Adventures In Motherhood: The Secret Handshake



Some people say there is a shift that happens in you from the moment your baby, or in my case, babies, are born.  You are instantly – MOM, or in my case MAMA.  From the moment they let out that first cry, you instinctually think like a mom, act like a mom, and talk like a mom – you’re a member of a club with a secret handshake. 

There are millions upon millions of members, but the handshake is secret because there is absolutely no way you can understand it until you are a member. 

Of course, there are those moms we look at and say … “You have to have a license to go fishing in this state … “ – we can all finish the sentence.   Frankly, there are some people who should not be parents.  Just because you can procreate easily and often does not mean you should.  I admire those who know that about themselves. 

From the moment I laid eyes on them (even before I laid eyes on them) I unconditionally loved these tiny little beings.  And yet, to say I didn’t understand them is an understatement.  It took me months to think, act, talk, and ultimately feel like a mom.  The Dumpling’s Mama.  The first several months were like trying to solve a Rubic’s cube and then one day … it all twists into place. 

This Mama shift was not instantaneous for me, but when it happened I felt it. In that moment, the secret handshake was revealed. 

It goes without saying, having twins definitely organized my home and my mind in ways I never envisioned.  After awhile you send Toto to look behind the magic curtain and realize the secret handshake is really simple, yet surprisingly difficult to do. 

Give your kids your authentic self.  Skim the first year manuals for the basic operating instructions and then toss them aside and engage your babies.  Most days we read and play and stroll and sing and dance and laugh between eating and napping.  It takes every ounce of energy I have to be present for them as they wake up to new experiences and new feelings every single day.  The joy I get back from the light in their eyes is priceless.  

Watching our children open and experience joy and wonder — that is the secret handshake. 

It’s addicting. 

This past weekend I was able to go to yoga and a movie.  Thanks to the generosity of my husband and my mother-in-law, I took 5 hours and 45 minutes off from the boys.  I missed them, but I needed it.  I needed to recharge my best self.

I went to see Her with my friend, Lori, followed by Chaz’s yoga class.

As I walked into the movie theater, I had completely forgotten what the premise of the movie was.  I had read it when I said I wanted to see it, but for the life of me all I could recall as I walked into the theater was, “God, I need a hot dog.  I am starving.”  Lately, all non-essential information ends up in the trash of the Terry hard drive.  I can’t be bothered remembering that which is not important. 

As I walked into the movie on Sunday, I sat back in my chair and completely surrendered to the fact that I had no idea where I was going.   In my opinion, it’s the very best way to see a movie.  In many ways, this unknown was a metaphor for my life right now.   I have no idea where we are going, but I am headed there with complete conviction.  The boys give my life a laser focus.  I have some non-negotiable outcomes and the rest is a blank canvas. 

The premise of falling in love with your Operating System is creepy, though I like how they resolved said creepiness.  The Operating System (Scarlett Johansson), who calls herself Samantha, is fun to listen to as she begins to feel and process the world as a human would.  She feels so many things, while Theodore is wondering if he has felt everything he is ever going to feel. 

During her expansion she said something that stuck with me. 

“The past is a story we tell ourselves.”

The minute the sentence was uttered; my mind began to wander.  I was not lost.


I thought about my past, my journey to motherhood, how the story I tell myself is different from my parents, my grandparents, my cousins, my aunts and uncles and my friends.  It’s not because any one of us are wrong — each of us soak up and feel the moments we live differently.  Both good and bad.  There is so much room for interpretation.  Everyone in the room has a different story for the same moment. 

When I would go to Arkansas as a kid, I thought it was better than Disneyland.  I thought it was better than anything.  I know my mother did not have this experience.  My aunt did not have this experience.  I idealized it in a way only kids can, and I carry it. 

I thought about Jackson and James. 


What story will they tell themselves? More importantly, what is James telling Jackson in this picture?

I don’t know if all of the adults in my life realize it, but the reason I am so fixated on giving our kids many of the experiences I had – a farm to go and run around on, snow ski vacations, weekends at the lake, really fun trips to all kinds of places – is because I loved my life as a kid. 

Minus the occasional teenage angst, I was happy.  There is nothing I would change.

This says something about my parents.  They did something right.  I want to give this joy to Jackson and James.

After the movie I went straight to Chaz’s yoga class for the first time since the babies arrived.  I still do not have contact lenses.  I took my glasses off and did most of the class blind as a bat.  It was the best yoga class I have had in months.  When you take a class unable to bring anyone else into focus … you really go inside and focus on what is important. 

As I was putting the boys to bed that night, I again wondered about the story they would tell themselves.   Jackson grabbed my ear and held on tight as I laid him down in his crib. 

I stood staring at both boys under the soft glow of their nightlight while the sound machine roared ocean waves.  I want to give them an awesome story to tell.  One they want to share with their own children.  As a parent, I think this is the greatest compliment a child can give you.

So thanks Mom and Dad, Sandy and Cherry, Mawmaw and Bob, Annie and Kathie, Memom and Gran Gran, Uncle David, Aunt Paula, Uncle Robert, Aunt Peggy, Aunt Bridget, CATS – everyone that built me. 

I hope Jackson and James have such a village surrounding them.


  1. Kathy Bollen says:

    Cherry saw the photo’s and the babies are beautiful! the computers has been on the brink of disaster, so sorry for any delay. We are getting married on 4/12. I know sit down, but he finally put a ring on it.

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