"THE SHARING OUR STORIES PROJECT"
This month in honor of Mother’s Day and the birthdays of two wise girls, we are grateful to be able to share stories by two BFFs and their wise moms. Our fabulous BFF May birthday nine-year-olds are Willow and Vv. The girls collaborated with their respective moms, Patricia and Jen, to share their feelings about being daughters and moms. These sweet and insightful stories allow us a peek into mother-daughter relationships and an opportunity to consider how girls’ ability to develop first friendships can be nurtured and supported by their special relationships with their moms. We hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as the moms and daughters enjoyed writing them!
Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Birth Day to all the May babies and their moms.
Love, Carol and Vv
Story 1: Patricia and Willow:
Patricia Mahoney works as a journalist covering towns northwest of Boston. She currently lives in Harvard, Massachusetts, with her husband, four children, dog, goats, chickens, and reptiles. Willow is turning nine on May 12. She loves science, the outdoors, and being best friends with Carol’s granddaughter Vv. The family is set to move to Orange County, California this summer, where Patricia and Willow will surely add to their vast seashell collection.
Patricia and Willow’s Mother-Daughter Story
I am the mother of four children who each light up my life in their own special ways. It is my great honor to be their mom and watch them grow into unique individuals. Each story of how they came into this world is different. As Mother’s Day approaches, I’d like to share the story of my daughter Willow.
Willow is my middle child. She is my Mother’s Day baby. She was born on Saturday, May 12, 2012 in Boston. I went against protocol and left the hospital early the day after her birth so I could spend Mother’s Day at home with my children, eating take-out Chinese food — a long standing family tradition before weddings and after babies. I could not get out of that hospital fast enough. I declined the customary wheelchair and walked out of there and across the street to the garage like a woman on a mission.
I remember two things very clearly from the day of my daughter’s birth: a really great chicken salad sandwich from the hospital cafeteria and a nurse calling me a superstar after the labor and delivery. Obviously I was no superstar. I didn’t do anything that millions of women hadn’t done before me. But inside, I did feel pretty strong.
To give a little background – I actually thought I was done having kids after my first two. At the time I had a son and a daughter and I assumed our family was complete. But then my daughter, maybe five years-old at the time, started asking for a baby sister. She’d ask Santa for a baby sister. When she blew out her birthday candles, she’d wish for a baby sister. Being an only child, I always wished for a sister myself, and so I eventually decided I wasn’t done after all.
I asked the ultrasound technician during one of my appointments not to tell me the baby’s sex. Instead, I asked her to write it down and seal it in an envelope. On Christmas morning I put that envelope in my husband’s stocking and we all opened it together. I guess Santa was listening that year because my daughter got what she asked for – a baby sister was on the way.
Up until then we had only picked out a name for a boy – William after my husband. I still wanted to name her after him and he suggested the name Willa. But I kept thinking back to my childhood, to this spirited willow tree in my aunt’s backyard. It was mighty yet delicate and its branches seemed to dance with the wind. I’d watch that tree with wonder back then, just as I watch my Willow now.
Choosing a middle name was challenging as I was fortunate to have known several remarkable women whose names would have suited my daughter well – so I chose two middle names. I chose Emily, after my dear aunt who passed away at age 86 several years earlier. Originally from Albania, she passed through Ellis Island as a child. She entered into an arranged marriage at a young age because that was the custom back then. I’m not sure how she felt about that – I never asked and I regret it. She taught me how to make baklava and spinach pie and she reminded me of what my grammy might have been like, had I known her.
I also chose Anna after my husband’s nana. She was a kind, quick-witted woman also born in May, who lived on a farm in Pennsylvania. She called stuffing “dressing” and whoopee pies “gobs”. She loved birds and drank a Budweiser every night. Fortunately, Willow got to meet her great-nana a couple of years before she passed at age 93. At the time of her death, Anna had lived to see 16 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren, and 7 great-great grandchildren.
Willow’s birth experience was unique – as all births are. I had been advised several times during my pregnancy to take an epidural because my babies had a history of shoulder dystocia, which meant their shoulder could get stuck in the birth canal and if certain maneuvers weren’t used correctly there was a chance of arm paralysis, and other nasty complications.
I had really hoped to have a drug free birth with Willow. My first pregnancy was spent either in the hospital or at home on bed rest because my unborn baby had a heart condition; my second pregnancy ended in a devastating miscarriage; an epidural given to me during my son’s birth left me with a spinal headache and unable to lift my head off the pillow for a week; my youngest daughter was a C-section. My doctor followed the baby’s growth closely and supported my decision to give birth naturally.
