Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Five People Who Changed My Life

I am My Childrens' Mother. It's all the title I need. Put it on my tombstone.

There was a day when I aspired to all manner of greatness, supposing my life's path was entirely mine to choose: Should I be a veterinarian? Or an artist? How about a lawyer or a journalist? Motherhood never even made the list. I suppose when I got married at the ripe old age of 18, I must have entertained the thought on some level that, "We could have a baby," yet I was shocked to discover, a mere three months into our marriage, that I was "with child."

She arrived September 15, 1980, red-faced and screaming, sporting a full head of silky, dark hair. We named our daughter, Kimberly Dawn. She looked just like a live doll--which was no help to me whatsoever since I had never played with dolls. I had to learn everything on the real deal. We called Kimmie our experimental child and regretted not having had so much as a chimpanzee to practice on. I studied hard and learned quickly--middle of the night feedings, hours of colicky crying--life was no longer all about me...

Kimberly turned 30 last fall and is married, the mother of three. She is a beautiful soul, living out her faith with authenticity. No one makes me laugh harder or more often than she does with her off-the-cuff (sometimes inappropriate) humor. She is organized, diligent, and incredibly tenderhearted. She serves her family tirelessly and selflessly with kindness and creativity. Kimmie is generous and dependable; when she makes friendships, they are lifelong. She is compassionate and quick to help those in need. Despite her parents' bumbling efforts, God has chosen to show off his amazing grace in Kim's life and she is a living testament to His faithfulness.

July 23, 1982 we welcomed our second surprise child, Amy Joy. (Birth control? What is that?) Her skin was rosey, her tiny head covered in down so fine and blond it was barely visible. We didn't hold her as gingerly and Most Things Baby seemed easier the second time around. Amy wore all her sister's hand-me-downs and played with the toys Kimmie had outgrown. I felt like a full-time mom now, with two little people to keep track of. My days were filled with diapers and nursing and laundry and play dates at the lake with my girls and our friends. I thought these babies would be little forever...

Amy is 28, married, blessed with her own two year-old, mini-me. Amy is probably the most intelligent person I know; an artisan of words with an eye for beauty, and a hunger for the divine. She is fearless in social settings, quick-witted in conversation, and charmingly transparent. She loves order and appreciates quality work, bringing these to any project she undertakes. Amy is passionate and lives large; creatively and with intention. Her worldview is expansive--missions and adoption are dear to her heart. She possesses an uncanny ability to read my mind, and spending time with her is like holding a mirror to my own soul.

The September she turned 6, Kimberly skipped off to Kindergarten, leaving Amy and me home alone every morning. I began to long for another baby. When Michael Alden loudly entered the world on July 10, 1987, we thought our family might be complete. He was a darling, chubby-cheeked baby that grew quickly into a busy, curly-haired toddler who repeatedly lisped how much he loved me and how beautiful I was in his little-man voice...

Michael is 23 and towers over all of us at 6'2." Diagnosed in his teen years with Bipolar Disorder, he has faced challenges that have made ordinary milestones much harder for him to achieve than for many people. I admire Michael's persistence and his honesty, his impartial kindness and his ability to forgive. Non-judgmental, Michael ignores gossip and social status, offering friendship to those who are hurting. My son has taught me to think outside the box, to celebrate every success, and to find, within my mother-heart, a tenacious love I didn't know I possessed. Michael continually amazes me with his unconventional insight and hilarious interpretation of people and events in his life.

In the fall of 1988, both girls were in school and evenings and weekends were filled with spelling lists and birthday parties, swimming lessons and dance classes. From sun-up to sun-down, I chased our energetic son all over the house and yard. When I began to feel particularly run down as winter approached, I made an appointment with the doctor to have my thyroid checked. He told me [surprise!] Baby Number 4 was on the way. I stared at him in disbelief. I was already feeling overwhelmed with my 15 month old who kept me running all day long then up half the night with recurring ear infections. This was not part of our plan! The doctor read my expression and moved toward me. He held his obstetric stethoscope up to my stomach and placed the earpieces in my ears. I heard the familiar gallumping of a baby's heart and tears trickled down my cheeks. Too late for second thoughts--my plans were about to change...

Stephanie Elaine made her grand entrance on May 19, 1989. Even her labor was easier than all the rest and she was Our Dream Baby from the beginning, landing right in the middle of a busy pool of activity with barely a ripple. She arrived ready to wait her turn, grinning at everyone who looked at her. I told people, "If you have 3 children, you might as well have more. You're already out-numbered so it doesn't matter!" We kept her in the playpen to protect her from the others...

