Why I Didn't Experience "Empty Nest"

When I was getting nearer to the end of my mothering career, I had various friends and relatives tell me they were concerned that because I was so involved with my kids I was going to experience the dreaded "empty nest syndrome", and it would be especially hard for me. Not a bit of it! (I was wise enough by then to know that I was being projected on.) Some women thought that because I seemed to have nothing else going on in my life except for motherhood that when mothering stopped I would experience NOTHING. Not true. I felt, "Job well done, Darlene! Now I can rest." And believe me, I needed it! I needed to focus on self-care and self improvement.... all of which I was eager to do. And I did.

I am not an ambitious person. I was not putting off other career goals and hobbies during my younger years. I was simply doing a job that I loved very much. I never thought, "I can't wait for the kids to move out so I can finally do what I want to do." I did what was in front of me. When my last child moved out, I felt proud of him. That's all. He made the leap, like his brothers before him. It felt good and right and timely. Each brother launched in their own unique way, and I marveled how they did it. Just like watching a chick peck out of its shell or a butterfly shed it cocoon, they manuvered themselves out and off they went. It was a beautiful thing to behold. And I felt proud of them. Sure, I missed them. But, my bond with them was strong, and I knew they weren't out of my life. I would see them less, but they would always be my sons. We would stay connected. There would continue to be this tender regard going both ways. I knew that.

It is my nature to be attached to people. When my last son moved out, I was still going full swing teaching childbirth classes and holding mothering groups and putting on Waldorf events. (All in my home.) These were just natural outgrowths of my life as a mother. I had learned some things, and I wanted to share what I'd learned with other mothers who were in the beginning stages of their childraising careers. I wanted to help mothers experience the "joyfulness" of being a mother. It was so wonderful to me that it seemed only right that I should pass it on. I wanted them to be joyful too! It's debatable how much I was able to accompish that goal. But, it seemed worthy of my time. And I made some long-lasting friendships in the process that I still treasure today. I am content.


Why I Didn't Leave My Children With Other People

When I imagined myself as a mother, that scenerio did not include me going to work and leaving my children in the care of others. In my mind, this was not the way it was done. At least, not for me. For me, my children's care became my life. Taking care of my kids, teaching them... watching them grow.... guiding them.... that was the most interesting, the most compelling, the most meaningful thing I had ever experienced. I didn't want to miss a minute of it! It's a good thing, too, because we didn't have the option of paying people to watch our kids. Nor did we have relatives nearby to take up the slack. My father lived with us off and on for 40 years or so, and he was quite involved with our children. But it was always under my watchful eye. It was not that I didn't trust him or others with my children. I just felt that they were MY responsiblity. They were MY children, entrusted in my care by a Higher Power. I didn't actually say this to myself. I just felt it. And it really felt sacred. I felt privileged to have these beings, these particular beings, given to me. It didn't feel like an accident that Nathen, Ely, Damian, Gabriel, and Benjamin were given to me. And I was determined to do my best to do right by each one of them.

When I think of what was so compelling about my children, I would have to say it was their beauty. They were SO beautiful to me. Their spirits were precious, so I guarded them like a mother bear. No one was gonna take away their beauty. Not if I could help it! Beauty has always been extremely important to me. I cry easily when I see something I think is beautiful. I think horses are beautiful. Baby animals are beautiful. It's their innocence. They are what they are in a pure form. And that is what is so beautiful about children. They are purely themselves (before they become self-conscious), and those first few years of life are just full of pure, unconscious beauty.  I protected that as best I could, because it was sacred to me. I limited TV, for years at a time, so my children would not be corrupted by a world of fakeness and insensitivity and jadedness. I wanted to see them remain true to themselves for as long as possible.

I feel satisfied with myself about my job as a mother. Although I regret things I did, because I was young and didn't know better, I was always, always doing the best I could at the time. I was coming from a place of genuine caring and concern for my kids. So I think I can be forgiven for mistakes. I'm human. And children are resilient. My children could feel the good "juju" consistently coming from me, and I felt them bouncing back when I slipped up sometimes. (Though I was very hard on myself about it.) But, when I die, I believe I will feel like I lived a life that was worth living and that I did a lot of good.... mainly, raising 5 excellent children who became 5 excellent adults. And that is a very satisfying feeling. I can't think of anything better.

