Selah turned 18 months this past weekend, and truthfully, this feels less like a milestone and more like a mile marker. I lost track of how many months she was after she turned a year, and when people would ask me, I’d have to count the months from November to get to the right age.
Eighteen months marks halfway between one and two, ages and stages that are oceans apart. Selah is drifting somewhere in the middle, still a baby and already a toddler. In the very same day, I see flashes of toddlerhood in her tantrums and teenagerhood in her sly smile and babyhood in her snuggles, when she nestles her head into the curve of my neck while I rock her and sing before bed time.
She isn’t talking yet (well, she isn’t speaking a recognized form of English yet), and that concerns me. She runs and plays and negotiates for snacks. She wants to do everything herself—put on her clothes and eat with utensils and read her books.
I, too, am drifting somewhere in the middle of this ocean of motherhood. I’m an 18-month-old mom who never did get her pre-baby body back. I still very much remember and miss what life was like before Selah was born, even though I wouldn’t want to live a single day without her. I love my child so fiercely I wonder if it will break me, but I also know that motherhood doesn’t complete me. I don’t feel fulfilled solely by being a good mom to Selah, but I do feel as though another dimension has been added to my womanhood through mothering.
On good days, that makes me feel healthy: I can acknowledge that my child doesn’t meet my needs for love and meaning — something she is not designed to do. On hard days, I feel like I’m failing at a very basic level for wanting to be a whole woman and not just a mom. Like maybe I’m defaulting to this philosophy because I’m not a good enough mom.
But at the end of every day, I believe that moms — single moms, married moms, lonely moms, working moms, stay-at-home moms, adoptive moms, foster moms, etc. forever and ever — are women first. The more I can find my footing as a woman who is a mom and not as a mom who used to be a woman, the gentler I can be with myself. And I hope that the picture I’m presenting to Selah is one of a whole, healthy woman who loves her daughter too much to make her my everything.
Here’s a little more about what I learned, loved, and read in May.
What I Learned
- The power of writing things by hand. I started keeping a writing journal as suggested in Writing Motherhood, and one of the “rules” is that is has to be handwritten. I keep pretty much all my writing notes in electronic form on Google Docs and on my phone because it’s more convenient. But writing memories by hand takes the pressure off my need to write well and allows the memories and feelings to drift from my mind onto the page much more freely, and I reach deeper insights than I do when I’m typing.
- The holidays get easier. Since Selah is living her second year, every holiday is now the second time around for us. And goodness, these second holidays are so much easier than the first ones! She can eat what we eat, be flexible with her naps, and isn’t as fussy and sensitive as she was when she was tiny. The holidays are getting easier and this parenting thing is getting better and better.
- My knee-jerk reaction to say “no” isn’t always right. One of the ways I keep my life simple is to make saying no my default when it comes to both one-time events and ongoing commitments. (I mean, I say yes sometimes! But it’s easier for me to filter invitations this way.) When The MOPS Blog and Magazine reached out asking me to become a regular contributor, I told Dan, “I can’t do this.” He shot me a bewildered look and asked why not, and I couldn’t come up with a single good reason. I was honored and shocked and excited by the invitation, and I really, really wanted to do it. I just had to get over my defaults to 1. say no and 2. underestimate myself. So I’m totally thrilled to announce that I will be contributing to MOPS on a monthly basis (and sharing here when I do). Thanks to YOU amazing readers for supporting my writing here and on other sites, for cheering me on, and for inspiring me with your own stories.
What I Loved
- Movies. This month Dan and I got away for a date to see the live-action Beauty and the Beast, and I loved it just as much as I hoped I would. (Let’s be honest, the buttery popcorn was just as wonderful as the movie itself.) We also rented Hidden Figures this weekend, which was emotional, inspiring, and downright jaw-dropping at some points. Two big thumbs up to both.
- Meeting online friends IRL. I finally had the chance to meet my dear blogging friend, Lindsay (of It’s Simply Lindsay), in real life last week. We live just thirty minutes away from one another, and after two years of online friendship, we finally got our girls together for a playdate and dinner. She’s just as wonderful in person as she seems!
- Lake life. We love to spend Memorial Day kicking off summer at Dan’s parents’ cottage. Despite predictions of rain, it turned out to be a gorgeous day to hang out in the sun and zip around on the boat. Selah went for her first boat ride, which I thought she’d love, but being constrained by the pesky life vest totally ruined it for her.
What I Read
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: In this startling book, Colson Whitehead reimagines the Underground Railroad as an actual, albeit somewhat magical, railroad. But the fantasy ends there in this all-too-real account of the horrors of slavery and the futility of trying to find freedom. This is required reading for every American who received a white-washed narrative in history class (i.e. the majority of us). Five stars.
- Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance: I’d heard a lot of buzz about this book in the aftermath of the election, but it was much more memoir than political commentary, and I’m glad for that. The moments of social commentary were organic and helpful, and I really enjoyed this thoughtful look at a hidden American subculture. Four stars.
- When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman: I recently wrote about my fractured faith journey, and this spiritual memoir came along at exactly the right time. Addie’s experiences in the American evangelical subculture—from youth group to small groups to campus ministries and church plants—resonated with me so deeply. If you’re exploring if could be more to faith than evangelicalism, and wondering how to process your church baggage, this book will help you do just that. Four stars.
- At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider: Tsh, her husband, and their three kids circumnavigated the globe for a full school year, and this is her memoir of the experience. It’s as glamorous, exhausting, and exciting as it seems. Parts of it read more like a travelogue than a memoir, and I would have loved a deeper dive into some of the themes she unearths. But the story was compelling, and I did like the short chapters, each devoted to a single location. A really good read for summer travels (or armchair travels)! 3.5 stars.
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser: This is a must-read for every writer of nonfiction. With warmth and wit, Zinsser offers helpful tips, candid stories, and real talk about what it takes to write memorable pieces and live the writing life. 4 stars.
What I Wrote
- Picture Perfect
- On the Rocks
- The Way She Mothered Me (published on The MOPS Blog)
- Touchstones of Peace // Armchair Chats