I’ve probably commented on this conversation before, but for some reason it returns to me over and over again. Tom said “Kjirsti, I hope you will choose what kind of mother you want to be, not just be like so and so or so and so.” I contested, “It’s not that easy. . .” He disagreed. This conversation took place when I was about half way through my pregnancy with Scotland, and while I wasn’t particularly open to the idea when the conversation arose, it has become a running theme in my mind ever since. “What kind of mother do I want to be?”
We’re all exposed to a variety of mothering examples in our lives, I for one have many mother mentors- women who’s mothering I admire. But recognizing what one wants to be, and then actually being that are two different things. Fortunately, I have yet to be faced with too many parenting hurtles, and so I continue to silently observe, read, and converse with others in my search for my mothering style. I had the opportunity to experiment with a new way of mothering our first two months in Seattle. We were renting a small home in Wallingford, a lively walkable neighborhood ten minutes from downtown. We were minutes from famous Seattle locales like Gas Works Park, Woodland Park Zoo, Ballard Locks, Golden Gardens Beach and a plethera of restaurants and playgrounds. As a result of our time there, Scotland always asks when I say we’re going to go some where, “Are we going to walk?” (Unfortunately, in our new home, the answer is almost always, “No.”) Without a yard to care for, a home to renovate or even design, and a space so small we had to be out for his and my sanity, Scotland and I spent the summer soaking up what Seattle had to offer. We hit festivals and parades, visited a variety of playgrounds, visited several libraries, checked out local landmarks and walked to many of those places. I’d never spent so much time away from home, and I found that I loved it. I loved the energy on the streets of 45th, loved the opportunities for conversation storefronts and hippie Seattleites provided Scotland and I. I loved the fresh air and the constant change of scene. It made my nauseous, exhausting first trimester a time I will always look back on with fondness and warmth. Now that we live in our spacious home with our private yard, no longer walking distance from playgrounds and zoos I’ve found myself staying home more, reverting back to past mothering habits. Granted, there’s simply more “that needs to be done” now. The lawn needs to be mowed, patches reseeded. The gardens need to be landscaped and weeded. The walls need to be painted, and I’ve yet to put a picture up. And yet, none of those things are needs. I’ve been surprised at the rustic quality of Seattle homes and yards, there’s little of the prestine manicured look I grew so used to in Shaker Heights. Also, to be fair, we’re more content at home here than we were in our small rental. There’s plenty of space for Scotland to run and play, and I have a lots of projects to look forward to.
Wednesday morning we headed to the zoo first thing. We arrived around 10:00 just as the day was warming. The fall light, horizontal and golden, lent a stunning air to already beautiful exhibits. With few people at the zoo, we had several exhibits to ourselves. We stood and watched the 12 point elk eating leaves off the branch at the top of the hill and then sighed in awe as he walked right in front of us. We giggled as the parrots flew on top of the zoo keepers head, and nearly pecked at Scotland’s toes. Scotland took charge of the stroller, and with pathways empty we ran in circles as the stroller swayed uncontrollably crashing from time to time- to his great delight! I sat back and let him play on the natural playground, smiling at his sweet interactions with the other children. After a few hours we decided it was time for lunch, and realizing a small cafe I’ve wanted to visit was only minutes away we swang by. Sharing a Carribeam Roast Sandwich, we mused at the variety of characters who entered behind us. (At one point Scotland, who was facing the door kept pointing outside and saying “What is that, what is that?” Trying to be polite, I asked him to explain what he was seeing, as I couldn’t see around the corner. He looked intently, and then said “They’re not aliens.” A few minutes later two guys entered. One donned bright blue and green hair, the other a bushy beard and fro in blazing red!)
As we returned home, both of us beamed. It had been a beautiful morning full of love, and experience. A morning that made me think over and over, I love being a Mother!
Paseo’s Carribean Roast Pork Sandwich
Getting things done
Making friends at the beach
Yesterday, I spent the morning “getting things done.” We made granola, shredded my big block of Costco cheddar cheese to freeze, and froze several bunches of cilantro. I’d also hoped to seed some bare patches in the lawn, and spray all the moss growing on our patio. But after the first three projects, Scotland’s interest in “work” had faded and he was eager to play. I started to feel testy, and felt relieved that the clock said it was time for lunch, books, and nap. Scotland had a “quiet time” but certainly didn’t sleep, and wasn’t quiet. Needing a quick pick me up, I laid down for 30 minutes to awake to his room thrashed and Montessori aids strewn across the basement floor- including a small bag of rice. My patience tried, I instructed him on how to use the hose on the vacumn and prepped for our planned trip to the beach as he slowly sucked up each grain. As it would be, Scotland fell asleep enroute, at first I was annoyed, and then I thought, I’ll just read my book! I parked in the parking lot and enjoyed 45 minutes of sublime reading time. By the time Scotland awoke the stress I had been feeling all morning had faded and we both happily headed to the beach. We spent three hours there, building sand castles, riding on driftwood- pretending we were shipmates, throwing rocks, and finally watching the sun go down. As we walked back to the car, holding hands, this immense feeling of joy and love swept over me. There had been several times during our extended stay at the beach that I had said “Well, we should probably go,” but Scotland’s eagerness to stay won me over. How glad I am that I stayed and was present with him for those three hours. As we were leaving the parking lot I noticed that someone was releasing chinese lanterns up into the sky. I pulled the car over and excitedly pulled Scotland out of his car seat. “Scotland, Look!” We stood and watched as they floated up into the sky, wondering outloud where they would go. As we drove away he called back “Goodbye, hot balloons!” I smiled in love with my son, in love with motherhood. (When Tom got home he went in to give Scotland a kiss goodnight. He was already asleep but stirred when Tom kissed him. He awoke and said, “Daddy, Daddy? We went to the beach. We saw balloons. It was beautiful.” Then he faded back to sleep.)
Sunset over the Olympic Mountains
Interestingly, it is these days at the beach and zoo when I thrill in my motherhood, and the days when I’m getting things done that the shine of motherhood dulls, and I start to wonder if I might find fulfillment more in elsewhere. And yet, the choice of how to spend my day, is entirely my own.
It’s experiences like these at the zoo and beach, that I am reminded of the mother I want to be, a mother that doesn’t come naturally for me. There are reasons my life motto is: “Never let a problem to be solved, be more important than a person to be loved.” I’m a doer, I love to accomplish, and I have a strong sense of what should be done. Too often, that tendency fills my days with accomplished tasks, but few memorable moments. I understand that life can’t entirely be spent at zoos and beaches, mouths have to be fed, homes cleaned (though the house stays much cleaner when we spend the day away!) but I want to continue to strive to have these moments. So that someday when I look back at my life it will be rich with sunsets, goofy laughter, and voyages on driftwood.