Category Archives: Motherhood

West Coast Adventures Part 1-The Enigmatic, Lonely Traveler

josh and mommy before trip unedited

After a lovely, relaxing morning together baking banana bread and watching a movie on Wednesday, I took Josh to school (as late as I possibly could and still make my flight), and I said goodbye for 4 days.  His friends greeted him excitedly, questioning his whereabouts for the first half of the day and eager to catch him up on everything he missed.  I kept returning for one more kiss, thinking of something to tell him or to say hi to a little friend.  Finally, he gave me a big hug, and, with a look of awareness and love, he smiled and said goodbye.  He didn’t grab at my ankle or cry.  He wasn’t shaky in his words or pouting at me for my decision to take a trip and leave him behind.  We said “I love you’s” and “see you soon’s” and he joined his friends.  I almost went back over for one last kiss, but I realized that would have been for me.  He was telling me he was okay, and I needed to show him that I could be, too.  I walked out of the classroom and peaked in through the glass window. (This is nothing new.  I do it pretty much every day.)  He knows I do this, and sometimes he indulges me by looking up and waving.  This day, he lifted his head and smiled.  I waved, mustered up all the courage I could find, and walked away.  And then I sobbed while singing along to the Frozen soundtrack in the car.

This might seem silly. I am sure plenty of parents leave their kids with their extremely trusting and capable partners for a few days or longer.  But I haven’t.  This is the first time I will be gone for more than 2 nights and the first time I won’t be an hour or two away from him since we brought him home.   I am reminded intimately of the drive away from him Dave and I had to make after the very first time we met him.  In that moment, we were leaving our son in a home that was not his with caregivers who were not his parents and there was nothing we could do about it.  We were driving back to our old lives 6 hours away knowing things would never be the same.  It was the best and worst feeling.

Today, almost 2 and half years later, I am leaving my son under very different circumstances.  He is home with his daddy.  He is looking forward to riding his bike at the park and playing Wii and wrestling and eating pizza.  A few days before I left, he said, “Mommy, it’s okay that you are going on a trip.  I will get a lot of good time with my Daddy.”  It’s like he had been thinking about it, and this was his conclusion.  Don’t get me wrong, he gets a lot of time with his daddy on a regular basis, but I knew what he meant.  It was an opportunity.  It was their own adventure while I was off on mine.

After a good cry in the car as I was driving away from his school, my travels began.  The sadness lingered, but another sensation came upon me- excitement.  I was eager to get to my conference and connect with a dear friend, but before that, I was actually looking forward to a day of traveling all by myself.  For those who know me, I don’t typically like the phrase “all by myself” to be associated with my name very often, but something about it felt sort of mysterious and adventurous.  For a day, I wouldn’t look like a mother or a wife or a counselor or a teacher.  I could be whoever I wanted to be.  I could be enigmatic.  I could be a loner.  I could be quiet.  I could be someone who orders a glass of wine and a rice bowl in the Charlotte Airport and eats by herself.  I could be going to California or going to Japan, and no one would know the difference.  I could be from anywhere in the world making a stop on any journey I want.  It was an adrenaline rush… for a little while.

airport meal

I got about halfway through my dinner before the loneliness hit me.  It wasn’t a consuming feeling, but it was there.  As an extrovert, airports are complicated for me.  On the one hand, I love that I am surrounded by all kinds of people moving in different directions and operating at a fast pace.  But being surrounded by thousands of people and not knowing a single person is like a tease.  And there isn’t much impetus to get to know anyone because there is little possibility for small talk with a stranger while waiting for your boarding zone to be called to turn into a meaningful friendship. (Although I am sure it happens on occasion.)  It is not just talking I want.  It’s connection.  It’s familiarity.  It’s relationship.  And it’s pretty difficult to have those things while being mysterious and stand-offish.  So maybe being enigmatic isn’t all that important to me after all.

