I made my daughter a Halloween costume once. She was barely a year old and I felt as if I only had one chance to get her childhood right. Why a Halloween costume played a factor in getting it right in my new mom head is anyone’s guess.
“I’m going to make Briar a costume,” I declared to my husband. He smiled, tilted his head back and said, “Ok, but why?” I shrugged and said, “I just think that I need to do this.”
I bought scraps of fabric, threads, sequins, ribbons, and little rosettes. I laid them all out on the dining room table and thought, “What have I done?” Eyeing the different elements, considering my complete lack of sewing ability, and the fact that it was a for a one year old who’d very likely wear it in the embrace of a Baby Bjorn carrier, I decided to make a whimsical tutu.
“A tutu? Like a ballerina?” Sean asked.
“No, she’ll be sort of a wood nymph, fairy type of thing.”
He smiled and squeezed my shoulder. I worked; swearing frequently as poking the needle through the elastic without a thimble resulted in countless finger pricks. The fabric I purchased wasn’t particularly evocative of a mystical woodland sprite, it didn’t lie flat, nor did it flutter. I was undeterred, each night after work I’d spend time plugging away at the dubious holiday masterpiece.
Briar would toddle over and trace her fingers along the layers. “You see that, honey, that’s going to be your costume.” She’d beam at me and then climb into my lap. I’d set the sewing aside and bring her to me, holding her in my arms as she nursed and reached her hand to touch my face.
That costume was the last time I forced a tradition, because as the days passed my instinct changed. I had thought that I needed to check the boxes that other people deemed significant, but that was not ever where the deep-in-my-bones certainty that I was doing something right lived.
We don’t have perfect seasonal flags waving in the weeks leading up to Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, and Christmas. There have been no matching family white polo shirt and blue jeans shoots on the beach. The girls don’t have monogrammed lunchboxes that match their backpacks. I don’t feel that any of those things make us a failure or someone else a success.
Ten years of mothering has taught me that like Charlotte and her wise words she’d spin into her webs, I have everything my family needs in the words that I choose and the acts of love that I commit. Life won’t always be tidy and getting it right will have different appearances. The thing that I make as mom to Finley, Avery, and Briar, as Sean’s wife, and as grown up Amanda is this—space and permission for delight. It might be sprinkles on toast in the morning, a stack of fort-building blankets on a Friday night, backyard investigating, or the morsel of an idea that a wooden spoon sheathed in tin foil can be a microphone. It is our family love song and, with any luck, it will play inside of us until the end of our days.