Neighbor Friday: Altared Spaces

February 18, 2011

Happy Friday, readers! I have another treat for you today–meet Rebecca! Rebecca blogs at Altared Spaces, and her blog is a wonderful mixture of wonder, whimsy and reflections on motherhood.  Whenever I click over there, I feel like I’ve found a safe haven–a quiet corner to rest my soul in for a while. Enjoy her!

If you want to meet more amazing, neighborly people, click on over to visit Amy at The Never-True Tales!


I am grateful for this one-way street sign.  It reminds me of a conversation I had with my daughter. As we talked, I was able to say “Yes,” to the kind of mother I truly want to be; the one-way mother of nurturance, assurance and solid ground.
I am not always this mother. Sometimes I am the mother who looks to receive instead of give: did I do that right? Am I making the right choices? Do you love me? Is my career impressive enough for you to tell your friends about me? Am I balancing work and family well enough?
All these questions leak out at awkward times. Our family will be at a dinner party and I’ll use my child’s experiences to tell a story about myself; stealing their life to draw attention to mine.
It makes me cringe.
I know I am not alone. I’ve watched children as their faces brace for the inevitable story their mother or father is about to tell. The story gets a laugh and the child rolls their eyes or shrinks into the corner, smaller.
It is exhausting and invisible work to be a parent. I’m certain this is where these party moments come from. We ache to be seen: I’m doing this really difficult thing here; could someone please give me the gold star I deserve?
The conversation with my daughter happened in the kitchen. I was doing dishes. She had just finished reading a novel. The book had affected her and she emerged from her room dazed from the inky pages that leave an imprint long past when the cover gets shut.
I don’t always recognize my mommy opportunities. When I make lists of goals for the week, which is about half the time, I usually have something on there like, “Stay open to kid moments,” because I learned a long time ago that I can’t schedule quality time with my kids. They hold that day-planner.
My girl began to pour out the tale from the book. A mother died young, just after she’d had a baby. But she had time to leave her baby letters. As the baby girl grew she unfolded the letters to read what her mother had written. What struck my kid was that, at each stage of the young girl’s life, this mother knew exactly what it felt like to be a girl.
This fictional mother had remembered how it felt to be eight and dream of painting your walls. And she knew about how difficult teenagers had it. My daughter felt heard by that book. Her life had the big fat stamp of approval.
This was a wonderful and difficult thing to hear my daughter say. I was so happy she felt validated. I know that delicious feeling and I was glad for her to taste it. In the same moment I wondered, had I failed to give that to her? Is that why she tasted it here in this novel?
Then I watched that briefest cringe cross my daughter’s face.
I dried my hands.
The number of kid moments that have unfolded in my kitchen after I’ve dried my hands astounds me. My kids come to my kitchen to talk to me. They pour out their lives while I’m cooking or cleaning up.
I’m able to listen in that unique way that a little industry provides. The mundane in my fingers leaves my brain diverted enough that I have no agenda for their lives. My ears are bigger when I’m in the kitchen.
I put my hands on my daughter’s shoulders and offered her my motherhood one-way road sign. “Your job is to live your life. My job is to cheer you on. This is a one-way street. You don’t take care of me. I take care of you. It’s one of the rare relationships in life that isn’t reciprocal.”
Tears began to pour out of my daughter’s eyes. Eyes that leak tears in moments of intimacy with great reluctance. The cringe was erased.
I hugged her and she melted into me. Then the air had that shimmery feeling. I noticed. This is what love, unconditional love, feels like. I want to offer it with greater frequency.
I can’t say how my daughter experienced that moment. We’ve never talked about it. But it is one of the guideposts for me. I did what I set out to do: I said “Yes” to motherhood. I’ve drawn upon that moment many times.
I noticed the cringe that signaled I’m making my needs more important than my child’s. Fortunately, I was able to undo the something that lingers in the air that motivates those grimaces, eye rolls or shirked shoulders.
I second guess myself in front of my kids instead of being the rock solid adult they need. I interrupt. I shame. These are not my finest hours.
My one-way sign reminds me who I want to be for my children. It stands there declaring that I’ve managed to do this for them, and promises I can do it again.
My kids were born from love. They are headed in their own direction. I don’t need them to define me. I am here to help them find their way.

Do you ever make your children cringe? How do you offer unconditional love? Do you believe parenthood is a one-way street?


