Angela Amman

Watching her make her own time

dancing on the porch The dress hung in her closet most of last spring, through the summer, and into the fall. The umbrellas, she explained, weren’t her favorite. I’d purchased it a little large, and I left it on the hanger until it became an item in her closet I saw without seeing.

She pulled it out the other day, declared it the perfect dress — comfortable, with adorable umbrellas, just right for spring when you never know when it will rain. She tap danced on the porch in patent leather shoes with worn soles, and I felt my heart twist a little as I watched her legs lengthen before my eyes, making the dress almost too short.

She can wear it with shorts until she finds another favorite.

We used to read a book regularly, Ruby In Her Own Time by Jonathan Emmet, about a little duckling who meets milestones and chases dreams on a schedule unlike that of her brothers and sister. She’s unconcerned with the expectations of the people — well, ducks — around her, and my girl has always reminded me of that sweet little duckling.

I can remind her to practice her dance routines a million times, and she finds a million and one reasons not to do it, but I’ll find her counting time and running through steps while I’m making dinner.

We’ve talked about writing spelling words to help cement them in her mind, and she’s resisted until this morning, a month before school is finished for the year, when she declared, “Writing the words is probably the best way for my brain to learn the way they look.”

She wears tutus to field days but pulls on cozy fleece pants when I expect her to wear something fancy.

Reminders about expectations don’t reach her ears, or they lodge somewhere between stubbornness and giggling distraction. Mothering a daughter with stubborn tendencies, when you have them yourself, is an intricate dance I’m far from mastering. I trip over my feet, and I try to untangle the frustration from my words.

I grit my teeth some days: my shoes often litter the floor of my closet, though we’ve talked about putting them back if she wants to play in there; her personal stash of craft materials languishes, untouched, while my printer paper diminishes by the day; she remembers to ask permission for the stapler, the tape, the Sharpies, only after she’s almost finished with whatever project she’s dreamed up for the moment.

Her time, her methods, her thought process flutter out of my reach those days. I try, and I will continue to try, to breathe and to listen. To hear her words, whether they’re spoken in a whisper into my ear or danced with joy in the living room, or pressed into my palm with small fingers that still need to be held and kissed and reminded that I will be here to hold that hand for as long as she needs.

Belief and beginnings

Dyed Easter eggsI ran in the cold today. The sun greeted me as I turned to the East, orange and blinding, cutting through the air without much warmth behind its rays.  Music pulsed in my ears, as it always does, as much a part of my running routine as the shoes I lace onto my feet. I kept the volume low enough to hear the birdsong, a reminder that the coldness won’t remain in the air for much longer.

I hear the promise of spring in their songs.

Birth and renewal and belief are inexorably connected right now as I run, because it’s one of the only times my mind is clear enough to let such big concepts crash into each other. We’ve tentatively found a church, enrolled the kids in religious education classes, absorbed the homilies that connect to daily life more than I remember from masses of my childhood. Still, I struggle with the idea of fully committing to a church that still holds tightly to so many tenants I don’t support.

Today, though, when I ran I thought of the way it felt to have the four of us together in a pew. We sat and stood and knelt together, the choir echoing off the walls and the ceilings of a crowded space, and we celebrated renewal.

Renewal is a tenant I fully support: the idea that we have more chances to make things right in our lives, to do better with what we’ve been given, to love harder and with more grace, to find ways to accept the happiness surrounding us instead of seeking it too far outside of ourselves. Sometimes, though, I struggle to let the renewal unfold on its own. I want to rush the process, to see changes immediately, to sprint all the way home though my lungs and legs aren’t up to the task.

Impatience abuts against faith, and I have to remember to breathe and not let it take up too much space in my head. Not all of the answers I seek can be packaged neatly and absolutely. In this season of spring, I will try to find some satisfaction in the beauty of the sunlight, even when it doesn’t yet bring the warmth I crave.

Do you have any spring goals this year?


Finding unexpected power

Eggs I can’t count how many times we’ve carried the condor eggs to the top of the mountain, part of the narrative involved in a yoga DVD both my kids adore. This week, when Dylan asked me to actually do yoga instead of just racing around the house and hiding my inflexibility, I said yes. He gleefully piled a group of plastic Easter eggs next to me.

That day, he wanted the condor eggs to be tangible, not just a figment of our imaginations cradled in our curved palms.

That day, for those fifteen minutes, I was the mother he wanted me to be.

I struggle daily to be the kind of mother I want to be, let alone to be the kind of mother my kids want me to be. And how do we even know what sort of mother they’d sketch together, pieces of me and pieces of not-me twisted together depending on how everyone’s feeling in a particular moment.

The power of motherhood is steadfast in its clearest moments, but it’s diaphanous, too.

I am wrong about a lot of things, and I’m talking about one of them at Women Wielding Words today. Lisa Kramer is the author of P.O.W.E.R., a thoughtful, clever novel exploring female empowerment and the potency of the written language. She’s curating a series of essays on different sorts of power, especially hidden or unappreciated power.

I’m excited to share an essay with her readers about the kind of mother my teen self thought I wanted — and the power of the mother I have. I’d love it if you’d read it, too.

Random bits and pieces

family time My brain is tired tonight, the good kind of tired where it feels stretched and worked, reaching into corners that haven’t been used in a while. I drafted and drafted and drafted some more yesterday, and while the editing might be brutal, it feels good to see “edit” on my to-do lists instead of scribbled essay ideas.

I still haven’t written about my goals for the year, in part because I haven’t really fleshed out how I want them to look.

We’ve been building LEGO sets that make the time slide through my fingers like sand. Winter soccer started last weekend, and extra dance practices pepper our schedule.

The lazy days of winter break are over, and we’re all still adjusting. Nights start well and descend into a whirlpool of too-rambunctious singing and kids squirming around in their chairs to be sure they don’t spontaneously fall asleep if they stop for a single second.

Meal planning needs to happen again soon, or those unspecified health and wellness goals — like the 750 miles I need to accomplish because I didn’t do it last year — are going to get mired in the delicious Asian Zing sauce at Buffalo Wild Wings.

But for mid-January, I’m feeling tentatively organized, and that’s better than I could say a week ago.

Have you settled into working toward your new year’s goals yet?

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