For my happy Mother’s Day this year, my daughter Rochelle and I went to see Provident Films’ new movie “Moms’ Night Out” (@MNOmovie, #momsnightout, @andrew_erwin Filmmaker), starring Sarah Drew (@SarahDrewGreys), Patricia Heaton (@PatriciaHeaton), Trace Adkins, Sean Astin (@seanaustin), and Andrea Logan White. The movie is about three women who are in varying stages of motherhood, each in serious need of a break. They leave their children in their husbands’ care and head out for a few hours of adult respite from the demands of motherhood. What could possibly go wrong, except everything? Saturday morning I picked up my daughter, and left my grandson with his two cousins. The three grandchildren (three years old, two years old, and nine months) would be supervised by their dad/uncle. We headed for the theater, confident that life would not imitate art.
The movie was wonderful. Granted, I sat on a large cushion of emotion, Rebekah being absent from our regular trio (see “Calling All Angels”), but the movie made me laugh until I cried, and then cry until I laughed. The plot portrayed real life with real people inside and outside the church. Heaton is a pastor’s wife, who seems to have it all together on the outside, but she is about to come apart at the seams dealing with church activities and a rebellious teenage daughter. White has just discovered she is expecting a second child while her husband is still trying to gain confidence being a father to their first one. Drew is a stay-at-home “mommy blogger” caring for a lot of little ones. She has the life she has always dreamed of, but burnout is threatening to consume her. Astin portrays her very understanding husband. (Okay, maybe it wasn’t all “real life.”) Husbands, go see this movie and take notes. They’ll come in handy if you ever return to your castle and find it overtaken by wild things that resemble your children and your wife crawling around on the floor muttering nonsense words, and you’re wondering what she could possibly be doing all day since “she doesn’t work.” The movie has a lot of great messages about family and motherhood and God. If you haven’t seen it, leave the kids with a competent sitter (which may or may not be their dad) and go see it.
Even though I only had two daughters, one at a time—thirteen years apart gives a mother much time to pause and reflect, I’ve still had many a moment in my mother career that made the movie resonate with me. And today, running with a two-year-old, helping him slay dragons and chase monsters, while cleaning and cooking and working every day gives me a renewed appreciation for moms, especially those with more than one child. But despite my “vast” experience, each day in my new life with a little boy seems to encompass uncharted territory. Even now, it’s after midnight as I type this post. I’m not hard at work because of my love for writing. I’m waiting for my sheets to dry—the ones my potty-training grandson defiled this morning while watching “Blues Clues” because he insisted he didn’t need to do anything when I sat him on the potty. “I want to watch my show!” A nighttime Pull-Up really doesn’t hold that much water.
But Rochelle seems to have a different bent on motherhood. We returned home from the movie to find the kids all intact, quietly watching a movie. Dad, having fed everyone and cleaned the kitchen, was enjoying being with the children. This family’s life definitely does not imitate art. They make their own art by using a palette of patience, love, and respect without setting unrealistic expectations and the result has been beautiful.
My daughter is now a mother of two. Her oldest daughter, the subject of “A Word Fitly Spoken (or Grandparenting Ain’t for Sissys),” is today an aspiring three-year-old artist, dancer, singer, and superhero. Spiderman is her favorite. And she has a baby brother whom she loves to dress up in her favorite sequined tam or glittering hat. He happily obliges her, content to be part of his sister’s world—at least for now. Her daddy teaches at the local college and her mommy is an up-and-coming fabulous women’s fashion designer. The couple purchased their first home just before the baby was born. Both parents juggle careers, parenting, and home repairs with organization, hard work, and remarkable patience. When I look at my daughter and what she has accomplished with her family, I wish I could smugly say, “Yes, that’s how I raised her.” In reality, I wonder how in the world she turned out so well with me as a role model.
