Be here, now.

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When my children were small, perhaps two and six, I posted on a local email list that I was in search of second-hand wooden toys for my kids. A local man, maybe 20 years my senior, responded and invited me to stop by for some things he had set aside.

Standing in his driveway a few blocks from my home, he handed me a box containing a wooden catapult and a few other 15 or 20 year-old treasures. I thanked him, and he nodded, then looked me straight in the eyes and said, “If I can give you one piece of advice in life it’s this: play with your kids. Get down on the ground, push them in the swing, run around in the yard. Because one minute you’re down on the floor, roaring like a dinosaur, and the next minute they’re grown and gone. And it happens in an instant. So just be sure you enjoy them.”

I never forgot.

Ten years later, I attended a friend’s wedding. The groom was his youngest son. I pulled the father aside after the ceremony, my strangely tall, suddenly grown children off on adventures of their own, and said, “Years ago you gave me some wonderful advice.” I reminded him of what he said, so poignant on that day, and we both cried a little. I thanked him for sharing his wisdom with me that decade before. We shared a few more tears and a hug, then went off to celebrate with the bride and groom.

So, friends, if I were to offer you what Robert offered me, it would be this small piece of advice: never lose yourself in the day-to-day minutia or the false search for perfection. Take care of yourself, and take care of the things that keep you sane. But then make time to laugh, to play, to roar like a dinosaur.

Because before you know it, the world will have tilted on it’s axis once more, and there will be no small ones occupying your arms.

Be here. Right now. Sharing peals of laughter with these little ones who adore you; these humans who are so lucky as to have you by their side, while the stretch their wings and soar.

Are you mother enough?

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Sometimes you wonder.

After the hard days.

When you were not at your best.

You wonder, in secret, where no one will hear.

Am I mother enough?

Because you see them around you. Those other mothers. In your town and on your screen.

Gentle.

Peaceful.

Patient.

Kind.

They parent with grace and with joy.

Always.

In the flow, harmonious. Children smiling and holding hands, while your kids whine and fight.

And your baby cries.

Again.

And you question if you even know what you’re doing.

Because if you did, the children wouldn’t argue. And the baby wouldn’t cry.

Constantly.

So you must be doing it wrong.

Of course you’re doing it wrong.

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And so you wonder. And you doubt.

Am I wearing her enough? Am I breastfeeding enough? Should we co-sleep more?

But sometimes you’re all touched out.

Am I patient enough? Present enough? Nurturing enough?

But sometimes you just need a damn break from it all.

Am I good enough? Am I strong enough?

Am I enough?

And then, probably, you decide that you are not.

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Because sometimes you yell. You say words you regret. Because you didn’t babywear or breastfeed or co-sleep at all. Because sometimes dinner comes from the drive-thru, and they watch too much TV.

Because sometimes the thoughts in your head are dark and shameful.

Because every day ends with regret.

And all around you are those mamas who make you feel inadequate without even trying. Those mothers with stardust in their eyes. And when you look at them you measure yourself and you know what you suspected all along.

You are not enough.

Sometimes you curse this life you made and all the smallness that surrounds you.

But mostly you curse yourself for your shortcomings.

And then the baby cries.

Again.

Or your children set to arguing.

Again.

And you know you’re right.

Of course you’re right.

You’re not enough.

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Oh, but sister. Hear me when I say:

You are so much more than enough.

You are good enough.

You are loving enough.

You are mother enough.

 

You are brilliantly, beautifully – yes! – the mama your children came here to find.

No, you aren’t perfect. But none of us are.

No one has it all dialed in. We have all made mistakes. Even the “Dali Mamas” around you. This I know is true.

And every day you are learning and growing and evolving. You are becoming.

And you are their mama.

The one they came here for.

And for all of your flaws, they are sheltered by you.

They know love because your love is fierce.

And they learn to get up when they fall and try again by watching you.

And best of all, they know they don’t have to be perfect to be enough.

What a gift that is.

And also know this:

As that mama who seems to have it together, I have never been more humbled in my mothering than when I see you keep your head just above water as the rapids around you churn.

 

Yes, mama. I see you.

And I’m humbled.

Now it’s time to see yourself.

So are you enough?

Heck yes you are.

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More inspiration…

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What I did not know: reflections on motherhood.

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Originally published on my personal blog, Rachel Wolf Clean, in 2013

Triage

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Public service announcement: you can’t do it all. Ever. It simply isn’t possible.

(*Cue collective exhale.)

On the days I’m in my garden, I am most certainly not replying to emails. When I’m homeschooling I’m not running my business. When I am at my desk i am not in the woods.

So if you go superwoman and head to school for your master’s degree, you probably won’t find as much time for canning tomatoes. If you read that extra bedtime story, you may have neglected to balance your checkbook. And—god forbid—if you made some space for self-care, you run the risk of missing dinner with your kids, a lunch date with your sweetie, or that laundry that requests your undivided, unending attention. 

And I’m here to tell you that all of the these are a-ok. You decide if they feel worth it to you.

