The things we do for love

We celebrated Brienne's birthday this week. She turned twelve years old, the threshold between childhood and her teenage years.

I am thankful for the vestiges of childhood that are still present in our lives because of her. And as a mother with two teenagers I observe the changes taking place in Brienne with knowing and acceptance, and a bit of trepidation. (I anticipate Brienne's transition to the teen years will generate more fireworks in our household than what we've experienced with her siblings, because like me, she's naturally gifted with a fiery personality.)

I have not mourned my children growing up "too fast" because I don't think they have. They have been sheltered and protected, gaining independence slowly and at a pace that feels comfortable for all of us. But each passing year I am reminded I will not be raising children forever and I see this part of my life journey and purpose - raising our children - coming to an end in the near future.

In late summer, while my family hiked the trail without me, my children walking away from me at road crossings, spending days and nights in the woods, doing hard things, without me, I mourned the loss of their childhood. And I also mourned the loss of my clear and definitive place in their lives.

As they grow into their high school years my role changes. This is new and uncharted territory for our family. Have I done enough? Do they know how much I love and support them? Have I given them enough tools to ease their transition to adulthood? Do they know what life is all about? Do I? So many questions.

I've never been here before. But at least with Brienne, I've done twelve - two times already. This is parenting terrain I know. And so it is easy to celebrate her growing independence, honor her natural nearly-teenaged daughter desires while I still relish the flower hair accessories, miniature horse collection, and Barbies that sometimes litter the floor.

Birthday weeks carry extra responsibility and obligation for me, and last minute preparations for all of us, so I decided to take a vacation week from homeschool. I've always done this but somehow I thought I might be able to carry-on, life as usual, this time around.

After our summer, I crave, more than anything, a home-based predictability to our days, fairly constant routines and structures. I didn't want to lose the momentum we've gained in that area so I thought we'd skip our usual birthday-week school break.

But on Monday, sandwiched between Sunday afternoon's birthday-playdate with friends and Tuesday's day long family birthday celebration, I remembered why we've always had birthday week breaks. Because I unravel if we don't. Extra trips to the grocery store, a complete day dedicated to the birthday child, and the emotional weight I carry as mom to make birthdays special - all of that drains my reserves.

It was good timing anyway. Laurent and Brienne are selling holiday art cards and needed to do a lot of work on that this week. The food club order came in and I was able to help divide the order and spend time chatting with a friend without feeling guilty I was dropping the ball at home - neglecting math, French or history.

I spent a good deal of Wednesday afternoon (I wasn't on supper that night) losing myself in How The Light Gets In. Sadly, I finished it that same night. I'm number 82 in line at the library for Penny's last book The Long Way Home. While I wait my turn, I'm thinking this is a good time to go back and read the first Inspector Gamache books.

Reading Louise Penny's books has given me the unexpected pleasure of discussing books with my Dad. My mom and I have talked books for years, recommending our favorite titles, swapping paperbacks we might have in our collection. But Dad and I haven't shared so many book interests, except for the occasional non-fiction inspirational book. It's fun to connect with my Dad around a story and a character.

As we entered this week I wasn't sure how festive I was feeling. Actually, not to sound like Scrooge but I wasn't feeling festive at all. In truth, I had PMS, and Christmas "stuff" on top of a child's birthday felt like more obligation and disturbance to my routine than I was willing to sign up for.

Not Christmas itself - that is expected and welcomed in our home. It is the holiday for our family and this year we're hosting my brother's family and my parents for eight days. It's not that part that feels like obligation. It's everything leading up to it. It's the work that goes into pulling that off. Making merry. I just wasn't in the mood.

I blame PMS but having winter melt away on Monday certainly didn't help. But winter came back, with mid-week snow flurries, blanketing the world in white. My hormones stabilized. My motherly birthday obligations were fulfilled. I spent an afternoon reading a December murder mystery. And I had cleared my school obligations with our break so I could put some time into Christmas planning.

I also started reading Christmas stories. At our last library pick up I came home with a few holiday story compilations. I anticipated I might need some help this year with Christmas spirit so I reserved some "chicken soup for the soul" type Christmas reading.

I can't heartily recommend any of the titles but they are doing the trick. Mostly in turning my heart to thankfulness for all the blessings in my life - family, health, a home to life in, good food to eat. A healthy dose of gratitude seems to be a good foundation for a season of celebration.

Christmas is something I do for love, it is about the keeping and making of family traditions. It is part of our family story, a dominant thread in the fabric of my own childhood that I now weave into my children's childhood. This is what I do, as mother, maker and keeper of memory, keeper of story, keeper of family tradition.

Birthdays are something I do for love. Stringing up colored lights, taking a week off studies (mine and theirs), spending an afternoon reading for pure pleasure, driving the kids to get more paper, more envelopes for making cards, are things I do for love.

Love is an action, stepping in to obligations, responsibilities, and stepping out of them.

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« The end of our journey is just the beginning
How the light gets in »
  • Anna

    Anna on Nov. 30, 2014, 10:46 p.m.

    Those bird picks are awesome

    Are those the cards the kids are selling?

    If so where can we buy them?


    Another great post thank you



  • Tonya

    Tonya on Nov. 30, 2014, 11:21 p.m.

    Hi Renee, Again I so appreciate your sharing... especially your struggles. I had a really sad and hard experience this past week and am still recovering... but it has been good in so many ways for my own growth - to realize that I need to be more honest with what I can realistically handle on any given day and what I need for my own growth so that I can be what my family needs...  I love how you take the week off to do all the special things for the birthday child .

    Thinking of you,



  • Andrea

    Andrea on Dec. 1, 2014, 1:17 p.m.

    Hi! I just discovered your site (linked from a beeswax candle post on Crafty Crow) and I'm so excited and impressed by your AT hike. We're planning a family long-distance hike next summer (the much shorter Colorado Trail) and I'm looking forward to reading over your archives to glean wisdom for our own hike. Congratulations!


    • renee

      renee on Dec. 1, 2014, 1:23 p.m.

      Andrea, I don't have a lot of hike how-to stuff here at FIMBY. We have more resources at Toe Salad, on this page and this page.

      (And wow, that candle post is old. I hope the photos still show on that.)


  • Marianna

    Marianna on Dec. 1, 2014, 2:46 p.m.

    I would love to purchase some of those wonderful bird cards. Are the kids selling online? Thank you. 


  • renee

    renee on Dec. 1, 2014, 7:23 p.m.

    Re: holiday art cards. I'm sorry to say that Brienne & Laurent are no longer offering the cards. They originally advertised on Facebook and that generated all the sales they wanted. I had hoped they would offer them through FIMBY but I think they're a bit tired out from the word of putting together the initial orders. I'll be sure to write a post here at FIMBY with details if they change their minds :)


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