And Now, Meet Dorothy!

A couple of days after the Glinda of Oz picture was taken, Margo showed up in the "Dorothy dress" her mama made her for her birthday. She was sporting an altered yarn wig, that now had the appropriate pigtails. She is carrying Toto in her basket, and I must tell you that she is very loyal to that dog! She takes him everywhere.... in the basket, of course. She has been so pleased with her new outfit, that I don't believe she has worn anything else in the last five days! Every day when she arrives at my house, she requests that I address her as "Dorothy", which I am adjusting to pretty well. A big shout-out to her mama's skills at making an authentic dress, down to the last detail. Nothing was missed by Margo. She notices everything.

My Life During the Pandemic

When I first heard that I would have to severely restrict my activities three weeks ago today, I complied, but it took a while to sink in. Hmm... No more going to the gym daily. No more shopping for groceries. No more even leaving the house! Our adult children, who all live quite closeby, announced that they would be doing all my errands (using extreme precautions) once a week. Once a week?? Are you kidding me??  I was surprised by how angry I felt that I couldn't leave the house and do the things I do every day. I'm the kind of person who likes to do for myself. I'm the kind of person who does my OWN errands, thank-you-very-much, and will offer to do your errands as well!  I like to hop in my car, whenever I feel like it, and drive to town. I LOVE driving. I've loved it ever since I started driving at 16. Being a Baby Boomer, I grew up in the "car generation". Boy, did we teenagers love our cars and the fun and mobility they provided! When I grew up and had my own family, I enjoyed ferrying my children around daily to all their events. And since we chose to live in rural areas, we lived far away from where all the "action" was. But, no problem. I had a car, and I loved to drive it.

So, when it sank in that I would be stuck at home and would not be driving my car, I felt mad. I felt bratty. "No one gets to tell me what to do!!"  Again, I was surprised at the powerful thoughts and feelings I had. I am usually pretty sanquine. This was the first time I came face to face with just how spoiled I am. I have pretty much done whatever I wanted all my life. Things have "worked out" for me. I have always refered to myself as "lucky".  Also, Content. Satisfied. So these intense, angry feelings that came up front and center caught me off guard. It gave me a lot to look at. It was kind of embarrassing, actually. Why do I feel like a kid having a tantrum? Why do I feel so strongly about this? I felt this way for about a week. I talked to Steve about it. (He is only too happy to stay home and let others do his errands. That was MY job.) And I talked to our kids about it. And I sat with those feelings, owning up to them and gradually letting them go. I soothed this kid inside me who was kickiing and screaming by coming up with other ways for her to have fun. You want to drive your car? You can drive over to Ben's house (which is not occupied at the moment and is 2 blocks away, down a dirt road) and hang out there. Then you can walk over Rollie's Mountain for exercise (which is across the street from Ben's). It was surprising to me how well that soothed me! You want to see friends? You can call them. You want to do your own shopping? You can shop online. My take-away? There's always a way to get your "needs" met.

And it dawned on me that if I was feeling badly, so were a lot of my friends. I needed to reach out and sooth my friends. I've been doing that. At three weeks into this stay-at-home order I feel quite content. I'm able to fullfill my needs without doing all those things I was doing. In fact, my life has slowed down to the point where I'm noticing how lovely everything is. Colors look brighter. Sounds are sweeter. My house is more beautiful. I'm feeling luckier for all I have. And since i'm not always rushing off in my car, I have time to just BE here at home. I can stop and be still and enjoy it. I think I can get used to this.

Margo the Artist

Three year old Margo comes to visit me each morning for an hour of playtime. We used to play with my dolls or I would read to her. But over the last six months, or so, (she will be 4 soon) she has wanted me to draw with her, and we could easily spend the entire hour doing only that. Her parents inform me that she will draw FOR HOURS at home. This is new for me. I had five boys, and though they always had art materials available to them, none of them would sit and draw for hours, just for fun. The homeschool curriculum that we used, Oak Meadow, required lots of coloring and drawing. So by the time they were 5 or so, they drew every day, some more happily than others. But, none of them seemed to NEED to draw. They NEEDED to run. They needed to jump and roll. They needed to make a lot of noise. They needed a lot of interaction and cuddling with me. They needed to move their bodies vigorously.

