When I had my first child, my mother and grandmother stayed at the house to help me. I don’t know what I would have done without them. My husband couldn’t get off from work, and I would have been on my own. Here we are, twenty-six years later, and I’ve taken up the mantle and am at my daughter’s house helping take care of her newborn.
When Rebecca told me that her husband had two weeks of paternity leave and would be there to help as well, I honestly didn’t think too much of it. Sure, he’d be there, but what good would he be? If Rebecca needed guidance and help from someone who had “been there,” she would have me. Anthony certainly wouldn’t have anything to add to the equation. I pictured him coming home from the hospital, tired and hungry, eating whatever I made before going to bed and returning to the hospital the next day to bring Rebecca and the baby home. From there, I assumed he’d make an appearance during the day, but his primary role would come into play at night with diaper changing and then handing off Evelyn for feedings.
Any day now, possibly by the time this goes to print, I will be a grandmother. For the past nine months, I have marveled at how I could be a grandmother already. It seems too soon. I’m excited, but I don’t feel ready. I don’t have enough life experience yet. I’m still busy screwing up my children’s lives! I still make parenting mistakes all the time. How can I help my daughter navigate her own life as a new mother?
I was lying in bed last night, unable to put my mind to rest, when I thought, I don’t know how to do this yet. My mother and grandmother were so good at it, so perfect, and I’m so much younger than they were when they took on this role.
We just ended an awesome vacation. My husband, two of our daughters, and I spent eight nights in Puerto Rico, and we fit so much into that time, including a lot of much-needed downtime. We ate amazing food, drank $5 mojitos and margaritas, zip lined and waterfall rappelled in the rain forest, kayaked in the world’s largest bioluminescent bay, explored caves and beaches, all read numerous books, and were blessed to have time to just be. It was absolutely perfect, except for one small detail.
I rarely had the opportunity to stop and call my mom.
Yes, you read that right. I only spoke to my mother twice during the entire trip. And while many of you may find that normal or think that even speaking twice was excessive, you have to understand my relationship with my mother.
I am blessed to say that my mother is my best friend.
This past Sunday, the Gospel reading was the well-known story of Jesus’s dinner at the home of sisters, Martha and Mary, and the Lord’s advice to Martha about choosing the better part. On the way out of Mass, as I led my entourage of family and friends from the church, someone remarked to me that it looked like I could relate to the reading and the homily that weekend! I had been thinking the same thing as I sat in the pew with my husband, three daughters, my son-in-law, Katie’s boyfriend, two of Rebecca’s friends, Rebecca’s mother-in-law, and my bestie, Anne, from Illinois. These were just the last bit of people staying with us for Rebecca’s baby shower weekend.
Many know the story of Martha–cooking, cleaning, serving–and Mary, who quietly sits and listens to Jesus. Poor Martha, doing all the hard work and planning and then being admonished by the Lord for it! If only she could be more like her sister, Mary (how many siblings have heard that before?).
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
This story holds so many lessons for us, but the true meaning, the better part of the lesson, is lost on so many. It’s a lesson I often have to remind myself, including this past weekend…
Not only did we celebrate Easter this past week, we celebrated my baby’s twenty-first birthday. Honestly, I can’t figure out how that happened! I remember April of 2001 like it was yesterday, but in the blink of an eye, it’s been twenty-one years. I think Morgan’s looks have changed over the past 21 years, but her personality has not.
Morgan is my girl who is never afraid to try anything. From horseback riding to parasailing to caring for her grandfather, Morgan always has a can-do attitude. Although I’m the one who is supposed to be teaching my children about life, I’ve learned so much from Morgan. I think she’d be surprised to know…
All month long, I’ve written and posted about love. I’ve touched on romantic love, self-love, and the love between mothers and daughters and grandmothers and granddaughters. I’ve talked about our Father’s love more than once. What I haven’t mentioned is the love between a daughter and her father, a love which I happen to think transcends all other types of earthly love as a reflection of the love between a daughter and Our Father.
Pope John Paul II said, “In revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God, a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family.” How true that is.