I’ve gotten a lot of emails through the years, marveling at how I “do it all”. Homesteading, homeschooling, small business, book! It’s like I’m a unicorn! Except that I’m not. Because you haven’t seen the state of my bedroom, nor the clutter in my barn, or know how long it’s been since I’ve balanced my checkbook (spoiler: decades may be involved).

No, life isn’t all glitter and rainbows over here, and anyone you perceive as “doing it all” isn’t. Because: humans.


It’s triage, baby. Everyday it’s triage, for all of us. And if you’re fortunate, the one who decides what rises to the top—what is worthy of your precious energy—is you.

So the upshot is, we all shine here and suck there. All of us do. We’re imperfect, often overwhelmed, and with laundry on the floor.

Because as humans, we can’t do it all. Not you, not me, not anyone. So don’t hold yourself to impossible standards, mama. You’re doing it right already, and you’re worthy of all the self love you can muster. Because you, my dear, are already a unicorn. 🦄

Returning to the conker tree

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Sometimes we harvest not to feed our bodies, but simply to fill our hearts.

The kids and I returned to “the conker tree” yesterday, much by chance. I noticed we were only a few blocks away, and I quietly took a short detour. As we approached, a delighted voice from the seat beside me called out, “The conker tree!” I smiled, and pulled the car to the curb. We piled outside, and dropped to our knees on the husk- and leaf-strewn grass. No explanation was needed. Only the sight of this tree that we once loved.

This horse chestnut tree was our treasure trove when the kids were small and we still lived in town. They would fill their pockets on every autumn walk with the smooth, shiny nuts. I would fill mine too, unable to resist the temptation of their weight in my palm. Returning home, we would pour them into baskets and wooden bowls, and the toy shelf would be restocked for another year.

No longer 6, 2, and 35, we are suddenly 16, almost 12, and 45.

It takes my breath away.

The tree, of course, is ten years older too, but I doubt she’s keeping track. And standing here, beneath these branches, with horse chestnuts raining down on us as our laughter rises up, this old tree spun its magic once again. And pockets and shirttails and baskets were filled, along with our hearts.

No, no, we can’t eat them. But there’s more to nourishment than food.

Fleeting

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There are days when I ache with this truth.

I feel it in the marrow of my bones.

Clear into my soul.

Because I know.

These days are fleeting.

 

Nothing lasts forever.

Not the sleepless nights of a newborn nor the angst of a pre-teen.

Not the sweet milky smile of a baby nor the quick humor or this half-grown child.

Our life has become this pile of snapshots and in each photo I can see you growing up.

Sometimes it feels so fast I can scarcely breathe.

No, nothing lasts forever.

 

And so I look around and wonder where the time has gone.

It turns out that “this too shall pass,” my motto on the hardest days, applies to everyday.

And suddenly I don’t want to squander a moment.

Today is fleeting.

And I wonder when my son will be as tall as me.

And when my daughter will no longer curl in my lap and kiss my cheeks.

I wonder at how much longer my arms will be the welcome nest that my children flock to, encircling them as they sleep.

And when they will finally pull away.

And so tonight I will lay beside you until you are soundly dreaming, just in case I wake tomorrow to discover that you’ve grown up.

 

I will listen to your breathing and remember the days when you were small and sometimes it seemed so hard.

And I wonder why it seemed so hard.

In the darkness I promise myself to lead with my heart.

Always.

To lead with compassion.

Starting now.

I promise myself to stop wasting time speaking words I will regret.

 

I imagine this life with children grown, off to write their own stories and live their own adventures.

And while my mind delights in them finding their wings, my heart weeps at the suggestion.

And there is that ache again.

Perhaps that ache is love.

True, full, indescribable love. The kind that you didn’t know existed until you had children of your own.

The kind you can’t explain now because language is inadequate.

The kind of love you whisper into small, sleeping ears because you just need them to know what is unknowable.

This much love.

 

Yes. Maybe that ache is the feeling of a heart bursting from a fullness that is immeasurable.

And perhaps that ache will help us remember what really matters.

May it keep us kind.

May it keep us playful.

May it help us find the words and be the parents that we want to be.

Words like “I’m sorry,” and “It hurts,” and “I understand.”

Words like “I love you,” and “You are enough,” and “I am here.”

Words that heal us and connect us.

May it help us remember how it feels to be small.

I remember how it feels to be small.

 

May we live this life and guide these children with the goal of having nothing to regret.

Not one thing.

And may we remember always that when the sun sets on today our child will be one day older.

One day closer to grown.

And that tomorrow is another chance to start again.

Oh, yes. These days are fleeting.

 

So I will savor the taste of my child’s spirit when it rises up.

I will skim it off and drink it deeply.

So that I never forget these fleeting days.

So that I never forget this perfectly ordinary day that will be dust and snapshots tomorrow.

Today I will hold you in my arms.

I will listen to your dreams.

I will take your hand and go wherever you wish to go.

While you still want to journey there together.

Because soon it will be time.

Time to open my arms and let you go.

As you find your wings and soar.

 

And I ache.

Again.

*

 

Originally posted in 2013 on CLEAN.

Photos by Ray + Kelly Photography.

These days are fleeting. Inspiration for parents on embracing the now.