“There’s a special place in heaven for the mother of three boys…”
The gentle music, the sweet sweat glistening on my skin, the most incredible feeling of relaxation and all is bliss with the world. The calming voice of the yoga instructor at the front of the room guiding our breath, the harsh intercom voice piped into our sanctum requesting I attend to my child immediately in the nursery.
So began my introduction to yoga and mommy-hood….. again.
I have four children. I have spent 22 years, 20 years, 18 years and 8 years collectively and individually with each of them. My oldest son will be 32 years old when my youngest child graduates high school. All of my adult life (excluding the year from 21-22) has been spent as a mother. All these years at motherhood have taught me how strong of a person I really am and really am not, and that I can do almost anything backwards in high heels with a baby on my hip.
Eight or so years ago, with my fourth child tummy still soft and flabby, engorged breasts, and sleep deprived, I heard a call from within me towards serenity. This call took the form of a recreation center guide section entitled “Yoga”. I would have loved to have my introduction to yoga be at one of the many top rated yoga studios that we are fortunate to have in our Yogi community of Boulder, CO, but the rec. center offered the one thing these top rated, world class studios did not……childcare. Only in 1.5 hour intervals mind you, the exact length of the class. With baby and diaper bag in tow, I signed my child into the care of strangers and walked across the hall into bliss.
After my first EVER three movements of a sun salutation; inhaling with hands raising upwards to meet above my head, extending from the middle of my back (known to me as my wing center), then lowering my arms, in swan dive fashion folding over as I exhaled, lifting half way up from my middle as I inhaled, exhaling folding over my mommy belly again, inhaling fully as I raised up, arms floating overhead and eventually landing over my larger than life breasts in prayer. I knew in that moment I had found something that was to shift me and mold me, rearrange me somehow. This yoga was something I wanted to share and teach to others, especially to mothers.
Mom, Mum, Ma, Mama, Mommy, Mummy, Ma, or as my middle son likes to refer to me “the giver of life”… The yoga mantra of mommy-hood.
How motherhood relates to life, is that like life you are never done, never really off duty, never really far from the essence of being a mother, until the day of course when you are done. Motherhood sneaks into your dreams, your vacations away from your kids, your date nights with your husband. An essential survival skill to motherhood is to know how to put the kids and their issues out of your mind, but they never leave your heart. Even when I die I will still have folks on this planet that knew me as their mother and possibly, as their grandmother. The family is a web and the mother is the silk. She connects all the dots, she weaves the kids, cousins, relatives, friends, community, kids, appointments, life, marriage, together.
I always thought I’d be a mother from when I was young but I never knew why I would be a mother. What did being a mother entail? Why did I want to be a mother? Why did I want to have multiple children? Even pregnant with my fourth child I found this question difficult to answer. Maybe it is one of those things you can’t answer, because it just is, it is just my path this go around.
When all four of my children are home together – which is not often of late – THESE are the days as a mother that I cherish. As they grow and move and expand so do we as a family. I was recently asked “what is it that I once richly held close and now is radically empty?” Deep question I know, you should meet the woman who asked it, Shannon Schneider of movingwiththemuse.com. She is the one who encouraged me when I didn’t think I was young enough, hip enough, or gumby-esk enough to be a yoga teacher. She is the one who reminded me of what I could teach, about embodiment and movement from my experiences as a mother. What I could offer to those younger, hipper and seemingly more swavay than myself, about their bodies from my 45 year old mother of four body.
My answer to this oh so probing question of what was held so close that is now empty, is my sons as boys. Their curls, baths, trucks, legos, slingshots and rubber band guns. Their dirt, loud playfulness, their fears, and fighting, scrabbling, smelly, beautiful, ease-i-ness selves. My value to them by applying tickle cream to scrapes, and when needed, taking them as calmly as possible to the ER for stitches and casts. Finding the popsicles to give them when the sore throats struck, and cool cloths to foreheads to settle fevers. Reading books and books and books, Winnie the Pooh, Goodnight Moon, Dr Seuss, Star Wars, Narnia, Lord of the Rings. Combing their locks and washing out the dirt between their toes, cutting their nails. Cheering and encouraging them on oh so many, many soccer fields, baseball fields, and piano recitals. Picking them up from wherever, whenever to appointments, school, dates, friend’s houses. Their simple complexity of being boys. Being asked for advice, help with applications, studying for tests making science fair projects, and filling out the forms and forms and yet more forms. Friends, first loves, drivers license exams, college dorm shopping, and now…….well not too much really.
Now, once, twice, three times a year if I’m lucky I get to wash my oldest son’s uniforms, fold his clothes, make his favorite meals and host a party with all his buddies in between his deployments in the Navy. Maybe six times a year I get to make my middle son’s favorite meals, chat on the phone but more on Facebook, offer advice with direction and goals, classes and jobs. With the last one who is still at home, but hardly ever home, who is deep in the throngs of being 18, we are mostly struggling through the emancipation process, curfews, grades, SATs, and college prep. The occasional twenty bucks here, $100 there. Not exactly priceless moments. I am now the mother to young men, no longer boys.
I send my opening “OM”s in my yoga classes often to my sons. I often will dedicate a practice to one, or all of my children. I have found myself in tears during a class, releasing or grieving the loss of one of those boys into manhood. They have given me my strength, like my yoga, they have guided me, like my yoga, they have pushed back, like my yoga, they have in many ways raised me, like my yoga. Yoga has aided me through my evolution of unraveling of my three boys to men. My yoga is motherhood, motherhood is my yoga.
So the saying goes, there is a special place in heaven for the mother of three boys, I believe there too is a special place in heaven, here on earth, for the mother of three men. Watching them walk away to their next deployment at the airport, towards their jobs here in town, towards their university classes, towards their girlfriends open arms, towards their ever growing independent lives, is the most pride filled and pain filled sight for me as their mother. The in between, the independence, the interdependence, the yoking, the union, the yoga of being their mother.
I am so grateful to have my girl, my beautiful daughter of eight years. The hair-dos, nail painting, tea parties, dolls, and pink dresses. The sweetness, the cuddles, the discussions, art projects and the nature walks with her I cherish. I am excited to be a bit older and hopefully a wiser, more patient, more present, yogic-like mother for her. The mother who soon will lead other mothers with their flabby new mommy tummies and engorged breasts to breathe, move, stretch and embody their motherhood through an hour and a half hopefully with no intercom calls from the nursery.
Why be a mother? Possibly the answer is simply because I am.