She asks every question under the sun while I am huffing and puffing, pedaling up a hill I have been preparing for since a few miles back. I can hardly catch my breath, and it is hard to answer with intention. She senses and hears my struggle. "Do you wish we were not on this hill right now? Do you not like hills mama?" It takes everything in me to spit out, "It's not that I don't like hills...they are just... hard." She continues to ask similar questions, trying to understand the nuance. We make it past the hill, I catch my breath and start to explain that just because something is hard doesn't mean that I don't like it. I tell her that most things I love are hard. I feel the importance of this conversation and know these words are shaping her entire worldview for the next fifteen something years, if not the rest of her life.
The next day I am running on the treadmill, shaking in plank and grunting through burpies. They are watching my every move. I notice that they see something new. Moving my body, whether it be dance, yoga or the gym has always been "me time." I used to quietly escape for some personal time and workout for an hour to myself. I felt I needed some peace and quiet to think and just be. But then schedules and motivations changed and I found myself with the two of them, beat red and sweating, the greatest version they might ever see.
At first it was not fun and it was definitely not easy. Sometimes it feels like very few minutes someone has to poop or pee or needs something that might interrupt this time. It used to bother me and I felt entitled, like I deserved an hour to myself to sweat without interruption. But then I surrendered, because I am a mother and now there is no clean divide between me, and them and us. Time and space is just a big beautiful blur, and it's ours for the taking. After a few days I realized how powerful this whole exchange was. I've always wanted to be a transparent mother. I've wanted my children to know I am fully human, and alive, and deep down, just like them. But often there is a disconnect between the things we want and the things we do. If I want them to know I am more than just their mother, it means inviting them into these spaces. It means laughing and crying and sometimes even yelling and sulking. It means sharing myself the way I do with my sisters, the full spectrum of emotions, and explaining my heart every step of the way. It means them coming with me to my morning work outs and dance events. It means that every once in a while I will sit beside them on the couch, read my own book and not feel bad about it. It means that I might take a hot bath mid day on a Tuesday, just because my soul needs it, and I will let them soap up my hair and drop oils into my bath. It means I will read my book with many interruptions and my bath will not be as relaxing as it would have been if I would have waited until they were in bed. I will probably always be a little distracted at my dance events, and my work out will be twenty minutes shorter than if done alone, but living deeply and fully alongside them is a gift I want to give them. It is also a gift I want to give myself. How will they ever know who I am if I only come alive once they are in bed, or when I am away from them? They won't. And so, I've softened into this new way, the way I have always wanted but have resisted because I didn't like how hard it felt. I didn't like the resistance I felt beneath my chest. I assumed something must be wrong because I didn't like the complexity and contradiction of all the things I still desired, while simultaneously desiring nothing more, because they were the greatest of all dreams come to fruition. But nothing was wrong, and complexity is good, I have just been finding my way, and I am finally here today, neither selfish or self sacrificing, just fully myself, listening to their needs as well as my own. And like I tell Octave as I pedal up those hills, just because something is hard does not mean that I don't like it. In fact, I've come to love it that much more.
Octave recently looked at herself in the mirror and told me she loved who she was. I witnessed this whole encounter in slow motion, like it was a day dream, but my very own life. My lips pursed, contracted, smirked and lengthened, alongside my heart. She told me that she loved making her muscles strong, and eating nutritious food and using her creative brain. While those words came out of her mouth and I believe that she meant every one of them, I also know that those exact words have flowed from my very own mouth. She is not learning by my preaching, she is learning by my living. Suddenly all the pressure of motherhood felt irrelevant or rather, lifted. I just need to be okay with myself. I just need to be a good human, who loves hard and fast and deep and wide, not only them, and the stranger painting portraits across the street, but myself, sipping hot coffee in their presence because it's better hot, almost too hot, and I've drank it cold for far too many mama years.