I remember going into the hospital after my water broke at home. The on-call doctor ended up being my OBGYN for a short time during my first pregnancy, up until I was deemed high risk and had to switch doctors.
“No screaming,” she said in a sing-song voice that I still imitate from time to time for laughs. “You’ll scare the other patients.”
I looked at my husband incredulously and instead of arguing that it is perfectly natural to scream during labor, I asked for a washcloth which I promptly stuffed in my mouth to muffle my yells. I smile when I look at pictures of me holding my infant, with that white facecloth perched on my shoulder.
At some point a nurse stood on a stool and told me she was going to be pushing on my stomach very hard to guide the baby along. It was weird and it hurt, but I was in the zone and so excited to meet my baby.
I knew she had been born but didn’t hear the cries. I was waiting, but nothing. There was no one handing my husband scissors to cut the cord. Instead, someone said the cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck and she needed oxygen. There was a sense of urgency in the room and I could see my husband pacing around and the worry on his face. Now I know it was because he saw that our baby was blue. It seemed like forever – but then I heard it – the cries of my daughter. All was right with the world.
When they laid her on my chest, I did just as I had done the other times I became a mom. I kissed her face and whispered my promise – “I am your mommy and I will love you and protect you forever.”
Unlike my other kids, Willow has my brown eyes and curls. She also shares my love of writing. We often compose songs and stories together for fun. Just as another parent and child might toss a ball back and forth, Willow and I play with words.
We share lots of other common interests as well. We have jars upon jars of seashells that we have collected over summers spent on Cape Cod. Willow is always bringing me a new rock for my kitchen window sill. We enjoy sitting on the patio with our binoculars, listening to the birds. We both like dancing in the snow and singing along to the Backstreet Boys.
She is also uniquely herself. She dreams of walking on the moon and exploring the planets one day. She tells me about the stars and lets me see them through her lens in a whole new way.
Willow often writes me letters and poems that make me cry because I see her heart in every phrase, in every line.
Each May I celebrate being a mother to my four children and I also celebrate the birthday of my precious Willow Emily Anna.
I asked Willow to write about what it’s like to be a daughter. Here is what she wrote (edited for spelling):
One day a mother and her daughter were standing in a pile of flowers like a canvas but only flowers.
They were twirling and playing til they went to the beach with the sand in their toes and the water splashing their feet.
Then they laid out a blanket and saw the stars and each one was different.
The daughter said, “I never want this to end.”
STORY 2: Jen and Vv
Jen Arner Welsh is a professor of developmental psychology at Quinsigamond Community College in Massachusetts. At home in Harvard, Jen enjoys gardening, cooking, running, and hanging out with her husband and Vv and Vv’s “brothers” (their dog Pigwidgeon and cat Rory). Vv is turning nine this month and spends her time reading and listening to audio books, swimming, dancing and singing her way through every single day, designing and building anything (i.e., Lego sets, doll clothes, robots, cupcakes, whatever!) and hanging out with her BFF, Willow.
Jen and Vv’s Mother-Daughter Story
Jen: When my fabulous daughter, Vv, and my amazing mom, Carol, first came up with the idea of sharing stories from different women and girls on the blog, Vv knew she wanted to be one of the authors. I felt very lucky when Vv asked if we could write a post together! Admittedly, I feel a bit of anxiety about living up to their excellent idea, and the wonderful writers who’ve shared their stories before us – but it has been fun, rewarding, and enlightening for us to work on this project together!
Vv: As me and my mom were starting this fabulous story, I just couldn’t figure out what to write at first. I was typing, “I don’t know what to write.” But then, for this intro, I decided to write it about not knowing what to write about. So that is just what I wrote.
Jen: Vv just described the struggle she had in writing the introduction for this piece, and we also struggled a bit with what we wanted to write about in general, and how we’d do that together. We settled upon the idea of thinking about what we love about each other, and what drives us crazy about each other. It was really interesting to do this, because I think we both learned something about how the other feels that we didn’t know before.
Vv: There are many things I love about my mom. here are the things I could think of: she isn’t annoyingly funny, she reads to me, she read the babysitters club books, she watches High School Musical, the Musical, the Series with me, plays Nancy Drew games with me, loves me, encourages me, and snuggles with me.