By the time I boarded my flight for my final destination of San Diego, I threw all mystery and intrigue out the window and I Facetimed my family.  I talked loudly, I flipped the camera around to give Josh a full view of the cabin and held my arms up in the air as I waved it around.  I made kissy faces and said I love you about 12 times.  And it felt great.  The jig was up.  I could no longer pretend that I was a human rights activist in Africa or a French artist on her way to New York for an exhibit.  I was just a mom who loved her kid.

Seeing their faces made me miss them, but I also felt a support that had been absent throughout my solo traveling experience up to that point.  This is my first real trip since becoming a mom, and I realize now that I don’t want to compartmentalize my life anymore.  I don’t want to leave my identity behind for adventure and excitement.  But I also don’t want to be afraid to step away from my normal life and explore unknowns, both with and without my people.   I carry them with me wherever my travels take me, whether it’s to the grocery store down the street or to the Pacific Ocean.  So I am not an enigmatic, lonely traveler.  I am a loved, supported and connected traveler with people and things I love on both ends of my voyage.  So I can wait it out in the in between and have a meal with my oldest friend.  Me.

My son is the cutest: Battling the ego of parenting

A stranger at the grocery store told me how cute my son is, and I said, “Thank you.”

josh butterfly

My son is so adorable. Sometimes I just stare at him for minutes at a time. I wish I could write down everything he says because it is cute and witty and insightful. He is extremely bright. He picks up on things quickly, and he remembers everything. (Which can be good and bad). He is a natural athlete. He loves to dance. He has great rhythm for a 5-year-old. He is a good little singer, too. He sang his prayer the other night, which was precious (and surprisingly on-pitch). He really is the greatest kid.

There are so many reasons why I love being a parent. But do you want to know my favorite thing about being an adoptive parent? The freedom to brag about my kid. Let me explain. I get to talk about how cute and smart and wonderful my child is and people don’t think I am the world’s most self-centered person because I did nothing to contribute to his looks or his athletic ability or his smile. I didn’t take excellent care of him in the womb, playing Mozart and eating organic foods. I didn’t have a natural childbirth in a birthing center or find the best doctor and the most reputable hospital for him to make his entrance. I didn’t sleep train him to teach him to self-soothe and be more independent. I didn’t co-sleep with him to increase his sense of belonging and create the most nurturing, safe environment possible. I didn’t start teaching him to read at age 2 or put a football in his hand as a toddler. I didn’t do any of those things. And because of that, I seemed to have gotten a “pass”. And I take full advantage of it.

After a year and a half of being a parent, I realized that something changed. The comfort I used to feel in not taking responsibility for the first 4 years of my son’s life seemed like a distant memory, and I found my own identity too often wrapped up in my son’s behavior, relationships and overall success. Any feedback that was not warm and fluffy felt like a personal attack on my parenting and Josh’s character. I have been quick to assume that people “just can’t relate” or that our situation is unlike any other so that I could maintain my position and keep my ego intact. All of that healthy distance I thought I had identified as an adoptive parent went out the window and I began taking complete responsibility for every action, word, thought and feeling that my son had. Of course, the irony is that I have been counseling parents for years on maintaining a healthy identity apart from their children and not letting egos interfere with good parenting.

After much reflection, I have realized that my initial tendency not to take responsibility for my son’s early years and my more recent over-identification of everything he does are both wrapped up in my ego. Eek. As painful as this realization has been, I am grateful for it. I tell my clients often that the annoying thing about raising your awareness is that you can’t keep pretending like you don’t see something. Okay, it’s blinding me a little now.

As a parent, I need to acknowledge that sometimes I get defensive because my ego is being bruised. But other times, I get protective of my child because it is my job. Sometimes, the line between the two is hard to distinguish, so I will keep working on it. I will stand next to all the other parents who fight this battle of ego, biological and adoptive alike.

And in the meantime, I will continue to enjoy my “pass” and talk about how cute and intuitive and precious my son is. Not because of anything I have done (or even anything HE has done for that matter), but because of the miraculous and awe-inspiring gift that children are. I want to grant all parents a “pass” to talk about how amazing your child is every now and then. You also have my permission to stare at your children for minutes at a time. Parents of teenagers, you may get some heat for this. That’s okay. I still see my mom look at me that way sometimes- like I fell from heaven and landed on her lap and she can’t even believe it. That’s not pride or ego. It’s gratitude. And it makes me feel extremely valued.

