It’s a typical scorching hot Texas summer day. I let go of the lawn mower and stop. I’m exhausted and I’m positive I look like I fell into a swimming pool with my clothes on. I look over to the long narrow flower bed in front of my bedroom window. What use to be purple, white and pink Gerbera daisies are now blocked by mile high weeds. Annoyed that I didn’t stay on top of pulling the weeds, I walk over to the neglected bed of flowers. Feeling the defeat before I even start, I decide to leave the uninvited weeds for a cooler time.
A couple days later, my daughter and I are headed to the city pool. Being a single mother and feeling tired as it is, I am not looking forward to swimming.
As we walk into the facility, there is a lifeguard in charge of the front gate. He is wearing the typical uniform; red shorts with a whistle dangling from his neck. Some sort of breathing apparatus hangs out of his back pocket.
“What’s that?” My daughter asks pointing to the swim gear.
“Can she swim without floaties, ma’am?” The lifeguard spits out before I can answer my daughter.
“Yes. Well, no.” I hesitate as I think, well, she is in swim lessons, but she still needs assistance.
“She can go anywhere except the deep pool ma’am.” the young man tells me as he places a blue wristband around my daughter’s wrist.
I walk away as my daughter is already three feet in front of me, skipping with excitement to our normal spot by the lazy river.
“Mommy, why did you tell that man I can’t swim? I can!” my daughter states.
“Because you are only able to swim from point A to point B baby. You haven't mastered floating or treading water. Swimming takes lots of practice and time, but you are doing a great job in your lessons!” I respond.
It’s the following weekend and I am back at my date with the lawn mower. Today, the task has made me more cranky than usual. It’s 100+ degrees out, and I don’t want to do it. But I’m aware that mowing is even more difficult if I put it off another day, and I don’t have the finances on a one income family to hire someone to do it for me.
It is time to conquer the overgrown flower bed. I’ve ignored it long enough. The weeds have done more than sprout up now, they have overcome the whole bed. It’s an eyesore. Weed by weed, I tug from the bottom as close as I can to the dirt. I’m determined for no root to be left behind. With sweat dripping down my face, my back aching from bending over, I don’t stop. Fifteen minutes into the task and I can’t tell if the water dripping down my face is from my forehead or my tears.
Being a single mother means having to do a great deal of things I don’t want to do. From taking out the trash every week, to cutting the grass, to having to share the upcoming holidays with my ex and even sharing my child’s life. Learning how to co-parent with respect is daunting. The nights my daughter is not home bring up an extreme sense of loneliness. In a sense, I don’t feel like a mother on those nights. How do I mother from afar when it’s not my time to mother. Am I mother when my daughter is not around? The simple answer is yes, but the complicated emotions tell me otherwise. Five years into single motherhood and the little things, such as mowing my yard or pulling weeds bring up resentment and anger toward her father.
As I begin to tackle the flower bed, the front door swings open. Annoyed because I just started and my daughter already needs something, I turn my head to the door to see what she needs.
“MOMMMMMY, I WUV YOU!” she yells at me.
Smiling back at her, I feel guilty for being annoyed.
With the reminder from my daughter of how much she loves me, I am able to push forward. I begin to rip out the weeds harder and faster. I begin to think about how our circumstance was not my choice. The emotions of fury and hatred I’ve held in for so long are pouring out faster than I can process them. I’m buried within the weeds, struggling to come up for air. I carry the weight of our story, the weight of a broken family. Through destroying the weeds, I begin to feel lighter. There is a process, a molding that takes place.
As I pull more and more weeds, I realize the Gerbera daisies looked like they were buried, but the reality is they just needed room to grow, to be fruitful. Like the daisies, I am planted amongst the weeds of life, of single motherhood. Weeds sprout up quick just as anger sprouts up quick, but over time with consistency and tender care, a garden’s roots go deep. I know, without deep roots, I'll end up uprooted and I don’t want to live with hate.
My daughter and I are back at the pool. We’re floating on our inner tubes, when all of a sudden we hear a loud high pitched “FWEET.” Simultaneously, the lifeguard’s whistles are going off.
“Mommy, why are they all standing up and waving for us to get out of the pool.” my daughter asks.
Looking over to the South, I realize there is lightning in the sky. A summer thunderstorm has wiped out the sun.
“Because we have to get out of the pool, baby. It is not safe for us to be in the water.” I say with composure.
As we follow the crowd out the rod iron doors into the parking lot, I look over and notice a golf course with lush green grass. And I am reminded, just as the grass needs rain in order to be vibrant and flourish, the flowers need room to cultivate. My daughter needs time to mature and what I need to thrive and grow is within God’s storms. It’s during the storms when I remind myself that sometimes being planted and buried can feel the same.
Stephanie Woody is an Art Director with I Am Second by day, but the job dearest to her heart is being a momma. She has lived all over in Africa, Asia, Haiti and Spain, but currently calls Texas home. You can follow her most recent life stories on Instagram.
Photo credit: Christina Childress christinachildress.com