed myself to feel the sun on my neck, the wind on my ears, the grin on my face. I couldn’t see myself, but I felt beautiful.

I want to feel. I want to feel it all, every bit of this one life in this one body with this one heart.

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