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For these last days in December, I am participating in a blogging challenge http://www.reverb10.com/, which is an annual event and online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next.  Reverb provides writing prompts to elicit my reflections on 2010 and to generate my intentions for 2011.

December 20 – Beyond Avoidance

PROMPT:  What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)

Oh crap.  I signed up for this?  I mean, do you all have a few hours?  Because the response to this prompt could be long.  Grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine because my mind is already racing by categorizing all the ways that I fell short…let’s see…every day I make choices in my mothering that I regret because I am too busy.  Sometimes I throw pizza at my daughter instead of showing her ways to incorporate beautiful, healthy food into a meal because I am returning phone calls or rotating laundry or…you name it.  We all do.  And the truth is, those phone calls never really do get made, the laundry is never quite done, and so it is something that has the nutritional value of pizza again for dinner!

Even now, I cannot give what I want to this post because I have a conference call in an hour.  And I feel horrible.  Scattered.  Like everything only gets a fraction of my attention.

So what should I have done in 2010 but didn’t?

FORGIVE MYSELF.

This is life.  My life is going to be in a thousand directions at times and I perpetuate that momentum with my guilt.  The lists only get longer.  I SHOULD, I SHOULD, I SHOULD…

No.  Stop. Forgive myself.

Stop.  Forgive yourself.

Be joyous.  Make a mark on the wall that indicates how high the laundry piled this week.  Who knows?  Maybe next week it will be even higher.  Consider it a gain, not a problem.  Consider the abundance in that moment.  We have all of those clothes, and loving family members to wear and dirty those clothes!  I need to tell myself:  You are not short on time, you are just rich in life.

So if you did not do that in 2010, the forgiveness part, do it in 2011.  I intend to.  The laundry will get done, I promise.  Well…maybe not mine.

Sophia, pointing to a large and obvious church on our drive home from Trader Joe’s, asked “Who lives there again?”

“Oh, nobody lives there,” I answered.  “Many people like to go there to pray to God or Jesus.”

“I know all about Jesus, but who is God?”  she asked again.

“God is not a who,” I replied after holding my breath because honestly, I am more equipped to answer the question of how babies are made to a 4-year-old than Who Is God.

But somehow it came to me.  “God is the love that you have inside of you.  The love for all the things and people of the world and even beyond the world.  Never forget that you are God, that everyone is God.”

After a moment of thought she spoke.  “Some of the boys in my preschool do not have God inside them.”

I laughed for a second then realized the opportunity.  “Yes they do, Sophia.  If you practice using your God eyes, you will see it.”

[Image from Here]

My daughter loves to look through a book of art by Alex Grey called Sacred Mirrors.  The other day she stared long and hard at the page that features the painting below and ran her hand over the side that represents the agony of the modern world.

“Ohhhhhhhh,” she said on an exhale.  “I better try and fix that.”

No matter what happens during the race, this photo makes the whole process worth it.  Short-stuff always has the best way of expressing how proud she is of me.

Happy 4th Birthday.

In the last year I discovered that you are not just my daughter.  You are a partner in a common vision.  All delight in the world gathers at your feet and you place it in my arms.  

Love,

Mama

I write letters to my daughter and post them in this blog with the hope that she will someday read them when she is old enough to understand their content.  Yesterday I discovered that she may be the one that needs to take over that job.

Sophia handed me two blank pieces of paper and told me that they were letters for me.

“Read them,” she demanded

I held up the first blank piece of paper and began, “Dear Mommy, thank you for being the best mommy in the world.  Thank you for getting me dressed and thank you for brushing my hair.  Thank you for all of the wonderful food you give me too.”

When I looked up, she was smiling.  “Read the other one.”

I squinted my eyes at the second blank page and read, “Dear Mommy, thank you for being the best mommy in the world.  I promise to always say please and thank you and excuse me.  Oh, and I promise to never wake you up in the middle of the night again.”

I was so proud of working this situation out to my advantage until Sophia said, “Mommy, you forgot to read something on both pages.”

I gave her my best pouty face. “I did?  What did I forget to read?”

