This post was written for Julep’s blogger challenge on writing about color and motherhood.
On the phone with my sister yesterday, we were talking about an issue we’re having with one of our kids right now. Its not a major issue, just one of those things that we have to watch our kids go through, that in the meantime smashes our heart up like a meat tenderizer, leaving us searching for answers when we really know the only answer is letting your kid live through it and learn hard lessons. There are 50 shades of motherhood, and we can feel any or all of them within a matter of an hour. Although my sister and I share the trait of being pretty emotionally-level most of the time, motherhood has made it all count for nothing, flipping our even-keeled personas to a couple of Jessica Langes, crying over anything and everything dealing with our kids at the drop of a hat. When it comes to our children, we choke down tears over the happy and the hard.
She stopped me mid-story something like, “why is this motherhood job so sooo hard? How will our hearts handle all the years of parenting we have left?”
“It’s like the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, this job is,” I said. She agreed and we both sighed deeply.
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Whether you have adopted, given birth to one child or 8, or taken in foster children, you know. It truly is the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We clap till our hands burn at a baseball barely bunted and we cry into our pillows at night over hurtful words said to our child by an oblivious neighbor child. We see everything, but we feel it even deeper. We can sense when something is wrong with our child by a sideways glance. We can hear their voice on a baseball field of 10 cheering boys, theirs stands out the clearest. We know things others don’t, we feel things others don’t, we have a 6th sense when it comes to our children that others don’t. We learn these things both instantly and over time. That moment where they throw that slimy child on your chest and you swear you hear fireworks exploding over your bed, cheering you on for overcoming the nearly impossible feat, you know things you didn’t before. There’s that…the instinct, and then there’s the learned…the things we learn from our mothers, our mother’s mother, our sisters, our aunts.
These important people all have shades of motherhood they wear, proclaiming them laid-back or strict, organized or not so much, Betty Homemaker or Social Sally and their shades rub off on us, creating our own custom colors. I come from a long line of strong women…strong mothers. Even though my grandmother is no longer with us, I think about her all the time. She died when I was pregnant with Jack, leaving us a month before she could meet him. But even in her absence, her shades are still rubbed off on us.
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My grandmother was calm and sweet, wearing all shades of cool, calm, and collected blues. She didn’t get frazzled or frustrated easily. She had nine children, but still looked like Betty Draper even on her worst days. She sewed her own clothes. She taught my mother about the importance of setting a pretty table and doing things slowly and diligently. She wore red lipstick like it was her job and kitten heels like she invented them.
My grandmother, 1970’s
My mother wears her own custom shades. She’s calm like my grandmother, but has added her own cool greens and earth tones with her love for all things growing…a love that she’s passed that on to me. (Although she forgot to pass on the gene that kept these growing things alive.) She wears our school colors to whatever game we’re playing: buying a business, throwing a party, or painting a room…she cheers for us loudly and proudly. She gets things done quickly and always leaves a place in better shape then when she came to it.
My sister has invented colors all her own. She wears the daring things no one else would and looks fantastic. She takes big risks and learns from mistakes. She is all sorts of fun and funky. She has taught me to laugh more with my kids and play like I’m seven. She is tenderhearted and loyal. She moves on from the unimportant hang-ups.
I have colors all my own as a mother, little drops of all these women in my life mixed with my own, creating shades that are still changing all the time. We do this as mothers, don’t we? We learn from our first babies and get stronger and more confident as we go. I’m learning to take my traits as a sometimes over-bossy, overly busy person and tame her down into that grey area that lies somewhere between Mrs. Trunchbull and Miss Honey. I’m learning to keep stride in that neutral area that keeps her cool, even when my kids can’t.
The color swatches used in the photos are taken from the Julep cosmetics website.