Sunday, October 18, 2015


I delivered this speech nearly a year ago, at the celebration of marriage, home, and family given for our Bella and her new husband.  Baby bear was only about ten days away from making his entrance into the world.  It's hard to believe he will celebrate a birthday soon, and welcome a new sister or brother in the spring. (Photo credit to our dear friend Allyson Willson.)
In recent years, people would sometimes say to me, "I give you so much credit for adopting Shani."  I always laugh and assure them that Shani is my easiest child, and to make my case I point out that she's always just where I left her, she never gets into my stuff, she never gives me any back talk, and she is ALWAYS happy to see me, no matter what time of the day or night.  Somewhere deep inside my head, this thought always comes to me.  "If you want to give me any credit, give me credit for Bella."

Beautiful, beautiful Bella.  This girl is the whole package with a bow.  Smart, driven, and beautiful.  And impulsive, fiery, and sassy as the day is long.  And so you can see the contrast here, between my oldest and youngest brown girls.  Bella was never where I left her and rarely where she was supposed to be.  She was always into everybody's stuff and business.  She gave me back talk as often as she disagreed with me, and that was a LOT.  And she was often not very happy to see me anywhere in her line of vision.

But these days things have changed a bit, and so I will finally take a shot at throwing Bella a party of celebration, and sending her off into the big wide world with a word of blessing from her father and me...something she would not allowed us to do even one year ago.  Of course it helps that she's learned a lot from Shani regarding being a good child.  These days she is pretty much always where I left her...and that's beached in a comfortable chair, trying to coax baby Grey into making an appearance.  She doesn't move all that fast, so I can chase her down pretty easily.  And she almost never gives me any back talk, and seems happy to see me coming, though I wonder if there might be food involved in that equation.  Regardless, Bella and Shani have become fixtures in my days, always close at hand, sometimes a little fretful when they are uncomfortable, but usually cheerful and smiling.

A week or two ago, Bella asked me this question.  "Mom?  Do you think I can be a good mother?"  It was a sweet time of just talking openly about parenting children.  How the bitter is mixed with the sweet.  How very hard it is.  How perfection is an impossible goal.  I said some things then, and I hope they were an encouragement to Bella, both in our ongoing relationship, and in her relationship with her children in the future.  Given time to gather my thoughts, this is what I would say today:  The most valuable lessons about parenting and perhaps life, I have learned from Shani. 

Shani does not speak, so she cannot lie to me or back talk, it's true.  But she cannot say sweet words like "I love you mama."  Shani cannot use her feet, so she cannot go where I tell her not to, but she cannot run and fetch for me, or dance on a stage and delight my mother's heart.  Shani cannot use her hands, so she cannot get into my things or make messes for me to clean up, but she cannot write, or draw, or hug me.  If you measure worth and love by what a person can do for you, then Shani is pretty worthless.  She is messy and smelly, and a huge drain on our time and resources.

And yet we know this could not be further from the truth.  Shani teaches me every day, how to be a better mother and a better person.  Her needs are simple, and her complaints are few.  If she is awake, she is watching the world around her, always looking for something or someone she loves, and registering delight when she finds that.  Her life is fragile, and it reminds me that all life is fragile, and the time we have with all of our loved ones is fleeting.  And if I get it wrong...if I am snappish and impatient, or demanding and unkind, Shani always forgives and forgets.  Shani always gives me a do over.

Remember these things as you move into adulthood, marriage, motherhood.  Keep it simple.  Look for love, and be delighted whenever you find it.  Love fiercely, the time is short. And say you are sorry and keep showing up.  Ask for do overs.

And by the way, just so you know, today you are my favorite.