Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Mother's Touch

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things was when my mother would play with my hair. Just her touch would feel better than anything I knew in my life. I never forgot that feeling. As I grew up and moved away from home, I always yearned for it.

Later in life, during my visits home, I would seek an opportunity to lay my head in her lap hoping that she would just stroke my hair for a few minutes. Her touch still felt comforting in an indescribable way and would take me back to those moments in my childhood.

My mother never knew how powerful those touches were or how they comforted me like a warm blanket throughout my life.

Every time I think about those moments with my mother, it reminds me that the smallest gesture from me can mean a lifetime of sweet memories for my children.

So when I'm brushing their hair out of their eyes or rubbing their backs when they're not feeling well, I'll try to remember that even if they don't show it, they may take those moments into their adulthood as moments of love and comfort.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Right Thing

A few weeks ago, during our nightly call, my mother and I started discussing a topic that we’ve debated before and can never agree on.

“It’s the right thing to do,” I said firmly. “The boys need me!”
“They already have you,” she pleaded. “They don’t need you every minute of every day. You have a great career where you’re respected and valued. Don’t give that up.” Then she said with a sigh, “I would have loved to do something with my life.”

My parents left their country in the middle of a revolution and came here to give their children a better life. Raising me and my two brothers in a foreign land wasn’t always easy for my mother but she never let it show. While my father went to work during the day, she stayed home to take care of us. A home that was a million miles away from everything and everyone she knew. But that didn’t stop her from putting her heart and soul into creating a loving home for us.

Every day after school, I would sit at the kitchen table and tell her my tales of junior high hardship. And I had a lot of them, being the new foreign kid in school. She would listen to me while she was preparing dinner or folding the laundry and comfort me in the best way she knew how. She would tell me how lucky I was to have a good family and remind me that I should be thankful for that, instead of seeking the approval of my classmates.

Or course, at the time, I didn’t see it that way. All I saw was that my mother didn’t understand me. I wanted desperately to fit in with the other kids. “Why can’t I go?” I would say with pre-teen angst, “everyone goes to sleepovers here, it’s NO BIG DEAL!” But she was adamant. “No sleepovers,” she would say in her heavily accented English. No boys calling the house. No TV in my room. No make-up.

I was angry a lot during those early teenage years but every day after school I would still tell her my tales and she would still listen.

I had no idea that while I was going through my life-is-so-unfair mini dramas, my mother was dealing with her own obstacles: learning a new culture, a new language, and a new way of life. Despite these hurdles, she powered through -- raising three healthy well-adjusted children.

Through those first few tough years of transition, she kept the family together, the house clean, the cloths pressed, our lives organized and had an amazing meal on the table every day. I never thought about how all that got done or if it was hard for her. I didn’t understand what it took to be a stay-at-home mom. That is until I had my own children.

To her, I’m doing it all, working and taking care of my family. But I have it so easy compared to her. She doesn’t know how much I admire her strength and the way she made it look so easy. The way she sacrificed for us every single day. They way she loved us even when we didn’t deserve that love. And the way she was there whenever we needed her. How could I express in words how much that really meant?

“You’re wrong mom,” I finally said “you did do something. You did something amazing. You were there for me and that meant everything.”

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Piano Fingers

“Read the book!" "Read the BOOK!" My son keeps asking me in his very loud outside voice. As he's asking me, he's also poking me with the book. After having spent most of the day running errands, picking up after the kids, making multiple meals and squeezing in some work, I should be ready to spend some quality time with my son. But I'm not. I'm just tired. "Not now, sweetie," I say softly with a hint of frustration, "maybe later." My eyelids feel heavy and all I want to do is just lie down on my bed.

"Read me a book mommy!" He says again. They don't give up do they? I look over at him ready to say no but he's looking straight at me with his big brown eyes waiting for my response. I freeze for what seems like minutes but is only a few seconds. Then I snap out of my semi-coma and realize that my SON is asking me to read him a book and I should listen to him. So, I take a deep breath, sit down on the floor next to him and say "OK, sweetie, why don't you jump into my lap and give me the book." His face lights up and he comes tumbling towards me.

As I read the book to him (the same book I've read to him at least 100 times) I can feel him relaxing into my arms and resting the back of his head against my chin. He is concentrating on the book with singular focus. All of a sudden, as I'm reading the story, I feel his little fingers tapping against my knee as if he's playing the piano.

For a split second, I stop reading and concentrate on his fingers. The pause is too short for him to notice. I continue reading, but now most of my focus is on his little fingers and the delicate way they are connecting with my knee. With each word, the frustration and fatigue melt away and I feel the kind of pure joy only your child can give you. Without realizing it, I'm smiling as I read the end of the story. I don't want it to end. I want him to keep tapping my knee with his little soft fingers.

"Read it again mommy!" He says. "Of course, sweetie. Let's read it again."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

It's A Work Call

My heart is pounding. I just got off the phone with a senior government official regarding a work matter. The fact that she's called me today means that this is a critical issue for the government and for my company. She said she couldn't discuss the full matter right now but could she call me back in an hour. I said yes. I then sat back down on the lawn chair and continued to watch my son play in the sandbox with his friend. I'm not officially working today but when you're a part time working mom, you know that there is no real "day off." At any moment you might have to switch gears.

I always find those moments surreal. When work and family intersect with such force. My heart is still pounding but as I watch my son play, it takes me a few seconds to remember why. Oh, yes, the important work matter. There was a time not long ago when I would have gone into a total tail spin if something like this happened. I would have scooped up my son and gone right home so I could get "on-line" and start making calls. I would put the work first. I would worry myself silly thinking about how the important matter de jour would play out and how I could help fix it. You see, I'm a FIXER. I take things on and I fix them. That's just what I do. I latch on to the issue with my teeth like a bulldog and don't let go until I've finished it off. Or that's what I used to do.

Today, I stayed in the lawn chair and let my son keep playing with his friend. As my mind was racing about the matter and how it would play out, my face and body sat relaxed and talked with my friend whose house we were invited to for the play date. About half an hour later, my son and I walked home holding hands. A short time after lunch, I got the call and switched full force from mommy to professional. The issue was hard and I had to make some difficult decisions and phone calls. Then I started the worrying. I had done all I could for work but my heart kept pounding and my mind kept racing.

Then I remembered all the times that a "critical" issue had popped up on one of my days off and I wasted hours worrying in front of my computer screen or checking my blackberry just to find out the next day that it had resolved itself somehow. Well, today I was not going to let that happen. I forced myself to rethink my usual routine in these situations. So I sat down with my son and started to help him build a giant tower with his favorite widgets!

Every time the "thoughts" crept into my head, I looked at my son and forced my mind to think of him instead of the work. Sometimes I would succeed and other times I failed.

In the end, I'm just happy that I succeeded part of the time and build one kick-ass tower with my son!