The lump in your throat, tear in your eye, and melancholy in your mom heart.
It might be something as simple as… watching your 10-year-old jump in a pile of leaves knowing this might be the last time she feels carefree enough to do so because she is heading into those self-conscious middle school years.
Or… your eighth grader asking to stand back-to-back with you so he can prove he has passed you up in the mom/son height race.
Maybe even… your newly-licensed driver waving goodbye to you as she backs down your driveway headed off for the very first time EVER alone in the family car.
How about… unthinkingly grabbing your son’s favorite cereal in the grocery store a week into his college freshman year? You slowly put it back on the shelf.
It happened to me today. Again. A sign on the beach I frequent often, one I had never noticed before.
A simple board with words reminding me that I am here, standing 428 feet from the Atlantic Ocean and my 21-year-old is snug as a bug 30 minutes from the Pacific Ocean, almost 3,000 miles away.
TWINGE. TWINGE. TWINGE.
I stopped. I stared at the sign. I sighed. I teared up. I wiped my eyes with my shirt.
That ever-so familiar TWINGE that…
…sparks gratitude for this mom journey I love.
…moves me THROUGH the hard of missing all the good that once was
…takes me TO the good that still lies ahead, waiting for me to enjoy it.
It won’t be long until I feel that TWINGE again. It will hit me when I least expect it. But I secretly don’t mind it at all.
I have always made jokes that I didn’t like her (or more importantly, she didn’t like us). That I couldn’t wait to have my house back again without pets (it’s been 25 years of pets)!!!
But as she climbed up on my lap for the last time around 6 pm (I can’t remember the last time that happened – seriously!) and she actually let me pet her without biting me, my heart twinged. It was like she knew what was about to happen only an hour later. She seemed to be saying goodbye as well.
I still can’t believe I cried.
It amazes me how I can appear light-hearted, strong or even callous on the outside most of the time, but that deep-feeling, vulnerable, tender spot within me rises without much provoking and my eyes tell the real story!
This very pretty, calico cat named Tuesday was more like me than I care to admit. Appearing light-hearted, yet deep-feeling. Appearing strong, yet vulnerable. Appearing callous with an “I don’t care” attitude, yet tender.
When she looked up at me for the last time as I said goodbye and told her that I actually did love her, I was in many ways, looking into the mirror of my own soul.
Thank you, Tuesday, for helping me to see that I am not fully one or fully the other, that I am both, all mixed up inside! Thank you, Tuesday, for the weird gift you were to our family and to me!
I still can’t believe I cried, but I’m glad I did.
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. (Dr. Seuss)
“There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (King Solomon)
In my kids’ high school yearbooks, seniors usually put a quote at the bottom of their picture, words that represented them and they wanted to pass along to their fellow classmates. I loved reading each one of my kids’ friends quotes because they gave me a little glimpse into what mattered to them, their final statement as they pushed on to the next world of college. They varied from very serious and mind-stretching to completely silly and slightly inappropriate (here’s a secret…those were my favorite).
The above quote from Dr. Seuss was under at least a few of the pictures every single year. For a long time, I loved it. It shouted the very important ideas of hope and thankfulness. It helped people look “on the bright side” of life. It granted a new perspective when sadness and pain came knocking. Or so it seemed.
I filled my kids’ scrapbooks with quotes from Dr. Seuss. Many speak words I want to shout from the mountaintops and especially whisper to the souls of my kids.
“Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive that is youer than you.”
“A person’s a person no matter how small.”
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
“And will you succeed? Yes! You will indeed! 98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed!”
Wisdom. Hope. Life.
So why does the “Don’t cry because it’s over…” quote rub me in the wrongest (not sure if that is even a word) way?
I am not good at crying (except at Disney movies and This Is Us episodes). I like to pride myself on being the “strong” one, the “positive one,” the “hope-bringer.” But that pride gets me into lots of trouble. I keep others out, when it would be best to let others in. I put on the “smile” even when I am hurting inside. I push aside any grief (like a good American) that threatens to overwhelm me instead of working through it. I don’t like the negative emotion of sadness. JOY is my middle name after all (no pressure there WINKY FACE).
