the gap

635977508238477723918969241_o-MOM-HOLDING-HANDS-SON-facebookIn my journey thru motherhood, I have known my vocation…to watch over my girls, to provide for them, to keep them safe and ultimately to teach them to no longer need me.

We have traveled some rough roads, with potholes and massive construction detours and I have taken wrong turns at times, having to backtrack- and apologize or undo something I have done with the best intention. When there was no path, i have paused, let them catch up, and touching the top of my wrist to the small of my back, held out my hand and tucked their fingers into my palm. I have walked forward slowly, shielding them as best i could…but as they grew- I moved to the side more and more– until we were walking shoulder to shoulder.

And so we walked on touching, but as time passed and each grew strong, our paths began to move apart, barely noticeable at first, and always close enough to reach out and grab wrists- to tug one another close, if need be. And this was their adulthood for me and my girls for many seasons.

But there is a magical thing that happens. And if you are watching closely, you will see it unfold. In an unguarded moment, a person who loves them with a love as deep, yet different from mine, will step forward and touch their shoulder.  And soon my girl is walking close beside the other, their hands clasped together, heads bent toward one another as they share a joke. And i can feel the change – my girl no longer needs me in the way she has before. The gap between us that has widened as she has grown up- is closed by this one. They have stepped into my spot, and the gap has closed.

But here is the magic- when the one who steps into the gap accepts and even welcomes me,  my girl and I walk close again, with one more in our midst…and I can stand back… as they choose their direction.



ImageOne of the things they will put on my gravestone (if I believed in them), would be “take a breath”.  No matter how urgent the situation, no matter how upset you are, you have a moment to pause and take a breath- and while you are at it, make it a good breath, from your belly, close your eyes, and pause for a moment…stretching out the word BREEEEEEEATHE in your mind, as breathe in, and breathe out. Be present – not in the situation, not in your emotion, but present in your body and breathe. 

Raising three girls, I handed these words out like chewing gum, as they were sorting amongst the debris of a challenging situation or a bad day…”take a breath…”.  They were good words and did seem to make them slow down a moment.  Being a counselor, and being one who taught others to problem solve, to understand their own behavior, to pause and to weigh the consequences of their anger, meant that I taught my own daughters this as well, from birth.  In the midst of their crisis, I was often reminded to ‘stop doing the counselor-thing’…but i did notice that they kept breathing, even if they said they weren’t listening.

This past year, I did a particularly difficult presentation for a harsh audience. I knew it was going to be hard, and in preparation- to remind myself not to talk too fast, to be mindful- I artfully wrote the word “breathe” on my wrist. I quite liked it…and it did the trick. The presentation was still labored, but I made my way through and felt accomplished at the conclusion.

There was something about having that reminder there, on my wrist…a few days later, I wrote it there again.  After the third time I wrote ‘breathe’ on my wrist, I made the surprising decision that I wanted it tattooed there…in Jane Austen handwriting font- because Jane Austen is my mother’s favorite author.

I am not really a “tattoo person”.  All my daughters have tattoos, Tasha has Beatles’ lyrics, Michaela has Journi’s footprint with “love you to the moon and back” and also a quote from a piece I wrote, Justina has too many to name, ladybugs, and dragonflies among them.  When I hesitantly told them that I was planning to do “breathe” on my wrist, they quickly adopted the idea of doing the same.

And so it is, all of us have the word “breathe” on our wrists…all in our own style, as it should be…because, as I have noticed…they are all still breathing, even if they said they weren’t listening.

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