It took my parents several years to have me. Just as they were in the throes of adoption, I gave them the surprise they’d been praying for. By then, my father, at thirty-three, was a little older than most first-time fathers of the time. Of course, I didn’t realize this until much later in life; but now I am reminded every day how truly blessed I am to still have him with us at eighty-four (eighty-five in April).
Growing up, my father was loved and adored by everyone, which was no surprise as he was always a kid at heart, and he has a heart the size of a mountain.
I’m sure it will come as no surprise to my family, friends, and those of you who follow me on social media that I’ve been thinking about my grandmother a lot over the past month. My grandmother was, to say the least, extraordinary. She didn’t win any awards. Gram wasn’t known outside of her hometown. She didn’t do great things or travel to faraway places or lead protests or discover a new star. She didn’t do anything special at all unless you count every single little thing she did with extraordinary love, and she taught me so much.
There are many lessons I learned from my grandmother, but there is little that she taught me through words or preaching or admonishments. Almost everything I learned from her, I leaned by watching her, and I try my best to emulate all that she taught me.
These are the things I will always cherish and strive to uphold.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
I’ve been thinking about these words as I help my girls prepare for their end-of-summer exodus. I know that, in many ways, the first days after my baby has left for college will be as solemn and quiet as those first dark days after a death. We will mourn the loss of our girls, long to hear their laughter, feel the sting of loneliness at mealtimes and evening family time. There will be no giggles interrupting my sleep in the late hours of the night, no fighting sleep as I wait up until curfew to make sure everyone is safely tucked in bed. I will miss the companionship of my now-adult children. I don’t look forward to solitary meals when Ken is away.
They say every good thing must come to an end, but is that really true? I’ve been thinking about that as Morgan and I approach the end of our trip to Greece. With all the pictures, videos, and—best yet—the memories, does our trip truly come to and end? And even if the trip itself does end, isn’t the entire trip actually more of a beginning?
Why is the sunset considered the end of the day and not the beginning of the night? Why is the end of a relationship not the beginning of a new start? Why does everyone see graduation as the end of something so momentous when life has only just begun?
I remember, when I graduated from high school all those years ago, we were told that we were not celebrating our graduation but our commencement—not marking the end of something but the beginning of something even better. We were starting over, becoming who we were meant to be, discovering ourselves in a new way and in a new place. My oldest daughter always says that nobody should peak in high school because life doesn’t really begin until you leave home and discover who you are. Perhaps this is why we should celebrate not the ending but the beginning, the chance to truly grow into the person God designed us to be.
This is what my daughters and I celebrated after their graduations. I can honestly say that those trips with my daughters were new beginnings that opened new worlds for us both literally and figuratively. We visited new places, experienced new cultures, tried new foods, and spoke new languages. Our worlds expanded in the most concrete ways. However, our worlds as mother and daughters expended just as much, perhaps even more.
Over the course of the past 10 days, Morgan and I, like each of her sisters and I in the past, visited new places in our relationship. We weren’t just mother and daughter. We experienced Greece as traveling companions and as friends. We developed a new culture, a new way of life, a new understanding of who each other is. We learned things together. We found new foods we want to make at home and new drinks we both enjoy. We learned a new language, not the language spoken by a particular civilization but the language spoken between a mother and an adult daughter.
I’ve been impressed with my daughter’s maturity, her take-charge attitude, and her willingness to try new things, including cliff jumping into the Mediterranean! I’m convinced there is nothing she can’t do, and it makes me feel like an accomplished mom of a confident and competent adult. It’s a gift to see her in a new light–an adult ready to take on the world.
It’s always difficult when something ends. As human beings, we sometimes find it challenging to accept change, to embrace something new, to say goodbye to those things to which we are accustom. But I’ve learned that from endings come beginnings. Though it saddens me to think that my baby will soon be living over five hours away, it excites me to see what she will do, accomplish, become. I’m so proud of the person she is growing into and look forward to seeing her embrace her new circumstances, new challenges, new life.
This trip isn’t the end of our time together any more than her graduation was an ending. Like the sunset, it’s merely a transition into something new, something wonderful, something to look forward to. I spent eighteen years getting to know my precious child. I hope to have twice that many years to get to know this wonderful adult.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miraclesare all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracleshas outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.