(and it’s a BIG BUT this time)
I’m discovering ever so slowly that:
CRYING releases toxins and reduces stress. Tears feel cleansing and authentic.
SADNESS speaks to the value of what’s been lost, giving honor to the good in our lives. (I joke often that if my kids or Allen don’t seriously fall apart for at least a year or two or three after I’m gone, I will be pretty upset about it! What does that say about me if they only “smile because it happened?”)
GRIEF brings empathy for the pain of others (our universal human language) and creates a healthy path towards true, lasting restoration.
It’s okay to be sad just as much as it’s okay to feel joy.
It’s okay to cry just as much as it’s okay to smile.
It’s okay to grieve just as much as it’s okay to celebrate.
It’s why funerals and memorial services feel so bizarre sometimes. One moment, sadness, crying and grief are palpable, threatening to overwhelm. A split-second later, laughter and the celebration of the one who has been lost bursts on the scene. What feels so dichotomous actually pronounces the permission to live fully in BOTH AND, not either or, the integrated, beautiful experience of our human space and my human heart in it’s entirety.
BUT (hopefully a smaller BUT this time)…
I say to myself, “Sure, it’s true for the large, visible-to-everyone, life-changing human experiences. But what about the very ordinary parts of my life and my day? What then?”
I cry when my baby takes his first step away from me, but I smile that he is reaching his normal milestones.
I cry when my husband takes a job with a very long commute, but I smile that all his hard work is paying off.
I cry when my friend tells me she’s moving, but I smile because she just landed her dream job.
I cry when my daughter buys her own place, but I smile knowing she’s spreading her wings just like I taught her.
All these run-of-the-mill life happenings echo the same voice as those that are profound. What happens in the momentous also takes place in the mundane. I have freedom to embrace BOTH crying AND smiling, in all that this adventure sends my way.
I do love Dr. Seuss, even though the man is surrounded with controversy. He reminds me of me, having both horrible parts and beautiful ones. It’s his birthday today!
So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Theodore Giesel. You’ve brought much happiness into my life and the lives of my children. For that, I am truly grateful!
BUT (and this one is a middlish BUT)…
I wish your quote said this instead:
“Cry because it’s over…AND…smile because it happened.”
King Solomon was right.
P.S. When I told my daughter (one of the seniors in the picture on this post) what I was writing about and why, the basic gist of her response was this, “Oh Mom, I think you’re missing his point. I don’t think he’s saying “don’t cry.” I think he’s saying remember to smile.” So there you have it. If you also believe I am clueless about Dr. Seuss’ original intention, you are in good company! Point taken.
P.P.S. If you’ve read this far and want to comment here or on social media or in an email, I’m asking you this question: can you think of a time where you found yourself laughing and crying at the same time? What was it?
Licked a dark smear off my finger and then thought, “Phew. It’s chocolate.” (Moms Everywhere)
You’re up in the middle of the night for the second or third time rocking your colicky newborn to sleep (and this is the 28th night in a row). You are walking zombie during the day at this point and can’t remember how to tie your shoes or even where your shoes are.
You’re carrying out a screaming preschooler from the grocery store because you won’t let them have a second lollipop. They are a sticky mess from the first and now they are hitting you and pulling your hair. You are beyond embarrassed as you feel the burning eyes of others on your frame.
You’re breaking up the 27th fight today between your two youngest children (and they only got home from school two hours ago). You lose it and yell at them, angry with yourself for not having enough patience. Your brain runs to that verse in Isaiah and you plead with God: “WOE IS ME! I AM RUINED. I AM A (WO)MAN OF UNCLEAN LIPS AND LIVE AMONG A PEOPLE OF UNCLEAN LIPS.”
You’re watching your daughter roll her eyes at you and go “huffing and puffing” out of the room all because you said no to that middle school sleepover. It doesn’t seem to matter to her that tomorrow is your mom’s birthday and the whole family is coming over and she told you she would help you get ready.