So imagine my surprise when my little grand daughter seems to get so much out of drawing. She sits, completely focused, for long periods of time, with no input from me, colored-marker in hand, drawing page after page of remarkable pictures. As I watch, I have a number of responses, and I try to keep them all to myself. I feel like laughing, crying, asking questions, and commenting.  Instead, I just silently enjoy this little artist creating masterpieces with complete abandon. The best way to describe her style is FREE-WHEELING. She doesn't appear to plan out her drawings. They just flow out of her. She holds her pen in a unique way that is very relaxed, like a good violinist holds a bow. Her subject matter lately is pretty much the same day after day: Dorothy and Toto. She probably has drawn some version of Dorothy and Toto a hundred times at my house. (Who knows how many times she has drawn them at her house.) And every picture is different. Colors are interchangable to her. Eyes can be pink, blue, purple, black.... it's all the same to her. People can be giant or teeny tiny. Animals always have the correct number of legs, but that's about all that she requires. Margo pays attention to detail and especially enjoys drawing clothes and accessories. She went through a period of drawing very prominent high heels on all her femaie characters. She likes drawing the good witch Glinda, in her giant bubble, with all her finery.

Margo wants me to draw with her, even though she pays no attention to me as we're drawing. Occasionally she looks at what I'm doing, but ususally not. She's very focused, and sometimes I can't get her attention at all. I seem to be bothering her if I ask her a question, and she seems to have to pull herself back from very far away. So I'm on my own, and I've been getting a lot of practice drawing. One thing that has stood out for me is that I have a lot of judgements about my pictures and drawing ability. I either like my picture or I don't. I try not to make any comments about my pictures, the same way that she doesn't. She seems to have NO judgements about her drawings. They just are. This has helped me to learn to do the same. I'm learning to just accept whatever comes out of me. She seems a bit puzzled if I ever express frustration or displeasure. I try not to, though, as I believe her attitude is far superior to mine: It is what it is. Just move on. I love that! She's a great teacher. How lucky I AM.

"Anne (with an 'e') of Green Gables"

There is perhaps no other book that has affected my life more than ANNE OF GREEN GABLES.  I've probably read it ten times over my lifetime. I began reading it at about age 9 and read it last when I turned 71, a few days ago. It's as good today as it was 62 years ago. It was written over 100 years ago, and I really wonder whether children today would relate to it. It is blatantly "old-fashioned". I find the language in the book to be thrilling (as Anne would say about many things), and it awakens in me my romantic self and my ability to see the beauty around me like nothing else. My mom and I bonded over this book as we read it aloud to each other. I read it to my boys. But, mostly, I read it to myself, over and over, as a child. The author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, must have been something like Anne or I don't think she could have written such a book. It's a masterpiece. The language is so stimulating and advanced that I believe children will be smarter after reading it. A lot of modern kid books seem "dumbed down" to me, catering to kids who don't have a large vocabulary. After reading this book (like PRIDE AND PREJUDICE) you feel smarter... like your mind and heart got stretched. Like your perceptions got expanded. Like there's way more to life than meets the eye and now you see it. All we have to do is look from a fresh new angle, and the world is more magnificent. "When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change." (One of my favorite quotes from I-don't-know-where.) This book is like a hallucinagenic drug... it blows your mind!

I don't care much for the movie versions of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. In my opinion, it is vital to keep ALL the dialog from the book intact, because it's all important. But, the movie had to cut most of it out, keeping a limited number of gems, so the movie just can't compare to the book. Plus, they can never get Anne right. Again, the movie versions of Anne all PALE next to the book version. The original Anne is just so much MORE. So, don't show your kids the movie. Just read the book. Don't feed your kids pablem. Feed them real food.

It's been a long time....

Apparently, my last entry was July 3rd 2017! Two years ago. And before that, I posted shortly after Trump's election in December of 2016. The thing that stands out from that post is that all my fears about him ARE COMING TRUE! It's depressing. I was hoping against hope that I'd be wrong.
I intend to spend the rest of my blogging time this year NOT writing about politics, but about positive happenings in my life. My health and happiness depend on it. But, I'm back!