On Mothering

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli
On Mothering

My daughter turned five on Sunday. I can’t believe she is already five and yet I can’t remember my life without her. (I do vaguely recall that it involved more sleep and more t.v. channels that didn’t end in “jr.”).

For pretty much the entire first year of her life I couldn’t bear to be away from her—I literally couldn’t stand to put her down. I would run out of my office as soon as the clock hit 5:00, restless and anxious until she was back in my arms; I would never let my husband put her to bed… it was as if I left a part of me within her when she was born, and I never felt “whole” unless we were together. It was very possessive—a “she’s mine! Mine! Mine!” kind of love.

When my son was born three years later, I had to wait for hours for him to be brought to me. I remember my daughter coming to visit while I was waiting, and after she left I couldn’t stop sobbing—worried about how the perfect order of things had just been disrupted, worried about what I had “done” to her, worried that I couldn’t possibly love my son the way I loved her—that there simply wasn’t any more room in my heart.

As it turns out, five years later, my son and daughter are best friends and her favorite role in her life is that of big sister. She dotes on him, she scolds him, she protects him, she laughs with him, she loves him. He’s the best gift we’ve ever given her… and the two of them together are the best gifts I’ve ever received. The amount of room I have for love, it turns out, is endless.

My love is not possessive anymore either, and neither of us needs to be together to feel “whole”; in fact, my daughter actually has a growing need to be away from me in order to find her full self. Just as Kahlil Gibran said in The Prophet:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

My job, I’m realizing, is to simply always be there when she needs to check back in, to always remind her that she has an anchor—solid ground when she needs to re-gain her footing.

Of course, as a woman, I want to teach my daughter so many things that I know she just ultimately has to learn herself, and most likely the hard way. So instead, I try to let her teach me. She is smart as a whip, so she teaches me to never under-estimate a child simply because they are young. She is wildly confident and dramatic when she is comfortable, yet shy and cautious when faced with the unknown, so she teaches me to honor the many sides of a person. She is very curious and wants to know the “why” behind everything, so she teaches me to slow down, be patient, and absorb all the beauty and mystery and wonder of this world.

Happy Birthday, Marlowe. Thank you for the gift of you. Watch out World… there’s a firecracker on the way.

Whose gift can you honor today?


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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.