You’re waiting for sound of the garage door opening for the 10th Saturday in a row. It’s now 11:30 pm and your new driver’s curfew is later than you’ve been awake in 20 years. Your mind races ahead to worst-case scenarios as to why they are not answering your texts. Sleep is futile.
You’re waiting for your child to bounce in the door for spring break, picturing puzzle-making and long talks about her future, only to be met with a quick hug and “Can I have the car keys? I’m headed out with my friends.” Your heart takes a dive as you realize it’s never going to be the same.
You’re talking on the phone with your daughter, a new mother. She informs you that they are NOT coming home for Mother’s Day this year. Images of years gone by and the tradition of the “whole family” being together are wiped out in a moment. You choke out the words as best you can, “It’s okay. I understand.” Tears flow uncontrollably as soon as you hang up the phone.
IS IT ALL WORTH IT? The question circles around in your head, haunting you as you wonder if taking the giant leap into parenting was the worst choice you ever made. What were you thinking?
You’re gathering your baby from the church nursery and the moment they notice you, their eyes light up, their two-toothed smile fills the room, and their little arms reach for you as if to shout, “You are mine! I am yours! All is right again!”
You’re coming back from being at the grocery store, having only been gone for 30 minutes while your spouse watches your preschooler. You are met with “look what I made for you” and handed a Froot Loop necklace that you proudly display for the next week or two around your neck.
You’re at back-to-school night, sitting at your fourth grader’s desk, listening to the teacher drone on and on about the expectations of the classroom and what is hoped to be learned. You peak inside your child’s folder and they’ve scrawled a note to you, “Surprise ahead. Check under the chair.” You reach down and pull out a green paper heart (at least that’s what you think it is)! A smile creeps to your lips.
You’re sleeping and it’s Christmas morning! Your 13 year-old (who has to be bribed out of bed every morning for school with promises of her favorite bagel) comes bounding into the room at 6:00 am, leaping on you and wrapping her arms around your neck, squeezing tightly. “Can we get our stockings and come onto your bed like we always do? Can I wake everyone else up?” Her child-like, unfiltered excitement tugs your heart strings and you feel full inside.
You’re making dinner and you have forgotten to buy one of the most important ingredients. Your teenager plays video games in the family room. Without realizing it, you berate yourself aloud, “How could you not remember to get this?” A voice shouts from the other room, “I can go get whatever you need from the store. I can drive now.” You send your budding adult on his way, money in hand. You beam inside, thankfulness rising.
You’re reading the book for your woman’s group. Your college daughter left two days ago. You open to the page where you left off and there is a note doodled at the top. “I love you mom.” Happy tears spring to your eyes and you send a text to your two daughters, asking which one of them wrote it (which makes it even happier).
You’re texting your 25 year old what they want for their birthday. They say all they want is a puppy. You work your butt off the next couple of months and find just the right one. You arrive with her and your man-child greets you with hugs and laughter and a stream of “thank yous.” You watch as this giant, tough, bearded landscaper cuddles in the grass with his new baby, letting her crawl all over him, giving gentle words of kindness and love. Your heart swells with pride and joy!
IS IT ALL WORTH IT? The question again circles around in your head, this time sparking renewed hope that taking the giant leap into parenting was the ABSOLUTE BEST choice you ever made. What were you thinking is right!
(PS: ALL OF THESE ARE TRUE STORIES FROM YOURS TRULY. YOU HAVE A WHOLE BUNCH OF YOUR OWN! I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR JUST ONE!)
ALSO CAN I SHAMELESSLY ASK YOU TO LIKE THIS POST OUT ON SOCIAL MEDIA IF YOU READ IT AND LIKED IT! IT HELPS IT TO MOVE UP IN THE RANKS INSTEAD OF GET LOST IN THE GIANT SOCIAL MEDIA POT. MEANS THE WORLD TO ME!!!