A stranger at the grocery store told me how cute my son is, and I said, “Thank you.” I don’t know why. It just came out. What I wanted to say was, “Yes, he is. And he’s loving and insightful and funny and full of life. And I am so honored to be his mom.”

Embracing my love-hate relationship with Christmas cards

I love Christmas cards.  I love the thoughtfulness.  I love the deliberateness.  I love the creativity.

I hate Christmas cards.  I hate the pressure.  I hate the expectation.  I hate the reminder that so many people I know, even those much busier or more overwhelmed than I, find the time to send a meaningful card. 

I received a Christmas card from my husband’s grandmother who has been in the hospital the entire of month of December.  If that’s not humbling, I don’t know what is.

The truth is I want to be a Christmas card sender.  I really do.  I have done it twice.  The first time was 2009- the year I got married.  Our wedding was in July, and by the end of November, I still hadn’t sent thank you notes yet.  (For the same reasons that I struggle to send Christmas cards obviously.)  At that point, I had three choices: 1) Send regular thank you notes at the same time others are sending Christmas cards, 2) send a Christmas card that can double as a thank you note, or 3) climb into a hole to further avoid the pressure of both and slowly alienate myself from all meaningful relationships. So I sent Christmas thank you cards. (A serious etiquette violation, I am sure.)

Fast-forward to 2012.  My family underwent significant changes, culminating in the adoption of our son.  Our year had been so rich and full of blessings, and we received so much support and encouragement during that time from our family and friends.  It only seemed right to send Christmas cards.  I wanted to.  I had a second motive for that card, too.  (You notice a theme here?  I really like to “kill two birds with one stone” if I can).  Although my husband and I tried to be open about our process of becoming parents, we hadn’t had the opportunity to really share our story with a lot of people in our extended support networks.  I was concerned that some of our older relatives without Facebook might see our Christmas card and be extremely perplexed at the sudden presence of an adorable 4-year-old boy.  I also felt ready to share more of the story, and this seemed like the perfect time and venue.  I included an insert in the Christmas cards about our journey toward parenthood that culminated in the finalization of Josh’s adoption on December 12.  It was a year worth celebrating.  It was most certainly Christmas card-worthy.

I thought this would be the start of the new me.  The Christmas card-sending version of Karin.  I knew it would take energy and time, but it felt worth it.  So as the holiday season approached again, the plan was in motion.  We had scheduled to take family pictures with a photographer friend of mine, Linda Bainter, on December 12th-the first anniversary of our adoption finalization.  It was a beautiful day filled with love and cute poses.  I couldn’t wait to put the pictures on our Christmas card.  I knew I would be cutting it close since we decided to wait until our adoption day to do the photo shoot, but I felt ready for it.  I was embracing my identity as a Christmas card sender.

Well, here I am.  2014 has begun, and no Christmas card.  We just completed a whirlwind 12-day extended family and friends holiday tour, and now I am sitting down on my couch, heavy with the realization that I didn’t do it and contemplating how late one can send out Happy New Year cards.

Since the start of a new year is a good time to make changes, I thought about making it my New Year’s Resolution: Become someone who sends Christmas cards.  In fact, let’s throw in birthday cards and thank you cards, too.  But as  I thought more about it, I realized I had already told myself that before and it didn’t seem to work.  I realized I was missing something in this resolution.  I needed to dig deeper.  So instead, I decided I want 2014 to be the year of thoughtfulness.  Maybe that means thanking someone (in writing) for a sweet gift.  Maybe it means sending more letters (by hand) to dear friends who are far away.  Maybe it means calling someone instead of texting to say hi.  Hopefully, it means sending Christmas cards next year.  Not because I have to or feel obligated to, but because I want to be someone who can slow down and be thoughtful enough to remember and honor people in my life.  I truly do want to Wish them a Merry Christmas and send Love, Joy and Peace and say Happy Holidays.  I also enjoy the opportunity to celebrate my own family and invite others to celebrate with us.