Stephanie is 21 and was married last fall. She is still a bright spot in the lives of everyone who knows her. Innately artistic, graced with too many gifts to number, she refuses to be impressed with herself and always strives for excellence. Stephie is fiercely loyal with high ideals and expectations of herself and others. She is the companion I want on long trips because she's as content in silence as she is in conversation. Observant, Stephie notices people and discerns motives that others overlook. Lavish and unpretentious, playful and serious, confident and reserved, Stephanie is difficult to define but genuinely herself.

The next eight years were a blur. We moved four times between two states. There were wrestling matches and baseball games, science fair projects and math competitions. Chicken pox and flu bugs came to call, along with assorted bumps, cuts, bruises and trips to the ER. Tiny fingernails needed to be clipped, faces washed, shoes tied, hair braided. There were broken toys and broken hearts. I spent hours each week hunting; for homework under beds, ticks in hair, car keys in the produce aisle, pacifiers under cushions, and overdue library books that were left out in the rain. Seeing my child successfully plunk through a piece of music at a piano recital far exceeded any joy I had ever felt over any achievement of my own. I mourned each child's disappointment and heartache more intensely than the child did himself. I considered Motherhood my highest calling.

On August 16, 1997, God answered our prayers and granted us a bonus child. Victoria Marie arrived, indignant and perfect, via cesarean section to a waiting room full of thrilled siblings. She came at the peak of familial chaos; two teenagers in the house and two active grade-schoolers with schedules that slowed for nothing. Tori spent much of her babyhood strapped in her carseat or on various laps at basketball games and concerts. She was a baby on the go...

Victoria is 13 and I am thankful for the time she has left in the nest. She is the most empathetic, compassionate person I know. Victoria is a thinker, a processor, a theologian. She is affectionate and expressive, entirely devoted to her family. Raised virtually among adults, Victoria is an old soul and can converse beyond her years, yet innocent in ways that break my heart when I see her startled realization that the world is quite different from how she imagined it. She is the child of our old[er] age, the culmination of what will be nearly 4 decades of parenting before we are done. No child has ever been more wanted or celebrated.

My years of mothering have expanded me in ways I could never have foreseen. Intellectually, I've proofed papers and reports, becoming the human embodiment of both spell-check and thesaurus. I've been study partner, audio book, and driving instructor. Alternately, I've become coach, chaperone, counselor, chauffeur, chef, and cheerleader. Justice system aspirations were fulfilled as I served as parole officer, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, judge and jury. Needs for artistic expression were met designing costumes and elaborate birthday cakes, and helping with grade A report covers and poster layouts. I know more that most guys on the street about bullies, eating disorders, learning disabilities, prescription drug interactions, and stain removal. I've delivered puppies, kittens, and bunnies who then ate their own babies. I have learned to answer questions about God to satisfy a three-year old that would make theology students stutter. I can debate the pros and cons of childhood vaccinations, cloth and disposable, public vs. private, and contrast several popular reading programs. I have photo documentation of preschool through college graduations. I survived three daughters' weddings and witnessed the birth of one grandchild without fainting. What more could I possibly want from my life?

One snowy day, a few years back, I walked up to the high school with Stephanie for her 7AM Early Bird orchestra rehearsal. She was carrying her heavy book bag and trumpet. I dragged in her violin and her lunch. The orchestra teacher met us at the door, holding it wide as we blew in from the sub-zero temps and exclaimed, "Stephie! Don't you feel bad having your mom haul all your stuff around for you? I'm sure she has better things to do!" I just smiled while Stephie answered for me, "No, she likes doing this." And the truth was? I did. I did not have anything better to do.

All I have ever wanted to do and more, I've done as a mother. Nurturing babies, muddling through teen and toddler angst, seeing each of my children at their absolute worst and shining best culminate in this reward: Intimate association with peers who share an inheritance in the Kingdom, individuals I respect and admire, my very best friends. I am truly blessed for having these five people in my life.


  1. THANK YOU for this Dawn! I have tears in my eyes, and an immense hope for a 'motherhood' career even half as beautiful and rewarding as yours!

  2. This was wonderful Dawn!

  3. The gift goes on.......

  4. What a treasure you have given your children: your love for them.
    I love reading your take on this journey that is motherhood.