The Meaning of Motherhood in Two Knocks on The Door

I don't know how Mom was stressed. I look pretty happy-go-lucky, my little sister is clearly well behaved, and my big sister doesn't at all look like she's scheming ...
I don’t know why Mom might have been stressed back then. I look like a joy to be around, my little sister is clearly well behaved, and my big sister doesn’t at all look like she’s scheming …

It was Halloween 1977. Dad, who had been out of work for quite awhile, was away on a two-week trip for the Army National Guard, trying to earn a few extra dollars to make ends meet. Mom, a dental hygienist, had gotten out of work in time to take her daughters, ages 7, 4 and 3, trick or treating at a few neighbors’ houses in the mobile home park where we lived.

At 8 p.m., she turned out the porch light and put my little sister and I in the tub, the bedtime routine surely made more aggravating by the sugar we’d just consumed. A few minutes later, she heard a knock at the door. She paused. Two little kids in the tub. The end of a long day. Just wanting everyone to be settled in for the night.  But it was Halloween; she felt the urge to answer the door, knowing an excited child stood on the other side.

By the time she’d told us to behave, walked to the front of our single-wide trailer, turned on the light and opened the door, the boy who’d been knocking was gone. All she saw was the pumpkin, our pumpkin, he had smashed all over our front steps. Then she noticed the culprit getting back into his parents’ car at the end of our driveway. Without thinking she ran past the smashed pumpkin, down the driveway, right up to the car. She pounded on the windows and started yelling.

These were the days before electric windows. Slowly, inch by inch, the window came down, and a mother and her son took the verbal onslaught they had coming to them.

My mother doesn’t swear, and she doesn’t recall exactly what she said that night. She remembers screaming about how thoughtless that boy had been. She told them she had three small children, and that our family couldn’t afford three pumpkins this year so she’d had to settle for buying one big one for us to share. And now he’d destroyed it, and what was she going to tell her kids when they woke up the next morning and saw their beloved pumpkin in bits?  She reprimanded the mother for watching and allowing her son to get away with such a crime. Tears streamed down her face as her anger mixed with her own pent-up anxiety and spilled out in a desperate, near comical rage.

“You know how sometimes it’s just a small little thing that sets you over the edge?” she said to me yesterday when telling this story.  Yes, I do. I know that feeling. I know that half of her crying and yelling that night was not out of anger but out of stress. Exhaustion from the daily struggle of raising kids and paying bills she could barely pay. Ridiculous, misplaced but very real guilt for not being able to buy three pumpkins in the first place.

When she came to her senses she remembered she’d left her three kids inside, two of them in the bathtub. So she turned from the car, trudged past the mess on our porch and went back inside, drying her eyes and taking a deep breath before resuming the nighttime routine as if nothing was amiss.

A half-hour later there was another knock at the door. When she opened it she saw the boy, who looked terrified, and his mother, who had in her arms the biggest pumpkin Mom had ever seen.

I love this story because it shows both the complexities and simplicity of motherhood. Motherhood is love and light and tears and shadows. Motherhood is anxiety and guilt. It is defending your child and reprimanding your child and giving your child everything you have, even if you’re convinced it’s not enough. Motherhood is about thankfulness and counting blessings and doing the best you can. It is about forgiving yourself as much as it is forgiving those who hurt you. It is about teaching lessons to your kids while silently learning different ones yourself.

Motherhood is effort. It is tireless effort when you are anything but tireless, when in fact the level of your exhaustion brings you to tears over a busted gourd.

My mother often apologizes for mistakes she made when we were growing up. She asks for forgiveness for things that happened 35 years ago. She says she should have been more patient, more aware of us and what we were going through, what we needed. She wishes she could have given us more – more things, more security, more pumpkins, apparently.  I tell her she did a fine job, that we turned out to be three kind, compassionate, intelligent women.  I try to praise her without pandering to whatever dark memories haunt her.  Like every mother, she will always strive in vain for perfection, because like every mother, she knows that’s what her kids deserve.

What I don’t think she understands is how I love her because she’s flawed. Motherhood is not about perfection, it is about redemption. What I see and feel the most from her is what matters the most – effort. Tireless effort. Sometimes it’s in her words and actions and sometimes it’s in her silence and acceptance, but always it’s there. And she will never stop trying as long as she lives. She is a mother.