It’s the start of a new year, and I want to start this year off on the right foot.  I resolve to be more thoughtful and deliberate this year.  I resolve to value relationships over expectations and performance.  And I resolve to continue to use this blog as a way to share my heart and connect with others.  Thank you for all the support and encouragement you have given me through this vessel.  It means more than I could say.  Whether you are family, a friend or an internet stranger, you are blessing to me.

So to all of you who take the time to read my posts, here is my Christmas card.

I hope you had a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and I wish you love, joy and peace in 2014.  I pray that each one of us will continue to grow more fully into the person we were meant to be this year and every year of our lives. God bless.

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A very special thanks to Linda Bainter at Lovin’ the Light for capturing the spirit of our adoption day.  My son keeps asking when we can play with you again. 🙂

Nesting: Honoring the journey on the anniversary of our family

Nesting: The emotional, psychological, physiological, relational, spiritual, and practical process of preparing for parenthood. -K. Fields

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My appreciation for my own nesting process feels close to me these days in light of the the 1st anniversary of our adoption finalization (known around my house as “Joshua Day”).  12-12-12.  That was the day when we stood in front of a judge and swore to be Josh’s parents for the rest of our lives.  By that point, we had already been living with our son in our home for almost 2 months, but there was something significant about that act; the formality of it.  The permanence.  The symbolism of raising my hand and swearing to love, support and take care of my son no matter what. (Hmm, do you think we could initiate this type of symbolic commitment in hospitals before parents bring their babies home?  Or better yet, prior to the moment of conception? That was a joke.  Kind of.)

On January 1, 2012, my husband and I both believed that we would be parents that year.  We didn’t know how or when, but we felt confident that we were supposed to move toward it with openness and determination.  So you can imagine my astonishment and awe when I realized on the drive back up to South Carolina to finalize our son’s adoption on December 12, 2012 that our vision had been fulfilled.  Everything we went through to get to that point- every disappointment, fear, negative experience, blessing, struggle, connection- was all worth it.  We were parents.  And we would never not be parents again.

Although we tried to become parents biologically prior to the start of 2012, I mark that day on January 1st as the official start of our nesting process; the beginning of our gestational period where 9 months later we would bring our child home (even though we had no idea at the time what our journey would look like).

So this other part of my life creeps in every now and then. I am a doctoral student, and occasionally I have to do “student” things. It was difficult for me to stay invested in school during my process of becoming a parent, especially when Josh came home to live with us.  Thankfully, I had kind and understanding professors and I discovered my love for qualitative research.  Through this vessel, I found a way to connect my personal journey to my professional endeavors, and I found a renewed passion for research and my academic pursuits.

I became fascinated with the concept of  nesting, and I was curious about how the nesting process for adoptive parents compares to the nesting process for biological parents.  I had to conduct research and complete a project in my qualitative data collection class, and after struggling with where to start for several weeks, I eventually decided to begin the research with my own journey of preparing for parenthood. I interviewed myself and made a video comparing the nesting process of biological parents to my own journey toward parenthood.

I wrestled with whether or not to put this on my blog, but in the end, I decided that leaning on the side of vulnerability has been meaningful and worthwhile.  So, why not?

I will refrain from inserting my own commentary here because I have already done that in the video.  However, I do feel the need to include a disclaimer that, despite my attempt to be “artsy”, I realize that my production quality is below that of most 5th graders.  Next time, I hope to enlist the help of a middle schooler to teach me more about video production.  Okay, enough disclaiming.  Enjoy.  *Vulnerability Hangover commence.*

*The term Vulnerability Hangover is borrowed from an amazing therapist/researcher/writer/speaker Brene Brown.  If you aren’t familiar with her work on vulnerability, I urge you to become familiar with it.

The Madness and Sanity of Parenting

josh in tree

While sitting in a research meeting on campus yesterday, my phone rang.

Oh no. My son’s school. 

“Josh is fine, but there was an incident, and we want to meet with you.  Today.”  My heart is beating out of my chest.  I am told that I don’t have to come now, but that it needs to be before pick-up.  “Wait…But hurry.”