Jen: There are so many things that I love about Vv that I am sure I have not captured them all here – but, I didn’t want to embarrass her, be annoyingly funny (something that would be on her list of things that drive her crazy about HER DAD), or ramble on too much, so here’s what I have on the list I generated while we were brainstorming for this blog. I love the way Vv’s nose wrinkles when she laughs. I know that sounds silly, but when Vv was a baby, we looked for signs of her personality and who she’d become in every aspect of her little being. We waited a LONG time for smiles and giggles, but when she did start laughing (after the first time, which was a total misfire, and a story for another day), when she was at her most delighted, her nose would wrinkle…and it still does. I love that little nose wrinkle more than really makes sense.
I also love the way that Vv puts all of herself into the things she does. I feel like this dovetails with another thing that I love about her, which is that she is 100% herself, all the time. When she runs across the yard and jumps into the baby pool, or through the sprinkler, she does it with 100% of her mind and body. When she signs onto the computer for school, she brings her whole self into that Zoom room, and when she decides to create a cardboard stall for her plastic horses, she dedicates herself to it with both intense concentration and her own particular style. (I also love that concentration of hers – nothing beats the look she has on her face when she’s listening to a story she’s interested in, or the questions she asks when she wants to know more about something…except maybe the way she wrinkles her nose!). Being herself also means that she isn’t one to back down from her own opinions; when every other kid in her class said they’d rather have a snow leopard than a pig, Vv grinned with delight and confirmed her dedication to her porcine friends. Relatedly, I also love the way that she loves with her whole heart. Her love is not stingy or contingent or jealous – while I may drive her crazy, she loves me like air. She loves her “brothers”, the dog and cat, as if they were people, and when she finds something or someone new she loves, she embraces it wholeheartedly.
I love how strong Vv’s opinions and feelings are – they are her superpower (even though, like any superpower, they sometimes overwhelm her, and we need a training plan for learning how to harness them for good and not for evil!). It is these strong feelings that give her such a strong and loving heart, that lead to her intense sense of fairness, and her willingness to speak up when something isn’t right.
I love the way that she teaches me things. When she was a baby, I memorized “Goodnight Moon,” a parlor trick that my students still enjoy, and I learned so much about what newborns and babies are really like, even after spending years studying and teaching about development. When she was a toddler, she loved to draw, so I, who never took a single art class after 5th grade, drew her a picture every single day for her preschool lunchbox, and learned a new skill. Now, I learn something new from her every day – she teaches me how to do new things in Zoom, about assorted Disney musicals, new approaches to problem-solving, and how to work through hard things with people you love.
I love her freedom (I could never jump into the pool with such abandon, or try making tuna salad with so many ingredients, or dance so freely), her snuggles (still as sweet as when she was a baby), how funny she is, how curious she is, how much she loves the water, how creative she is, how she can make anything out of cardboard…I love her very Vv-ness!
Vv: There are many things that drive me crazy about my mom but here is what I could think of: she sends me to my room, she gets me more mad, her tone of voice, the fact that sometimes it seems like we practically fight on a daily basis, that just like everyone else in the world she doesn’t understand the song Queen of Mean, that she’s afraid the cat will scratch my head off and the fact that she CLEANS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Jen: The number one thing that drives me crazy about Vv is the way that she boxes herself into a corner unnecessarily, and then has to really freak out before it can get fixed. Writing this blog post has been really useful to me (and another example of Vv teaching me things), because I now see that this is certainly related to some things that I LOVE about her – the way that she puts her whole self into everything, how strong her feelings are, and her intense sense of fairness. I’m hoping that realizing this will help me to manage those “corners” a lot better. It also makes me nuts how she so often waits until bedtime to bring up a big difficult (or complicated) issue, because I know I’m not at my best for managing those things when I’m tired and ready for the end of the day. I’m also honestly flabbergasted (or pie-whacked as one of her favorite characters would say) by how her stuff is always EVERYWHERE throughout the entire house – including things like little bits of paper, clothing, and toys strewn through the middle of every room in the house.
Vv: So, in conclusion, there are many things we love about each other, but there are also many ways we drive each other crazy, and this is honestly like most mother-daughter relationships. The lesson we’re trying to teach is that even though there’s a lot of things that drive us crazy about each other, there’s also a lot of things we can love about each other at the same time.
Jen: I think Vv wrote us a wonderful conclusion here – and I think her insight that this is a common dynamic for many mothers and daughters is an excellent one. I feel blessed to have discovered over the past 43 years things that I both love and that drive me crazy about my own amazing mother…and as I age, I find that, like with Vv, many of them are two sides of the same coin – and also, many of them are things we share. My hope is that, by understanding all of this, I can learn to relate to and love my daughter and my mother (and maybe even myself) a little bit more – and maybe thinking about this will be helpful to someone else, too.