The beauty of motherhood is not in the freshly pressed shirts and smiling photos we show the world. The beauty of motherhood is in the folds and creases of our lives, the grimaces and tantrums, the moments when we have to grit our teeth to get through, when we pound on windows and yell and scream and demand better of each other and ourselves.

And the beauty of motherhood is how we deliver just that. It’s how we show up, knock on a door, wade through the discomfort and embarrassment and shame and guilt of a moment and do the right thing. Because our children are watching. And because we might have felt like a failure five minutes ago, but we push through it and keep trying, prodded by a love we cannot adequately describe.

Motherhood seems complex but it’s simple really. It is just beautiful, gratifying, difficult, unceasing effort.

Thanks for all of yours, Mom. I love you.

Mom feeding me cake -- or cleaning me up afterward? -- on my first birthday.
Mom feeding me cake — or cleaning me up afterward? — on my first birthday.

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I hate you. Stay right here.

First they learn words:  “Dada!” “Nana!” “Milk!”

Then they learn how to use them:  “I do it?” “Mine!”

Then they learn how to use them against you:  “I don’t love you anymore.” “I want you to go away to another home and stay there!”

“I hate you.”

Kostyn has taken to saying all these things to us when he doesn’t get his way. We tell him it’s unacceptable, that “hate” is too strong a word for him — or anyone — to use. We put him in Time Out for using the word “hate,” and talk to him about how to properly convey his feelings (“I’m mad at you!”) instead of projecting those feelings onto someone else.

Sometimes he catches us at the dinner table in mid-conversation. “…and you know I hate it when my boss says….”

“YOU SAID ‘HATE,’ DADDY!”

We exchange glances of guilt and amusement. Chris apologizes and tries to explain the difference, and everyone doubles their efforts to eradicate that word from our home. It works for awhile.

A couple weeks ago Kostyn got mad at me for something and the hate started spewing. “I hate you! I hate you!” He kept saying it and saying it, so after several obstinate minutes in Time Out, I tried to explain to him once again what that means and why it’s so hurtful.

“When you tell me you hate me, that’s like saying if I walked out this door and never came back, if you never saw Mommy again, if I never gave you another hug or made you another sandwich, never kissed you or tickled you or read books to you or anything, ever again, that would make you happy. Is that true?”

His chin quivered slightly but he nodded slowly, his tiny jaw set, his wide brown eyes staring right at me.

I caught my breath, turned and walked into the kitchen. I knew he was just pushing my buttons, trying to make me feel how he was feeling, but I still found my own words stinging me. As parents we’re not supposed to need validation, we’re not supposed to need our kids to say they couldn’t live without us, because frankly we either know they couldn’t, or we’re deeply shaken by the knowledge that they actually might be able to.

As the tears came, I closed my eyes and thought about the first time Kostyn ever acknowledged me. I will never forget that moment, in the first weeks of his life, when his scrawny infant hand reached up while he was nursing and wrapped itself around my finger. I remember the surge of endorphins brought on by that simple gesture, the exhilaration of such a tiny bit of recognition from the being who was actively sucking the nutrients right out of me, the one who in a matter of weeks had exhausted me physically, mentally and emotionally to a point where I no longer knew who I was.

I’m pretty sure that was the moment we both realized who I was.

How far we’ve come from that moment, I thought as I grabbed another tissue. After a good cry I collected myself, wiped my eyes and walked back into the dining room where Kostyn was still sitting in Time Out. “I want to talk to you Mommy,” he said. I knelt down in front of him.

“I’m sorry,” he said, scooting down from the chair and reaching out for a hug. Instinctively I opened my arms, wrapping him up, needing this hug more than he did. That’s when he whispered in my ear.

“I hate you.”

It was a verbal slap so stunning and unexpected it took my breath away; I pulled back from him and he watched my eyes well with fresh tears. He had wanted to see how much power he wielded with his words, but he was unprepared for its force. The sight of his mother crying made him cry. He dropped to the floor in sobs, and I was spun around once again, from wounded child back to soothing mother.

I scooped him up and cradled him in my lap, both of us in tears. While I held him I thought about an incident a few days before when I put him in Time Out and he cried. When I came around the corner to check on him he was on the floor in front of the Time Out chair, curled in a ball. He yelled “Go away! I don’t want you here!” and as I turned to go he grabbed my leg and wrapped his whole body around it.
“You want me to go away?”
“Yes!” he screamed, clutching tighter.
“Then why are you holding onto me?” I asked.
“Well I want you to stay here,” he said. “But I Don’t. Want. To talk to you!”
“So you want me to go away but stay right here?”
“Yes.”