Uggh.. This part is so hard.  The waiting.  The uncertainty.  The fear.  That out-of-control feeling when you realize your kid, however young he may be, is a real person capable of having his own thoughts and making his own decisions.  She wouldn’t give me any details over the phone, but after hearing the director’s tone and choice of words, I was pretty sure my son was the offender.  This filled me with a range of emotions from fear to guilt to concern to helplessness.  “What if it’s really bad?”  “How will I respond?”  I realized that allowing my imagination to run wild was not productive for my stress level or sanity, so I tried to quiet those voices and pray.  I prayed that I would handle the situation graciously and thoughtfully.  I prayed that I would be receptive and not quick to judgment or anger.  (Both toward my son and toward others involved).  But mostly, I prayed for my son.  I prayed that he would know the love and forgiveness of God and trust in the love and forgiveness of his parents.

I didn’t know how I would feel when I found out the specifics of the incident in question, but I knew this.  I wasn’t going to reject my son, no matter what the school told me or what he had done.  I know my boy.  He is sensitive and empathic and intuitive, and he knows the feeling of rejection so acutely already.  My mind was imagining the worst possible scenarios, and as I played them out, I pictured myself moving toward my son in love and grace, reminding him that even when I am mad and disappointed and hurt (which I will be at times because that is a part of relationships and the impact our actions have on others), his offenses will never be greater than my love and commitment to him as my son.

In typical Karin fashion, I have now built up this story to an anti-climactic point where I tell you that, although the offense was definitely disobedient and even dangerous, it was not among the worst of the fears that bounced around my head on my drive over to the school.  That is a technique I use as a counselor, too.  Think of the worst case scenario.  Process how you would handle it and what it would feel like.  Now imagine an equally plausible scenario that is not so horrible.  How does that feel?  Okay, if I am being honest, my approach in the car may not have been as therapeutic as I just described.  But the relief I felt was palpable nonetheless.  And for the record, I can say that his sweet and intuitive teacher handled it superbly, and I am grateful for that.

After a positive and encouraging interaction with the director and teacher, I was eager to walk down to my son’s classroom and receive him with grace and love.  When I came in, he gave me a sheepish smile and wavered before walking over to me.  He was trying to read my face and body language to see if I knew, and he was watching me to see how I would respond.  I smiled and said, “Let’s go home.”  He walked slowly next to me, looking at me every so often, then looking back down.  I didn’t make much small talk, but I didn’t give him the cold shoulder either.  I just walked with him.  I put him in the car, then came around and sat next to him in the back seat.  He was surprised and kind of laughed, not knowing what I was up to.

I looked my son in the eye, told him I loved him, smiled slightly but intently, then asked him to tell me what happened today.  As we sat there together, I watched my son wrestle through the events of the day painfully in his mind, telling me bits and pieces, then withdrawing.  This cycle went on a few times, then finally, after most of the story had been retold from his perspective along with remorse and guilt, he said the thing I had been fearing and praying through since I first got the call.  He said he was afraid I wouldn’t forgive him.  He spoke the words with such raw emotion and genuineness, and he wouldn’t look at me after he said them.  I turned my son’s face to mine, kissed his nose, and told him that I forgive him and I love him, and I always will.  Always.  Then we had a serious conversation about obedience, respect, and thinking about consequences before acting.

There is a line from the movie Spanglish that reminds me of my feelings yesterday.  The main character says, “Worrying about your children is sanity.  And being that sane is enough to drive you nuts.”  In the midst of all the stress and anxiety I felt yesterday afternoon, I also experienced a deep sense of gratitude.  I have wanted to be a parent my whole life.  Now I am a parent, and sometimes my child drives me nuts.  I love this little person so much and so deeply that it makes me feel crazy sometimes.  But in those moments when I get wrapped up in my own craziness of worrying about my child, I also remind myself that I cannot control him or protect him from the world’s problems or make all of his decisions for him.  He is his own little person with a will and a mind and a heart and a body and a soul.  I have been given the privilege of being his mother.  And with that privilege comes a great deal of responsibility and diligence.  But every day, whether we put our kids on school buses or home school them, whether they live in our house or have a house and a family of their own, we have to release our children into the world and hope and pray they will be okay. (Mom, I get it now.)

