If I could narrow down all my wisdom on motherhood into one sentence it would be this: ‘Do what you love and take the kids along for the ride.’
When I think back to the experiences and activities that ‘stuck’ growing up, inevitably they started as a passion of either my mother or father. Cooking, music, travel, writing, hosting parties… each of these loves was sparked in me before I even had the words to form narratives. From the hordes of young adults showing up to hang out at our tiny home in Sydney, to the nautical themed murder mystery party at the Hulls, the hours spent modelling play dough while my mum moulded intricate clay figurines. There were bush dances, fashion shows, an extended trip when I was four to North America, Canada and Hawaii. In the early dark hours of the morning, when I crept out of bed, I would inevitably find my dad, sitting quietly with his journal at the kitchen table.
Of course, there were things that didn’t latch on – like my dad’s love of triathlons and marathons, my mum’s creativity with leadlight, glasswork and that stint of vegetarian/veganism that darkened my teenage years. And let’s not even talk about Amway. We don’t become copies of our parents, but there is something unmistakably irresistible about someone pursuing passions that alight them.
I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way. Allowing myself to become completely consumed and subsumed by the role of ‘mother’, letting hobbies and interests fall dormant to the ground as I overreached to fulfill all perceptible needs that surrounded me. There was the moment of truth dawning, the fear of facing my own ‘shadow‘ (all the parts about myself that I didn’t want to acknowledge) and the glorious rebirth that can happen when you realise the very thing that terrified you the most has set you free.
It would be remiss of me to pretend that I ‘have it all together’ now. I stuff it up regularly, drink too much and allow frustrations to get the better of me far too easily. I’m working on that. But the moments of glory – when I do choose to pursue and share my love of cooking, my passion for anything French, get lost in the notes echoing from the guitar or allow myself to get swept along in the world of Tudor England crafting a story of love, adventure and loss on the high seas – these moments intoxicate. I’m filled with the wonder of how incredible this experience of life is, how lucky we are to get to be alive and I am overcome by amazement at the richness of existence.
Mary Oliver’s poem, ‘The Summer Day’, puts it far better than I could ever manage:
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Life is a gift. Sometimes the experiences that hurt the most can yield beautiful things. I’ve learned lessons in the darkness that would have never sprung from ‘easy’. Who knows how long the adventure will last… I plan to make the most of (almost) every minute.