So I did just that. Because that’s what parents do, right? We go away but stay right here. The memory reminded me of all the times over the years I’ve done that to my own parents, told them to mind their own business, that I didn’t need their advice, that it was my life, all while silently begging for their approval. Is this OK, Mom? Am I doing well? Are you proud of me, Dad? I need you. No I don’t. Yes I really do.

I thought about how I’d also done it to God most of my life. Don’t look at me! (Please save me!) I’ve got this covered. (Will you help?) I’m not ready for you. (I need you now.)

The two of us sat and rocked on the floor for several minutes while Pandora selected songs for us and I did that thing we parents have to do once in awhile, that terribly cruel chore of allowing it to register in our hearts how much bigger our babies feel in our arms. I thought about the growth spurt Kostyn is in, how his voice is getting stronger every day, his reasoning keener, his opinions more commanding.

I thought about how “in the trenches” I often feel, here at home with both of them all day, every day, picking my battles about getting them dressed, brushing teeth, picking up toys. Sometimes around here love feels like a battlefield. When I fluff their pillows and pull their covers up to their chins at night, Evan kicks his off — one last point at which he will not concede defeat. Some days feel like an endless strategic meeting between two opposing forces. Who will retreat? Who will negotiate an end to the battle? Who will melt into a tantrum? Who will fly off in a rage and plop a small bottom onto the Time Out chair? Who will win? Does anyone ever win?

With Kostyn especially, our relationship lately often feels like a tug of war. But sitting on the floor that day I realized with great relief that I am not on the other side of the rope. I AM the rope, and Kostyn plays both sides against himself, pulling and straining for things to go his way, for me to go his way, burning his hands and expending his energy to make me succumb to his will, beating no one but himself, challenging me needlessly because no matter what happens, he ends up with more of me.

I am the rope. I am the means to a very important end. And getting through our worst tug of war days, when he hugs me and hates me all at once, is easier knowing this, knowing the point is not for him to win or me to win because it’s not a competition between us at all. He’s not challenging me (though I do find it VERY challenging), he’s challenging himself, testing his voice and his power and his place in this world, and in this house.

“Go away but stay right here.”

OK, son, I thought as I kissed the top of his head.

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Thanks a Million, Mom (Parts I, II, and III)

I don’t have many traditions on this blog (I don’t have any), but my Mother’s Day post is one of them (it’s the only one).

On my first Mother’s Day as a mom I wrote something for my mother about all the little things I never realized I should thank her for until I had my own child. Last year I reposted it, then added more since I’d just survived being a mother of two little ones and had a new list of “thank yous.”

This past year, as my kids have been climbing (literally and figuratively) into and out of toddlerhood, I have yet more accolades to shower on my mother for surviving this stage of the game. So in keeping with tradition (ahem) here are all three posts. I hope there are mothers out there who can relate to some or all of these thank you’s, but mostly I just want my mom to feel the sincere gratitude in my words. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.

My First Mother’s Day Post:

Over the years I’ve thanked my mother again and again for all the support she’s given me in life, for all the chorus and band recitals she sat through, for the birthdays and holidays she made special, for pushing me to be my best, for allowing me to do more and be more and experience more than she was allowed to do and be and experience as a kid.

But until this past year, I never knew enough to thank her for the less noticeable “mom” stuff, the stuff I don’t remember or couldn’t understand until I experienced it firsthand.

So thank you, Mom, for enduring the anxiety and discomfort of pregnancy, and the pain and uncertainty and exhilaration and terror of labor, to bring me into the world. Thank you for all the nights you got up from your bed to come to mine and soothe me back to sleep. Thank you for the million tiny prayers you sent up on my behalf, every day, even now, whenever you read or saw something about a child being sick or lost or hurt or, God forbid, killed. Thank you for all the times you surrendered yourself into fits of silliness, making funny faces and blowing raspberries on my tummy and dancing around the living room to make me giggle.

Thank you for wondering “Is this right? Am I doing okay?” about a thousand times in quiet moments right before you fell asleep at night. Thank you for overcoming your frustrations when I was clingy or whiny or overtired or sick to keep caring for me with tenderness even when you felt like your mother’s deep well of tenderness had surely run dry. Thanks for putting up with every diaper change I squirmed through, every bit of food I threw at you, and every time I spit up on a clean shirt you’d just put on.