Being a parent is the most maddening and sane thing I have ever done.  And even though yesterday was a tough day, it was important.  Josh needs those moments.  He needs to make bad choices and mess up sometimes.  And I need those moments, too.  I need to be reminded of my lack of control and trust God in my parenting.

The poet Kahlil Gibran sums up the complicated and beautiful mystery of caring for your children and releasing them at the same time.  Here is an excerpt that is meaningful to me.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

I pray that I will be a stable and glad bow for my son, the adventurous and spirited arrow.

And I hope for no more school phone calls any time soon.

Carolina on my Mind: How I Learned to Embrace my Outdoorsy Self

                 mountains 8-fam pic                                                                             mountains 4-fam pic 2

I am not really an outdoorsy person.  I like nature and the environment and fresh air, but when left to my own devices, I am much more comfortable in air conditioning.  Coincidentally, I have a son who loves animals, bugs, dirt, exploring, risk and all that accompanies the outdoors.  (Pretty common interests for a 5-year-old boy I guess).

It is amazing (and scary) how quickly we as parents can set tones in our families.  Dave and I joke that one reason we are such a good match is our mutual discomfort with the idea of camping and our similar feelings about loving animals most when they are not in our homes.  And who knows? In the nature vs. nurture debate, maybe Josh would feel this way if he had been in our care since he was born or if he had our genetic predispositions.  Maybe not.  All I know is that our son is nothing like us in either of these ways.  He is an animal-lover, an adventure seeker, and a naturalist.  I have always admired people like this, but I just accepted (and even touted) the fact that I am not so much like that.

 mountains 7-scenery 1                                    mountains 6-scenery                                    mountains 2-deer

And then I went on vacation in the mountains of North Carolina.  What a beautiful reminder of the magnificence of creation.  As we were driving further and further into the mountains, I felt calmer; more peaceful.  I cared less about emails, texts, and even responsibilities (luckily, because I didn’t have service anyway).  I gave myself permission to breathe and take it all in.  It felt like Josh and I were both children in that car, looking around and pointing out amazing things we were seeing.  It was awesome.

What is it about nature that brings me back to myself? To God? To genuine connection with my surroundings?  It seems like I just get busy and preoccupied, and I stop looking around.  But when confronted with such majesty as I was during that drive into the mountains, I was forced to notice; compelled to appreciate it.  How could I not see such raw and magnificent beauty?

A few months ago, we got a sweet card and gift from family friends who live out West.  In the card, there was a check, and with the check, we were instructed to put the money toward doing something adventurous and outdoorsy with our son.  I felt slightly overwhelmed at the thought, but also motivated.  “We can do this.” I thought.  I just wasn’t sure how.  For a while after receiving it, I kept my eyes and ears open for opportunities to use this gift.  And then slowly, I forgot.  Life got busy, and our outdoor time remained limited to bike rides and the occasional park visit.

It wasn’t until we were hiking in the woods of North Carolina that I remembered the gift and the charge that accompanied it.  I smiled as I realized why these friends did what they did.  It was not out of judgment for our suburban/city life.  It was out of pure passion and enthusiasm for nature and their firsthand experiences in how meaningful it can be to engage in outdoor adventures.  After spending a few days connecting with nature and seeing the joy in my son’s face as we hiked, searched for animals, and had picnics, I realized that I wasn’t just doing it for my son.  I was being renewed and invigorated right along with him.  I get it a little better now.  I want to get it even more and keep growing in my love and appreciation for nature and the environment.  I don’t want my son to grow up feeling separated from his parents in his love for the outdoors because there are enough reasons why kids can feel separated from their parents.

