A decade of motherhood and still growing

Most people wouldn’t choose this sunflower at the florist. They would want one with a straight stalk that they could put in a vase and admire. A sunflower fully fringed with petals. A sunflower that conformed in all ways to the expectations set forth on the seed packet.

Behind it, you see a nice pot full of enriched planting mix from the nursery. The sunflower, however, was



planted in a crack on my driveway. It sprouted anyway.

Weeds thrived in the crack, competing for what little soil there was.  It grew anyway.

The sunflower didn’t get visited by the gardener with the watering can, like the plants in pots did. It didn’t get tethered to a stake, not even when its stalk almost broke, at the far lower left. Instead, the sunflower’s growth leveled off. Then it bowed all the way down to the driveway pavement, gathered itself on its knees there, and rallied to grow up a few more inches. Leaves grew.

Earlier this month, a bud emerged. Through a chilly, rainy week that forebode of November, the petals stayed furled together, gauging. Hesitating. Is there time?  Is it worth it? Can we still? And in the warm, Indian summer week that followed, the sunflower blossomed.

Tomorrow I mark a decade of motherhood. For me this season of life began twenty years after the weekend high school babysitting gigs that constituted my exposure to young children. Was I weedy with expectations, inhospitable to growth? You bet.

There are so many metaphors to the stalk’s near-break and dip to the pavement. The unexpected NICU stay. The colic. The post partum depression. The autism diagnosis.

Likewise, the section of the stalk that shoots upwards is rife with layers. Emerging from the gloom of post-partum, well and truly enough to want another child. The contrast of that birth and infancy to the first, literally yin and yang.

The uneven number of leaves represent the struggle to balance parenting a special needs child and a typical child. One’s needs may be vastly more apparent, but neither is less valid. Yet time, energy, patience and money are all finite. In the judgment calls, things sometime slip. Get dropped. It doesn’t feel good.

And the topper, the lopsided, incomplete blossom. It’s only been ten years.  Miles to go, on a journey that still conforms to few of my expectations. Motherhood has been breathtaking joy and impaling sorrow. There have been days I feared the tedium might drag me under, and elated moments that will float in memory forever. It has been flawed. It has been beautiful. It has been mine. I have learned I am tenacious, and I shall grow still.

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