Author’s Note: Thank you, Rebecca, for being here and sharing your words. You always make me think.

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate February 18, 2011 at 9:00 am

This was so eloquently put. This post resonated with me and made me feel validated and for that I am grateful! Thank you for sharing.


Phoo-d February 18, 2011 at 9:25 am

Wow. What a beautiful post. I’m just about to start the journey of motherhood and this has given me so much to think about.


rebecca @ altared spaces February 18, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Good luck as you start you family. Raising kids, while sometimes that something that stretches me, has been my favorite life adventure thus far.


Justine February 18, 2011 at 9:32 am

Rebecca, I know what you mean. This parenting thing is so difficult sometimes that you really want to say to everyone “Hey, look at me! I did XYZ and my kid is happy! I did something right!” But it isn’t about us is it? When our kids start to make their own choices, ones that help propel them forward in life and it makes you so proud, that’s when we know that someone has been watching, someone has been noticing. And that someone who did is more important than all the someones out there who didn’t notice.


rebecca @ altared spaces February 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm

“Someone has been watching… and noticing” I think you’re saying something I believe so strongly: I want my kids (the people in my own home) to feel MOST noticed by me. Not ignored when the telephone rings or overlooked when I want attention. I want my children’s feelings to matter.


Jenna February 18, 2011 at 9:50 am

What a beautiful post! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m at that point in my life where we may want to start trying to have kids but are terrified. Terrified that our own selfishness will undermine what could be a beautiful project. Your story was so encouraging–I can continue to mature and grow and set aside my selfishness as the ‘project’ of raising kids unfolds. I don’t have to wait until I’m perfect . . .


rebecca @ altared spaces February 18, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Selfishness. Of course I’ve never struggled with this a day in my life.

But if I had, my kids would be the FIRST to help with that project and undo it.

And the big surprise of my life? It didn’t hurt as much as I thought it might. (Maybe I just have really bad nightmares!)


BigLittleWolf February 18, 2011 at 10:00 am

Beautiful post. As for unconditional love – it’s always there, and it takes different forms as our kids get older. It certainly becomes more complex. And some days, it means knowing when to provide tough love, real criticism, but your presence – always there.

Other days, it means apologizing. Because it isn’t easy. And some days, we screw it up.


rebecca @ altared spaces February 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Presence. That’s got to be the best gift a parent has to offer, huh?


Christine @ Coffees & Commutes February 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm

And you remind me today what it means to be a mother. Thank you, this is lovely and important.


Amy @ Never-True Tales February 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm

So glad to be introduced to you here, Rebecca. And I certainly don’t have any easy answers to your questions, but the fact that your daughter comes into the kitchen to talk to you, knowing you’re there to hear, means you’re doing something very right, in my opinion! Thank you for participating in Neighbor Friday today!


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri February 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm

It isn’t a one way street for me. I’m taking care of my mom who lives with us and also trying to be a good mom to my own daughter. I like to lead my daughter by example and hope that all that I offer her is something she can use to live her life in an honorable way.

Nice post. Thanks KW for sharing Rebecca’s words.


rebecca @ altared spaces February 18, 2011 at 5:16 pm

One of the things I love about blogging is how my thinking gets stretched by the Big Conversation. Here’s what I wonder about here, Rudri, as you care for your mother are you doing it on your own terms? I have cared for my parents many times: sometimes with genuine love and devotion, sometimes because of guilt and obligation.

You’ve made me think about how things change as the relationship grows and my children age. I want my love to be clean and freely given. I am asking myself where this line is so I can honor it.

Thanks for these thoughts.


Biz February 18, 2011 at 1:27 pm

What a wonderful post Rebecca (and on a side note – thanks KW for your kind words this week with my husband!).

Since my husband has been sick a lot of our marriage, I find that my daughter wants to do everything for me – and I have to remind her that she’s almost 19, she has a life of her own and I’ll be okay.

That doesn’t prevent her from doing my laundry, folding it and putting it away, and tucking notes into my purse when I least expect it. She’s a keeper! :D


rebecca @ altared spaces February 18, 2011 at 5:20 pm

I adore that about your daughter. It sounds like her gestures to help come from a place of genuine love. She must have seen that well displayed in you.

It also helps me to be more gentle about recieving similar gestures from my own children. When I hear your story I can easily see how they are simply eager to be next to you as you care for this man you love so much. What a gift on every level.