When she was born, I was very young with so much to learn and no one had given me any instructions. Well, there was that one nurse. The one who brought the newborn to me once I was comfortably tucked in my hospital bed. She placed the six pounds of squirm in my arms, handed me a blue bulb syringe, and said, “Now, she’s been spitting up a little, so you’ll want to be sure and suction her mouth. We wouldn’t want her to aspirate now, would we?” I didn’t know what aspirate meant but mindlessly nodded in agreement as I watched her turn and leave. I’m not kidding. That is all the instruction I received about how to care for a baby. I didn’t even know how to change a diaper; neither did her daddy. But my mother, the genuine consummate grandmother, soon arrived. Mother whispered sweet grandmother words to the little bundle (her fourth grandchild), and I watched in horror as saliva oozed from my baby’s tiny mouth. I dragged myself from the hospital bed, syringe poised for aspiration prevention, and suctioned to the best of my ability. Mother began laughing. “What in the world are you doing?” she asked. When I explained what the nurse had said, she laughed even harder. “Barbi, it’s just a little drool. All babies drool.” Who knew? Mother’s only vacation that year was spent helping with my newborn and teaching me how to be a mother. She would enjoy a total of ten such “baby-cations” that extended even into her retirement.
When my own granddaughter was born some three decades later, I was ready to bestow my experience, advice, and know-how on my daughter during my first two-week “baby-cation.” She never even asked a question. There was no question about nursing. In fact, she had to explain to me about this “football hold.” That sure would have come in handy back in the day. Why couldn’t that nurse have told me about that! It frees up one whole arm so you can at least reach your glass of ice water. There was no question about diaper changing. In fact, Rochelle later told me about one of those 3:00 a.m. newborn dirty diaper changes that necessitated not only bed linens and her own pajamas to be changed but furniture to be washed down as well. Her only thought was, “Well, okay. It has begun.”
I, on the other hand, thirty some-odd years earlier, woke to one 3:00 a.m. feeding so sleep deprived that I didn’t even open my eyes. I picked up my pillow, thinking it was my baby, and began bouncing it to soothe my crying newborn. When she didn’t stop crying, I opened my eyes to an empty pillow. Did I mention the sleep deprivation? I thought I had dropped her and fell to my knees patting the floor trying to find her in the dim room and even looked under the bed. The whole time, she’s still crying in the bassinette by the bed. Once I found her and my heart moved from my throat back down to my chest, I sobbed to the peacefully sleeping father, “I can’t do this! I need sleep! I just need some slee-ee-ee-p!”
Rochelle grew up with me as I was growing up myself. Fortunately, early along the way, I learned how to pray for my child. Prayer was about her only hope since my young adult mornings began by hitting the snooze alarm about five times. Cleaning the house meant moving piles of things I needed to do from the front room to my bedroom where no one would see. And most of my time was spent looking for my keys. By the time I became the woman who springs out of bed at dark-thirty for a yoga routine with an almost OCD approach to housework and a hook for my keys, Rochelle had long been living on her own. I believe she turned out alright in spite of me.
I taught dance beginning when she was four, so her after-school program was free and mandatory dance lessons at the studio. When a freshman in high school, the prestigious officer line of the drill team caught her eye and she set her first big goal: to be an officer her senior year. She achieved that goal and went on to become a member of the “world famous Rangerettes Drill team” at Kilgore College. While finishing her degree at North Texas State, she was a Dallas Mavericks Dancer and the only reason I would ever go watch tall men run back and forth bouncing a little orange ball. Dance took her to Los Angeles, the land of the fruits and the nuts. A mother’s prayers brought her back to Dallas eight years later. By then, she had earned a second degree in fashion design and had started her women’s clothing line.
Today, she has combined her passion for dance with her eye for fashion and launched Sparkle, a line of runway-inspired dance costumes. She recently debuted her Statement Dresses and Gowns as well as her innovative, nontraditional bridal line. And she has done all this while raising two little ones. Her productivity and quiet patience motivate me as I now raise my grandson.
The other evening I thought he was happily clicking his blocks together as I cooked dinner. I could see his blonde head bobbing just beyond the kitchen counter, blocks scattered to the side. I walked around the counter to see what great tower he was constructing only to find a small of pile of black plastic keys that he was methodically popping from my laptop keyboard. Through these times, I look to my daughter for inspiration and strength and say, “Well, okay. It has begun.”
More information about Rochelle’s fabulous designs may be found at http://www.rochellerodriguez.com and http://www.sparkle-dance.com.