I’ve tried on all of their shoes. Crafty mom, soccer mom, Whole Foods mom, event planner mom, super fit mom, and so-cute-and-put-together mom. A few pairs I’ve worn have been quite comfortable, like Nike’s I sometimes wear when I’m walking at our local park. Others are way too tight, like heels and platforms I’ve seen a few moms wearing there. Finding where I fit as a mom feels like breaking in a new pair of shoes every day.
Here at the park I watch an array of moms supervising, chatting, helping, and hovering at the playground and think, “That used to be me. Just a few short years ago.” The moms wear ballet flats or tennis shoes today.
I’ve worn Skechers, Toms, Sanuks, Land’s End, off brands, and Nine West around this track. Flip flops, boots, loafers, and sneakers.
I walk the dog while the kids scale spruces, vault themselves from monkey bars, dig deep for water in the sand volleyball pit, and scale dirt mounds. They don’t need my supervision, and I feel part of myself fading with the sun that dips itself behind the trees. What shoes am I meant to wear right now?
I’m in the season of giving up some pieces of my motherhood identity and finding new ones. This haven of a park was our solace in bleak winters of math and spelling lessons when we swatted pinecones with sticks and had the place to ourselves. Now it’s our after school and post-work destination to run off energy. This summer we’ll watch bats at dusk and let the dog run free through the field in the moonlight. Haven Park has been my safe place, a place to walk and think and find where I belong in this world.
One year ago I walked here and prayed, arguing with God that I do it all.
But no one can wear two pairs of shoes at once.
A recent storm snapped one of the park’s trees in half, leaving it splintered and broken. Kyle asks me to take a closer look at it with him. The top part of the trunk leans to the side at a 45 degree angle and makes a tent of leaves and branches exactly his height.
“Get in,” he says.
I crawl inside and stand up.
“Do you fit?” he asks.
I look down at my shoes and think of all the small spaces into which I try to belong as a mother. Tight fits I’ve tried to squeeze into again and again, trying to be something I’m not.
The cage of a tree is nothing to swinging. So my two kids and I hurl ourselves into the air as high as we can fly, releasing every piece of who are to wide open sky, always ready to catch us.
They run ahead as we leave the park. I walk slowly home thinking I am the mom who gives her children space to run and a haven to come home to. Today I’m wearing my gray-blue slip-on sneakers. Right now fits better than anything else, and that’s all I’ll be wearing for a long while.
This post is part of the Motherhood Memoirs.