Thank you for giving up your free time, surrendering your privacy, and setting aside some of the dreams you had as a woman to make room for all the new dreams you carried as a mother. Thank you for all the warm baths and bottles, all the practicing you did with me to say “Dada” and “Momma” and “milk.” Thank you for holding onto my chubby fingers and helping me take my first steps. Thank you for all the hugs and kisses and smiles you showered me with in that first year, and know that those tiny acts of love created the foundation of independence and happiness on which I built my life.

Mom, I always appreciated you as a mother but I couldn’t fully understand who you are — who you’ve been — to me until now. Now I get it. Now I realize that all those years when you hinted and asked and practically begged me to tell you whether I was ever going to “start a family,” it wasn’t because you merely wanted to be a grandma. It was because you desperately, secretly wished for me to experience the same blessings of being a mom that you’ve experienced.

I’ve learned this past year that parenthood sucks up your time and money and patience, but in their place it leaves this warmth and richness that is quite indescribable until you feel it yourself, from the bottom of your heart to the top of your soul. I hope when I was a baby, and a child, and perhaps even now, I added some of that warmth and richness to your heart, Mom. It’s the least I could do, for all you gave to me.

My Second Mother’s Day Post: On Surviving Two Children

Thank you, Mom, for my siblings. Thank you for finding within yourself the ability to love all of us equally yet differently. And thank you for instilling in us respect for and allegiance to one another.

Thank you for working so hard to put food on the table for every meal, every day, even when it was met with complaints or downright refusal to eat it. And thank you for all those times you found yourself on your hands and knees picking up the food that was so carelessly dropped, spilled or thrown.

Thank you for enduring the exhaustion that comes with caring for more than one child in diapers. Thank you for all the juggling and cross-checking that took place just to get us out the door, or into bed. Thank you for dealing with all the extra splashing and water and chaos that comes with bathing two children at the same time.

Thanks for folding laundry at midnight because that was the only free time you had to do it. And thanks for giving up whatever it was you would have liked to do with that precious free time in favor of making sure your kids had clean clothes to wear the next day.

Thank you for bearing the days when the whining and fussing of multiple children seemed enough to send you running for the hills. Thank you for the sacrifices you made to be home with us as much as you could be, even in those tiny secret moments when you wished to be somewhere — anywhere — else.

Thank you for forcing us to share, but for never making us feel like there wasn’t enough of you to go around.

Thank you, Mom, especially for the laughter, the love and the lullabyes.

My Third Mother’s Day Post: Because Both Boys Are Now Talking. A Lot. 

Thank you, Mom, for enduring endless hours of whining and fighting. Thanks for finding new and creative ways to break a tie, figure out who did what to whom, dispense punishment, dole out equal amounts of affection and somehow pay attention to more than one busy child at a time.

Thank you for teaching us that taking turns is one of the most important and universally necessary skills to have. And thanks for teaching us manners, Mom, for instilling in us respect for every living thing and showing us how to be compassionate.

Thank you for introducing me to God, for praying with me and for me, and for helping me to recognize that still, small voice inside me that has so much power.

Thank you, Mom, for not completely losing your mind while potty training me.

Thank you for teaching me how to write my name, put on my own shirt, wash my hands and all the other little skills you taught me when I was too little to thank you for them. Mostly, thanks for rejoicing in my growing independence and for knowing that it didn’t mean I needed you any less.

Thanks for hanging in there once I figured out how to open, close and lock doors, jump, climb, run, plot, scheme, lie and hide. And thanks for putting up with every single debate over how many more bites of peas I had to eat before getting the cookie.

Thank you for loving me even when I was being annoying. (Especially when I was being annoying.)

Thank you for all the times you said “I can’t believe how big you’re getting!” Back then I just thought you meant I was getting taller, but now I know those words convey everything from pride and wonder to nostalgia and even sadness.

Thanks for pushing aside the self doubt when it creeped in, and for hanging in there when you weren’t sure you could. Thanks for the prayers you whispered and the tears I’m sure you shed, Mom, in quiet moments after losing your patience. Thank you for somehow hanging onto the belief that parenting is a journey and a process, not a test we pass or fail.

