Welcome to my blog on Mothering.com! It’s interesting, as a playwright and the founder of BOLD and The My Body Rocks Project, I have the pleasure of hearing tons of mothering stories, but rarely have I shared mine. Ironic, huh? Well, I’m thrilled that Peggy O’Mara invited me to share my journey with you here. I’m excited to share with you my “My Body Rocks!” mothering moments and mishaps. Yes, it’s a dance. But one I’ve found is well worth the commitment.
So here goes with my first post telling you about my recent weekend. If you’re mothering in the snow this week (or under any other emergency conditions) I’d love to hear from you! If there’s one thing I know for sure, sisterhood is key to mothering.
This past weekend didn’t turn out as I had expected. Six months ago I noticed my local meditation community was having a silent meditation weekend retreat for women. Having just moved to the DC area from 13 acres in the woods where my kids went to schools that had 8 acres and 400 acres to play on respectively, and feeling like I was falling into the urban trap of “busy-all-the-time,” I jumped out of my seat when I saw the word “silence” and circled the day registration for the retreat opened – November 5. That day was nuts, soccer car pool, Halloween fallout (my younger son wanted to be Messi Lionel from the Barcelona soccer team and the jersey didn’t show up so I spent countless hours traveling all over DC looking for a Messi jersey and waiting for my back-up David Beckham jersey to arrive on time for the school Halloween parade) so I missed the November 5 registration by a day and found I was number 36 on the waitlist. Disappointed, I figured silence would have to wait.
By late December I got an email that I was off the wait list. Yes! Silence here-I-come! I’d been reading a lot about the importance of silence, simplicity, solitude and slowness in Gail Straub’s wonderful work and book, Returning to My Mother’s House. All of it resonated with me. This was a clear way women – and to me especially mothers who live in the fast lane and rarely slow down – could take back our female wisdom. I mean, how can we possibly even access our female wisdom carpooling, making dinner, and doing laundry. The days of having quiet, contemplative home births ended for me almost a decade ago. Yes, intellectually I get that it’s possible to be present with every moment. And some days I’m good at it, taking deep meditative breaths at stop lights, or while folding the twelfth pair of ripped boys size 10 pants on a Sunday night. But the thought of a women’s silent retreat was so delicious, so necessary in my life, I couldn’t wait to indulge.
Enter the worst snow storm in eighty years.
Despite warnings that a blizzard was coming through DC last weekend I never imagined it would stop my silent retreat from happening. I needed this retreat. My son Jacob had bashed his brother physically and verbally so many times last week I was out of compassionate listening skills and mindful rules. My other son had a report due that was so labor-intensive for a third grader I had spent every weekend in January teaching him researching skills and how to prepare an oral report (note to other moms: do it all in one weekend so your kid hates you for a shorter time period). The only way I got through these parenting moments the last month was telling myself silence is coming. Blizzard or no blizzard, I was going on that retreat.
Unfortunately the organizers did not hear my mommy plea. The retreat was canceled and I went into blizzard preparation mode, the complete opposite of silence. My local Wholefoods had lines thirty people deep, down aisles, congo-lines spilling in and around the baked goods and imported cheeses. It was worse than being in a crowded disco (at least there you’ve got great party music!). I managed to muscle my way to a line with only fifteen people in it, pick up my son from school and get home just before the heavy snow began.
How was I going to find silence now? And, to boot, the Super Bowl was Sunday night which meant loud whooping and hollering. I was beginning to feel the joke of silence was on me.
Luckily, I like snowstorms. And normally faced with two feet of snow falling and being home with the kids and my husband is a good thing. It certainly gets you to slow down. No school bakes sales to sign up for, parent meetings, field permission slips to sign. In a typical snow storm I’d embrace the moment, bake cookies and listen to my third grader recite every football statistic he knows and let my fifth grader tell me about Star Wars Lego for the twentieth time. But this time I wanted more. Yes, silence.
My mind started working every angle at how to bring silence into my life over the weekend. I suggested to my son Aden that on Saturday we have a silent snow ball fight. Aden asked if laughing was possible and I said yes, of course we could laugh. Jacob asked if we could do like in Andrew Clements book, “No Talking” where we speak three words and then have to wait a while to speak another three words. Hmmm…I wasn’t too sure about that. The silent snow ball fight turned into a twenty minutes discussion of the pros and cons, making me realize this wasn’t going to be my ticket to silence. What was?
The next day, as the final foot of snow fell, the boys went outside to create a small slide down in front of our house and I – feeling cabin fever – decided to go for a walk. The snow was gorgeous, my urban neighborhood transformed into a winter wonderland, snow artfully hanging on trees, and the many cars parked on the street covered in snow. Suddenly and unexpectedly I found my breathing space, my silence. I walked the neighborhood, normally filled with over-scheduled urban families, now a ghost town, silenced by the storm. My body dove into the silence. Step by snowy step my mind began to lighten. There was no noise except for sparkling snowflakes blowing into my back.
Silence comes in unexpected places.
I returned home to Michael Jackson music blaring from my ten-year-old’s room.
“How was your walk mom,” he asks as I make my way through his room to my office.
“Silent,” I respond.
Yes, cool. Very cool.
By Sunday night, with two feet of snow outside, my family and I cuddled onto the sofa whooping and hollering (two of us for the Saints, two for the Colts) as we watched the Super Bowl. And all was right as rain. (or snow, I should say!).