Following instructions.

Dear friends,

Look what I found:

Source: Etsy

For my dear friend who pointed out I have minions in the kitchen, I would suggest to her I’m just following the sign’s instructions.

Take, for example, our Sunday Supper. It was a Valentine’s Day extravaganza, and you can read about it here.  It took Mr. Mom’s help to do all the prep work (read: there was a mandolin and a drill involved), and the kids did all the clean up.

I just made it look easy.

Which is really why it’s so much fun to follow instructions, wouldn’t you say?

With everlasting gratitude {for those minions again},

Joan, who has an adequate collection of vintage aprons but is thinking she needs one of these, say in pink toile

Whip it. Whip it good.

Dear Friends,

Source: AllMovie.com

At age 17, when pressed for a pithy “philosophy” to include with my senior portrait in our high school yearbook, I cribbed a line from Lennon & McCartney: I get by with a little help from my friends.

It was true 30+ years ago and it’s still true today.

I couldn’t be more grateful for the words of wit, wisdom and encouragement left by readers on yesterday’s post.  Let’s just say I was down in the dumps Monday night when I wrote the post. Then Tuesday . . . well, it was a doozy. It was one of those days that knocks you for a loop at work then smacks you upside the head when you get home.

But last night when I finally sat down after 8:00 pm to read your comments and compose this post, I smiled, I laughed, I nodded my head in agreement, and I said a silent thank-you for everyone who wrote to encourage me.

I was most tickled by Doug F’s clever analogy:

Life is roller derby. We’re the blockers, and our kids are the jammers. The jammers score the points. Our job is to whip them forward. This requires them to break away from the pack, at which point our main job is to be happy, pump our fists in the air and maybe gratuitously hip check somebody. Also: After the match, everyone gets beer, so it’s all good in the end.

I’ve known Doug a long time in my real life and he’s always been one of the most creatively talented people in my universe. At the risk of sounding gender-biased, it’s so like a man to embrace his “role” in the game with gusto. (Remember Mr. Mom’s advice about roles in this post?) But underneath that male detachment and clever wit lies a real nugget of wisdom: my job is to help Kate break from the pack by whipping her forward — then cheering her on. Doug, your words were so what I needed to hear and I thank you for putting them in terms that were crystal clear (as well as downright funny). You know what they say: a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.

Dee and Debbie and Cyrina (who commented on my Facebook page) are from my hometown, women a little older than me whom I admire so much. Hearing their personal stories and knowing “they made it through and so will I” was a much-needed dose of comfort and support from the town and the people I love most.

TexasDeb is a friend who consistently writes more insightful comments than I do posts. And knowing she has also survived the transition, with specific strategies to share, helps me focus on what I can do moving forward rather than wallowing in what I fear I will miss.

Dana is a new reader who encouraged me just by letting me know she’s about to walk my path and she’s fearful, too. Sometimes mothers just need to know they aren’t alone.

With gratitude {for you and the many friends who’ve helped me get by for, lo, these 49 years},

Joan, who would have worn a helmet and pads had she known Tuesday would be so brutal

The downhill side.

Dear Friends,

A million years ago (actually 6,902 days, but who’s counting?) I birthed my first child. In the seconds after my Sweet Baby Kate first emerged into this world and I glimpsed her already-familiar beauty, I felt as if the whole world stretched before me like some endless yellow-brick road to a promised land called motherhood. When my child was born flawless and healthy, I was so euphoric I imagined, for one sublimely-cocooned moment, that this promised land was eternal and free of heartache, or fear, or worry. I felt like Mother Earth, solid and ageless and in perfect orbit in our universe.

And that lasted about a minute, until somebody prodded or poked my perfect baby sufficient to elicit a wail and my bubble was burst by a tsunami of abject fear. It’s pretty much been downhill from there, because every mother I know thinks she simply cannot bear another fever; another trip to the urgent care; another sleepless night worrying over The Teacher Who Doesn’t Understand; another snub from the snotty Girl Who Makes Her Friend-Candidates Try Out and, sorry, Kate, you didn’t make it; another lost tennis tournament; another boyfriend; another broken heart; another anything, because for Pete’s Sake, Can’t I Be Done Mothering Now?

And then one day recently I woke up and realized — all this daily bucking up I’ve been doing — holy crap, it’s almost over! I am being relieved of my duty because this fair-haired baby of mine with the delicate skin and chubby cheeks and sweet disposition has grown up. And, though I have pretended for months it can’t possibly be true, just last week two college acceptance letters came in the mail, pretty much proving she’s moving out soon.

And what will I be if I am not the Woman Who Mothers This Child? Don’t tell me I’ll be mothering her all the same (because those college kids need lots of loving support and encouragement, you know). Tell me how mothers survive children who move away because in all these years of bucking up, in all the books I’ve read about mothering, nobody told me how to endure The Day When She No Longer Resides With Me.

I’ve got less than 200 days to figure out how to be a Mother Who Lives Apart from Her Child. I welcome your advice. Well, let me be more direct: I desperately need your advice and encouragement and Mr. Mom has flat run out of words to offer the Woman Who Is Wholly Unprepared to be the Mother of a Grown Child.

With gratitude {for 7,000 days of cohabitation with my Sweet Baby Kate, even though it clearly wasn’t enough training for the likes of me},

Joan, who in those 7,000 days took hundreds of snapshots like this one, because the imperfect moments are the ones you really savor