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Ah, to be a beginner

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I’m in the living room, Melody Gardot singing to me, while I’m wishing I knew how to work the heater without fear of something going wrong.

I put the baby in the swing while I made my breakfast, and in a lucky stroke, he’s fallen asleep and rocks contentedly even after I’ve finished eating. Whenever he falls asleep outside of my arms, I search my mind for what I should or could be doing with this valuable hands free time. Sometimes responsibility gets the better of me and I do the dishes or fold laundry or pick up around the house. But this morning (thanks to another lucky stroke yesterday) none of that needs to be done. Sometimes I’m still tired from the night, or freshly tired from the day, and all I want to do is lay and watch a show or read what other people have written. And then there’s the occasional revelation that I could do something just for me. Something creative. Something like writing or cooking or drawing or scrapbooking.  Things that I used to be able to do freely once upon a time, that I didn’t do nearly as often as I could, but still did far more often than I’m able to now. Since it’s on the less labor intensive side of the scale, I chose to write. Writing can be started and stopped if my sleeping babe decides his nap is over. But to have glorious stretches of time in which to write… that chance is rare these days. And now that I have it… I’m struggling with what I want to say.

It’s interesting to live, this whole process of being a mother. The incredible and complex contexts of meaning that word brings up just on it’s own… but then the actual practice of it. It is literally a practice. A compilation of trials and errors, leading us to some things that are helpful and some things we have to keep practicing in different ways until one seems to fit. For the time being.

I’ve always been good at being a beginner. When I’m interested in learning, that is. If you put me in a math class that I don’t want to be in, I’m bitter, I’m resistant, I’m willingly distracted and I’m generally pretty arrogant about what’s worth my time and what’s not. But put me in a learning context that I want to immerse myself in, and I will eagerly explore. I have no problem trying new approaches, asking for advice, admitting when I haven’t a clue of what I’m doing. It’s true with dancing, it’s true learning bodywork, it’s true in a finance class. And so I’ve come to understand… it’s true with mothering. Of course when something is really important to me, I have the initial instinct to want to know that I am absolutely doing the right thing. But I’ve known too, and realize more every day, that there isn’t a right way of putting your baby to sleep, or comforting him when he’s upset, or of using your free time when he’s napping. There’s your way of putting your baby to sleep and there’s my way. And furthermore, there’s my way of putting him to sleep tonight, and my way of putting him to sleep yesterday. And my way a month ago. Because everyday, every hour even… we get to know our baby a little bit more. And tomorrow his habits might change, and we’ll have to be beginners all over again.

My days are much simpler now. Sometimes we go for a walk around town, sometimes we only walk out to the backyard. Sometimes he naps long enough for me to write for an hour, sometimes he doesn’t stay content long enough for me to do throw a load of wash in. Sometimes he loves the swing, watches me as I walk around, makes faces at himself in the mirror above him, snoozes. Sometimes he screams as soon as I put him in it and doesn’t stop till he’s picked up again. His mood determines the productivity of my day, and his presence has redefined that word for me. I haven’t found a predictable routine to our days yet… but patterns are starting to emerge, and certain activities are starting to stand out and reoccur. And what a productive or successful day has started to mean to me, is a day in which I am most present throughout it. The days that I enjoy the most, are the days that I’m most able to let go of any imposed ideas of what I should be able to do or accomplish. Those are the days where I am most reactive. Responding to what the moment calls for. What Mason will enjoy in the moment, and what I will feel good about in the moment. Which… ironically enough… is something I had been trying to achieve long before Mason was even a twinkle. And I think it’s the simplicity of our days that has allowed me to tune into this responsiveness better now than I had been able to before.

Soak up your moments as well.
Whether they are momentarily filled with frustrations, coos and smiles, or open-ended time.

Swinging Nap

3 responses »

  1. That was beautiful and wise and simply a joy to read. And then to scroll down and see that little grinning baby….what a blessed little guy he is to have you as a mother. love Deb

  2. Mom and Dad Watson

    What a treat to read your words about learning, experimenting, being present, going slow and then end with such a peaceful little critter in his swing. Yes, be thankful for the moments you catch for yourself. Love, Linda

  3. Elaine, we have never met because we couldn’t come to the wedding, but I am getting to know you as I read the lovely, thoughtful and wise words that you write in your blog.

    Last week, I needed a break from 6th graders and spent my entire lunch time (all of 20 minutes) looking at sweet pictures of Mason and reading your comments about life as a mom. I have to tell you, they encouraged me, and refreshed me. Thank you for sharing this special time in your life with all of us. Aunt Bee


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