So I have come to a conclusion.  I think people who say they are not outdoorsy (like me) could be setting themselves up to be nature-avoidant.  And after my renewal experience this week, that is just not acceptable for me anymore.  I may never want to bike to work every day.  It is likely that I will still prefer to take my son to a movie than on a nature hike.  I am pretty sure I will always prefer to see a snake in a book than in real life.  So maybe I am not really outdoorsy.  But I am a nature lover.  I do value the earth and all of its inhabitants (including snakes).  And I need to make that more clear in the way I live my life.  I need to emphasize it more in the way I parent and the way I spend my time.  If I want my son to believe that I value something, I have to show him.

My son has taught me more this year than anyone else in my life.  And this is one more thing.  Thank you, Joshua, for reminding me to love and appreciate nature, animals and even bugs.  And thanks to our dear friends for sharing this week with us and lovingly encouraging me to tap in to my outdoorsy self.  It’s in there.  It just takes a little coaxing to come out.

My personal challenge this week: Do something adventurous.  And do it with people you love.

                                                      mountains 1-walk                              mountains 5-group pic

It’s official. I’m a mom.

josh-sick day

I have been a mom for over a year, and these days, my parental identity is solid and clear.  I remember when we first brought Josh home and started introducing him to people, I felt sort of awkward and uncertain.  I realized in those moments that other people, even those who knew me well, didn’t know me as a mom, which meant I was introducing them to my 4-year-old son and Parental Karin at the same time.  The trouble with that was that I didn’t really know what my identity as a parent looked like yet. For a while, my parental identity seemed to be getting stronger when I was interacting with Josh and establishing our family with my husband, but it seemed confusing and foreign when I was engaging in other aspects of my identity or when I was in “mom-centric” environments where the parental identity of others was in full force and I felt like mine was catching up.

Naturally and gradually, I have grown into my parental identity, and now I have very few days where I experience those out of body “Whose life am I living? How did I get here? This must be a joke” moments.  And that feels good.  It feels like growth.  But as established as I may feel as a parent, I appreciate it when I have new experiences that expand my parental identity, like today.  Well, around 2 am this morning to be more precise.

Caution: This next part is not for the weak-stomached.

After a year of parenting, I am finally able to commiserate with parents who say, “I was up half the night with my sick child.”  Of course, Josh has been sick before.  But this time, he was sick sick.  Like puke everywhere kind of sick.  His upset tummy turned into a full-blown violent expulsion of his stomach contents, and I was right there in his bed to witness it (and smell it and see it and even hear it).  A million thoughts raced through my head, including, “Yuck”, “Poor baby”, “I have to get him to the bathroom”, and “I am going to have to clean this”.  Oh, and “I hope it didn’t get in my hair.” 

It was a rough night, to say the least.  But I have to say, it was a good night, too.  Some situations just make me feel more like a mom, and as someone who still feels like I am catching up in the parenting department, clear “mom moments” are encouraging and motivating for me.  The image of the throw up all over his bed I could do without, but the image of my son looking at me with upset eyes and a quivering lip, seeking comfort from me, that is lasting and sacred.

After Josh’s hard night, we all woke up feeling dazed and depleted, but unified.  We had made it through, together.  We had a lot of things planned for the day (t-ball, a brunch, a drive to Orlando for a special bridal shower), but the reality was that all of our plans changed as soon as Josh got sick.  Dave and I looked at each other with understanding and contacted the people involved in our plans to let them know we wouldn’t make it.  I don’t like to disappoint anyone.  Sometimes, that results in my pushing myself too hard or compromising my highest priorities for extra commitments, but not today.  Today, I trusted my instinct and snuggled with my son in my pajamas.  And it was a really sweet day.

Most days, I feel the strain of balancing family, work, school, and other commitments, but not today.   Today, I pressed in to my parental identity and let everything else go.  And while he napped, instead of doing schoolwork or making calls, I watched Star Wars and ironed clothes.  And this distinction makes me more than a mom.  It makes me my mom. 🙂

Life gets busy and full before I even notice it has happened.  Sometimes, it takes a force of nature, like a hurricane or projectile vomit, to slow me down and simplify things.  As I reflect on the last 24 hours and I think about my son sleeping soundly in his bed (with clean sheets), I feel full.  And I realize that I feel a little more like a mom tonight than I did last night.