She smiled even bigger.  “They said ‘I will always, always forgive you.'”

[images from here]

In some places in the world, all human noise gets sucked into a vortex of rushing and movement and expanding.  The result is a silence that is beyond all silence.  A silence that speaks volumes beyond words.

What I did not know is that my daughter already possesses the skill of listening in this space.  It is no wonder she makes me feel like the student most of the time.

You have me on this huge emotional rollercoaster with your new mantra being, “I will do it MYSELF!”  Don’t get me wrong, I practically fall over with joy now that you are old enough to realize that your hands are covered in jelly or glitter glue or butt stink (yes, thank you for making me verify that one).  Better yet, you totter over to the sink to wash them without even consulting me.  It is limited joy because even though I did not have to stop unloading the dishwasher to help you, I find out soon enough that while washing your hands you decided that your rock collection needed a sink bubble bath.  The super luxurious kind of bubble bath that requires a whole bottle of hand soap.

The downside to this new independence is that you are now insisting that I refrain from doing the things that I love to do.  Like pushing you on the swing because over the winter you somehow picked up the skill of pumping your legs.  I swear, when I saw you do this yesterday at the park, I felt like my whole role as mommy was redefined.  And like every mother who discovers this feeling, the rest of the day was filled with unsolicited bouts of weepiness.  Not just tears in my eyes, either. I am talking about the irrational mom-sobbing that cannot be stopped.  I thank you for not getting upset when you noticed the tears falling on my hands as I buckled you into your car seat.  I thank you for reading my mind in the car on the way home and saying, “Mommy, sometimes you teach me things and sometimes I teach you things.”  Although the amazing timing and clarity of your words only made the sobbing more intense and more irrational.  Not to mention how confused daddy was when we walked in the door at home and saw you were bubbly and thrilled and me grim-faced and practically suicidal.  He is lucky that when he scrambled to get you a Popsicle that he remembered to ask me if I wanted anything from the kitchen.  And he is even luckier that he came through on my cold and demanding answer of, “vodka and soda.”

Perhaps I should have asked for more soda and less vodka, because when it was time to go to bed last night, I realized I forgot to put your bed sheets in the dryer.  So we adapted by snuggling together, all three of us, in our bed.  When you woke me in the middle of the night to re-tuck you in under the covers, I could not help but smile.  And I had to physically hide my laughter  this morning as I watched you get dressed for school “BY YOURSELF!” and you stuck your entire body through the leg hole of your Sponge Bob underwear.  I was not trying to be mean, baby doll, I DO want you to grow up and learn new things.  I just cannot help but bask in the glow of my job-security here and there.

Truthfully, Sophia, when you dropped my hand before running off to play with your friends in your preschool classroom this morning, I knew neither of us really wanted to let go.

Love, Mom

[Image from here]

Sophia busted into my bathroom today holding a red, heart-shaped lollipop left over from a preschool Valentine’s Day party.

See full size image

“What the heck is the picture on this thing” she demanded.

I took the lollipop, held it to the light, squinted, “Ohhh.  That is cupid.  Do you know who cupid is?”  I sighed heavily.

She widened her eyes and shook her head.

“Cupid,” I said, “Is a mischievous angel.  He shoots people with his arrow and makes them fall in love even when they don’t want to.”

“Is he real in our world?” she asked, panicked.

“I am afraid so, baby doll.”

“Well, he does not have to worry about me,” she said while dramatically falling to the floor. “I fall just fine by myself.  And if I get hurt, you or Daddy pick me up.”

“That is love, Sophia.”  I whispered, pulling her off the ground.  “I told you he was sneaky.”

[Image from here]

I felt tremendous guilt the other day after telling my daughter “you are such a good girl” when we were cuddling on the couch.

I feel that this may be the wrong message, and my fear is that she will internalize and distort the perception of  “good” and become a tired, old, people-pleaser like her mother.

So this morning, during an equally intense cuddle-fest, I said to her, “You are limitless.  You can be anything.  Do you know what you would like to be today?”

“I think today,” she answered, “is the day to be a dog.”