Thank you for living through me, for me and beside me, for carrying me when I needed you to (and sometimes when I didn’t but still whined to be held, again I’m SO SORRY for the whining!) and for letting me run ahead more often than you may have wanted me to. 

Oh, and thanks for all the hugs and kisses I didn’t ask for but got anyway. They were way better than all the treats and toys I begged for but didn’t get.

Here’s mom holding Kostyn when he was just a couple days old. She sang many a lullaby to him in the wee hours of the morning that first week, so we could get some sleep. Still owe her for that, too, come to think of it…

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You’re Gonna Want to Brush Your Teeth After Reading This

At almost 20 months, the whole teeth brushing thing has not yet become a chore to Evan. He loves it. (I know his Grammy, a semi-retired dental hygienist, is beaming with pride over this.) Whenever one of us heads to the bathroom to do anything, he trots behind us, standing on his tiptoes on Kostyn’s stool so he can point at the toothbrushes that are just out of his reach. “Teeeeeth!” he says, all smiles, over and over, until you wet his brush and hand it to him. Which I often do when I just want to finish brushing my teeth, or putting on makeup, or whatever it is I’m trying to accomplish at the bathroom sink.

Evan loves wetting his brush over and over under the running faucet, and he loves showing you his shiny white teeth when he’s finished. This amounts to saying “Seeee!” and then sticking his tongue out, so that all you see is pink tongue and no white teeth, but you fake it anyway and say “Wow, Evan! Look at those nice clean teeth!” and he beams and runs away.

Anyway, the thing about handing my toddler something in a distracted state (the way I usually am when I’ve come into the bathroom to accomplish some manner of personal hygiene as quickly as possible) is that I sometimes do not fully register that I’m handing it to him. And couple my distraction with the natural distracted tendencies of said toddler, and I often find the toothbrush 20 minutes later on the kitchen floor, or the playroom floor, or any number of places where people’s feet are supposed to be, not people’s toothbrushes. (I know, Ick. Just wait.)

So today I distractedly gave him his toothbrush. Ten minutes later the three of us were in the living room where I was talking to Kostyn and I noticed Evan was still gnawing on it. I was about to ask him for it when he looked at me, took the toothbrush out of his mouth and said, “More.” Then he made a beeline for the bathroom.

I reached him just as he lifted the toilet lid and said “Wawer,” poised to plunge his toothbrush into the toilet.

“Noooo!” I yelled so fiercely that I scared him. He jumped, looking at me, and his lip quivered as if he might cry. For an instant I was glad I’d gotten there just in time, and then I remembered that he’d just said “more” in the living room. As in, “Mmmm, that tasted sorta interesting. If anyone needs me I’ll be in the bathroom dunking my toothbrush into the toilet again.”

I grabbed the toothbrush and said, as calmly as I could, “Evan, no. This water is yucky. We never never never put anything in the potty.”

“O-Tay,” he said.

“Did you put your toothbrush in here?” I asked.

“Nooooo,” he said, shaking his head solemnly. I wanted to believe him. Mostly because I couldn’t figure out how I was going to BOIL HIS MOUTH, which was the next goal my motherly instinct was telling me to accomplish.

But then I noticed the drops of water all over the toilet seat.

“Evan, did you put your toothbrush in here, to get it wet? Did you wet your toothbrush in the potty?” I asked.

“Yeaaaah,” he said, and you could tell that until about 10 seconds ago he had been pretty proud of this display of independence and ingenuity. I threw the toothbrush into the sink as if it were on fire, and allowed myself five seconds to do that ridiculous tongue-flapping “grossed out” dance we chicks do when we’ve seen or touched something that’s either disgusting or has several more legs than we do. Then I closed the lid of the toilet and scooped up my son, carrying him into the kitchen to boil his mouth.

“Don’t ever, ever, EVER put anything in the potty, OK Evan?” I said. “No, no, no. The potty is dirty. Yuck.”

“Yut,” he said.

“That’s right, yuck!”

“Yut!” he said, faking disgust to please Mommy.

Then because I couldn’t figure out how to boil is mouth, I boiled his toothbrush. (And his brother’s, for good measure.)  And I vowed to do two things from now on:

  1. Institute a “Teethbrushing Only Under Strict Adult Supervision From Beginning to End” rule.
  2. Clean the toilet WAY more often.