Kelly February 18, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Such important words, Rebecca. It is so exhausting and invisible to be a parent, but we have to (I have to) always remember that the reward isn’t validation by way of our children. The reward is watching our children soar without emotional baggage (such as having to validate their parents).


rebecca @ altared spaces February 18, 2011 at 5:22 pm

I love nothing more than a soaring child. Agreed. (And, typically there’s a parent behind them helping them fly.)


rebecca @ altared spaces February 18, 2011 at 5:23 pm

I love soaring children. (And typically there’s a parent behind them helping them fly.)


6512 and growing February 18, 2011 at 2:30 pm

This reminds me first and foremost, of how complicated parenting gets as your children get older. Of course it’s not the 24-hour drama of wiping butts and chopping food into small pieces that it is when they’re younger, but you really do have to watch what you say, and do, don’t you?


Cathy February 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Beautiful post – brought a tear to my eye. Nice to meet you Rebecca! As for the kitchen and talking, I agree. It’s the heart of the house and I think it’s easier for my kids to talk to me because (besides the fact that they’re all boys and hungry all the time) the focus is not strictly on them. I don’t know, maybe I am more apt to listen when I’m distracted with motion.

As for parenthood being a one-way street, I don’t really agree with that. I do agree that I shouldn’t steal their rightful spotlight. I shouldn’t always make something about me, but that applies to everyone in every situation – at work, with friends. Nothing is worse than when you start telling a story and then someone jumps in with their “example” taking your moment and making it theirs. It’s just something you want to be aware and considerate of.


rebecca @ altared spaces February 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm

I love what you say here: ” I shouldn’t always make something about me, but that applies to everyone in every situation – at work, with friends. ” Oh how true!

I love this conversation because it’s helping me soften the edges on my one-way street. Love this distinction.


lifeintheboomerlane February 18, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Eloquently put. From the moment of their births, we are letting our children go, to create their own paths in life. In order to do that, parenthood has to be a one-way street. So we give unconditionally, but in so doing, we create caring, loving children who give back to us unconditionally.


tasteofbeirut February 18, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Motherhood is a wonderful, exciting, challenging, difficult, frustrating at times, adventure; I am so glad I got to experience it and that my kids are great people. I have had years that were very difficult, but we have survived them; You seem to be a great mother because you question what you do and that in itself is more than a lot of people would do!


Stacia February 18, 2011 at 11:18 pm

“Exhausted and invisible”: I feel like that so many days, as I trudge down the one-way street of mothering. And then I have a moment like this with my children, and I’m reminded why I said yes to this job. I’m still exhausted, of course, but invigorated, too, and inspired to do better, be better, love better.


TheKitchenWitch February 19, 2011 at 7:54 am

Stacia, I had a visceral reaction to “exhausted and invisible” also. It took my breath away with it’s honesty.

I love the thoughtful and earnest discussion in this comments section. You readers are amazing!


Mrs.Mayhem February 19, 2011 at 1:02 pm

I greatly enjoyed reading this wonderful and thoughtful post. Being a mother is such an impossibly difficult task. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by trying to give my children what they need from me — “exhausted and invisible” indeed.


rebecca @ altared spaces February 20, 2011 at 5:38 am

thanks so very, very much for inviting me to be your neighbor and meet new friends. Yours are wise readers, attracted by the deep tales you tell of nourishment. It was exciting for me to travel to your home, sweet as it is.


Heather February 21, 2011 at 8:08 am

I’m late getting to my post lists but had to comment here. This is beautiful. This job of parenting is such a difficult one and no one left the owners manual. I, too, get caught up in the me, me, me of everyday life. I get a lovely reminder every time my kids accomplish a new task just how little this all has to do with me. I appreciate your reminder as well. It’s good to keep track of the road we are traveling.


Amanda February 23, 2011 at 6:10 am

I just had a mom experience like this yesterday at least the feeling I was left with it was similar. I read this post this morning. I’m glad I didn’t read it before I wrote mine as it would have affected how I wrote mine. Truely as a mom these are the moments that define us and what kind of mother we choose to be. But I want you to know that I’m mad at you for making me cry! ;) It seems the older I get the sappier I get…grrr. And such is life.


Eva @ Eva Evolving February 23, 2011 at 10:01 am

I love Rebecca’s Altared Spaces! So happy to see her here.


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