In the last decade I mostly can’t remember grace. I can’t remember breathe. I can’t remember love. It’s early in the new decade – the opening of day two to be exact. I find myself sitting in the car, watching my 12 year old daughter step onto the park fields to kick a soccer ball around in preparation for the upcoming tournament this weekend. I inhale the fresh coffee from my favorite fair exchange brew – it is inviting me to savor each sip. As much as I tried to slow each day down since December started, the days pressed right on through my resistance to their fury and competition for my attention, and I find myself in a new year, new decade, breathing in and out.
Before she hopped out of the car, I switched off the radio, and asked her about the team, her friends, the movie she went to yesterday with her friends. She smiled, giggled and told me every detail of the day. We talked about how fast the break went for her, too. Five minutes before she had to be on the field, she reached from the back of the car to grab my neck, and kissed my cheek.
When she was 3 years old, I remember sitting next to her on the couch. She turned to me and said, “Mommy, I want to talk to you.” I remember thinking, what am I going to do. I know nothing about being a mom and this is my second kid.
I don’t often make declarations about each new year, for the most part I feel like I am hanging onto ropes behind a roller coaster, skiing or gliding behind, trying not to fall off and lose life.
However, I have started asking myself what would It look like to be more present, like really in the moment with life as it is happening. The toddler years of 4 children under the age of 6 flew by and as I’ve tried to sort them out now in therapy, they rarely untangle from my anxiety, and the frantic race with daylight I had for bedtime routines.
The mother I was – tried to be, was lost in the activity and loneliness of parenting from home, not belonging in crafty mom groups, and wishing for space to think a complete thought. I stretched a naptime for all of my children well past kindergarten, mostly for me. I needed the afternoon to lie down, nap, or clear my brain from diapers and what felt like endless conversations about everything regarding children. I waited for weekends when I thought Luis would be more available to help with day routines. I cooked for everyone and didn’t eat with anyone. I would feed my family and wait for them to go to bed to eat. Those were days of zero margin.
People would tell me about how those years pass by too quickly. And, they did and they didn’t. I happen to cherish 8,10,12,14 year old conversations about recess, friends, middle school drama, and politics with my emerging young adults. I want it all to slow down. I feel more myself. I take naps. I don’t clean all of the time we are home. I let the dining room table be cluttered with an unfinished puzzle on one end and “pie face” on the other end.
My meandering thoughts save me from self-condemnation and offer more grace. I didn’t really know the word grace in those years. I didn’t know it applied to me. I didn’t know it was for mothers or their children. I stop myself. I want to reach back and speak hope to the woman anxiously worried about being the best mom, super skinny, between communities that couldn’t teach her to honor her mind and heart.
I know commitment hammered out of solid stone and smoothed by waves of grace; and now I know grace, to breathe, and love.
Mother of four and wife of one awesome Mexican, Danielle Castillejo is a 2nd year student at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, studying to get her MA in Counseling and Psychology. She works and volunteers part time in an organization in Seattle that advocates for the agency and freedom of commercial sex workers. A survivor of abuse herself she continues to fight for sanity and love every day.