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(Im)perfections

The other day the boys and I went hunting for leaves with which to make Leaf People, thanks to some inspiration found on Playful Learning. I told them we needed lots of leaves in different shapes, sizes and colors to make our Leaf People, and that’s the only direction I gave.

About halfway through our leaf hunt I realized I was doing something wrong.

It started when Evan came bounding over to me with half a leaf, ripped and brown and really unremarkable. I accepted it with fake enthusiasm — “Oooh, good one!” — and when he had turned away to search for more, I let it fall from my fingertips.

With Kostyn I was being more direct, showing him only the perfect ones, the brilliant reds and yellows with no browned corners or torn edges. “Look at this one, Kostyn!” I’d say, heralding a fallen leaf’s beauty and giving my son a subtle example of what he should be striving for.

The second time I silently rejected one of Evan’s broken leaves, Kostyn noticed.

“Mommy you dropped it!” he said, hurrying over to pick it up and give it back to me. He thought my letting it go was a mistake, and in that moment I realized it had been.

Perfection, unless we’re talking about God himself, exists only in the eye of the beholder. The gorgeous maple leaves I was gathering were perfect to me. But the giant brown poplar leaf pieces were in some way perfect to Evan. They were worthy of his attention, worthy enough for him to want to give them to his mommy. So why wasn’t I accepting them as beautiful, useful, and perfect in their own way?

It made me think about how ingrained the ideal of perfection is. From an early age we are shown what others deem “perfect.” Perfect bodies, perfect grades, perfect relationships. We’re wired to equate symmetry and proportion with beauty and perfection. But there is a time, before the judging world works its weariness into our psyches and souls, when perfection can be found in anything. A time when everything is useful, admired, wondrous. My boys are still in this phase. They still don’t mind an apple with a few bruises on it. They don’t notice the stains on the used Fisher Price playhouse we just bought at a garage sale. They showed the same level of excitement and awe at a trail of ants on the sidewalk as they did at a fleet of colorful hot air balloons lifting off right in front of them at dawn.

A few nights ago I spoke to the mother of a 12-year-old girl named Allie who has epilepsy, a seizure disorder she was diagnosed with at age 4. Her affliction is unusual in that she only has seizures at night, while she sleeps. So every single night for the past eight years her parents have taken shifts to sit by her bedside and watch her sleep, waiting for the first sign of a seizure so they can give her the medicine she needs to stop her from convulsing, foaming at the mouth and breathing irregularly. Allie’s father takes the more difficult 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. shift. He sits on the floor and tries to stay awake, but he keeps his hand resting on her back all night long; that way if he dozes off he’ll feel her begin to convulse and will wake up in time to help her.

If that isn’t perfect love, I don’t know what is.

Before she was diagnosed, she was a bright 4-year-old who already was reading and writing. But she now has a continual spike on her EEG from the minute she falls asleep to the minute she wakes up, and that constant rush of extra electricity keeps her brain from doing what it’s supposed to do at night — processing and storing the day’s information.

Allie can no longer read or write, and has been trying for eight frustrating years to regain that ability. She’s supposed to be in seventh grade, but developmentally she’s in first grade.

“She’s in Life Skills now,” her mother told me. “I never, ever thought I’d have a child in Life Skills.” Allie’s Life Skills room was moved to the end of the hallway this past year, her mother said. “It’s as if they’re putting those kids away where nobody can see them.”

As she said the words, I imagined myself letting go of Evan’s leaf pieces without so much as a backward glance.

The whole conversation made me think of Evan’s leaves and how perfect they are, as Allie is, in God’s eyes. For the sake of Allie’s frustration and her parents’ heartbreak, I wish her epilepsy would disappear. I wish she’d be able to progress in her studies. I wish her whole family might someday get a decent night’s sleep. But her mother was quick to tell me not to pity them.

“Don’t feel sorry for us,” she said. “Everybody has their stuff, and this is our stuff.”

It’s true, isn’t it? We are all like those poplar leaf pieces as much as we are like the brilliant maple leaves. We are all torn and jagged, with a burnt edge here and a broken stem there. And we are all beautiful and unique and perfect in our own ways too.

So an afternoon art project ended up being more of a life lesson. Thankfully we’d used both kinds — the whole and the torn, the brown and the brilliant — to make our Leaf People. I guess we’d made them in our own image without even realizing it.

I’d say that’s pretty perfect.

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