Last year I had the chance to go to a conference in Florida. By myself. With no children.
Wandering through the airport, I was able to think about anything. Like, the fact that I could just walk into the bathroom and go- without an entourage. Or sit on the toilet without having to block the baby with my foot, leg outstretched like a barricade as he reached for the plunger/toilet brush/trash can. I didn’t have to hear myself asking my older son to wash his hands for dinner for the fifth time. Did I mention I was by myself?
As moms, we know how rare this is – the opportunity to go somewhere on our own. For me, this trip would mark the first time I left my soon to be one-year-old son. To say I was nervous is an understatement, but a capable husband and parents coming from out of town to help alleviated my anxiety.
Walking through JFK on my way to my second flight, I saw a backpack in front of me. Well, not just a backpack. A man was wearing the backpack – a backpack with the words “School of Business” written on it. This simple walk through this complicated airport behind a person who I will never meet got me thinking about our identity as people, and how we define ourselves. If you asked this guy who he was, he might answer “A business student.”
So who am I? What is MY identity now?
I reached up and touched my necklace, a silver pod with two green peas and the letters “m” and “c”, one for each of my boys. I could be a million other things, but from here on and forever more, I would be defined as a Mother.
We had many other identities before our children were born, and we have many parallel identities now. Long before my children came along and when I was in college, I was a photographer and an environmentalist. More recently, I was a triathlete and a rock climber, having plenty of time to train for these activities with days that followed my own agenda. For the last 17+ years, I have been a teacher of young children.
A friend of mine is a marathon runner and last year she hurt herself. Through no fault of her own, she was hit by a bicycle in the streets of Philadelphia. She was unable to run for months due to her injury. Every year, she comes to Vermont to visit and run the Vermont City Marathon. This past year, the night before the marathon, she and I were up chatting. She let me know how it affected her, this temporary loss of running. “I am a runner, Erica,”she said. “That’s who I am and how I define myself.”
So who am I? What is my identity?
A fierce advocate for the rights of young children
And yes, a mother.
So, I was on a trip by myself, and I could use the bathroom alone, sleep in a bed without two children, a husband, a dog, and a cat, and I could eat a meal without having to get up from the table to fetch something for someone. While I enjoyed myself and relished in a few days devoted to my own agenda, I wore my necklace each day. And each day, I would reach up to touch the necklace every so often, sending my love to my two boys a thousand miles away and think, “This is who I am.”