Learning to Celebrate

This week  Brain, Child magazine ran an essay I wrote about the life I didn’t choose (a life with only one child) vs. the life that I have.

Often I imagine the life I didn’t choose. In this life I am the parent to one six-year-old boy. I sleep through the night. I spend long Saturday mornings with a book on the couch while he sits on the floor playing Legos. Some days he goes over a friend’s house and our own home is completely quiet. This imaginary life, the one I left behind, has its perks.

But I haven’t so much lost these small pleasures as I have traded them for others.

This post generated 1K+ likes on Facebook–small beans by some standards, but a nice little landmark for me.

Also this week I got to contribute to a post on one of my favorite WordPress blogs, Stories from the Belly. Even better was the topic I was invited to write about: breasts! I had fun writing the following sentence which opens my micro-essay:

Once, at a crowded farmers market, an acquaintance of mine broke from our conversation to pull one of her breasts out of the top of her sundress and nurse her infant daughter.

And I loved seeing my work on the same page as bloggers Diahann Reyes and KS.

Someone in my life who knows me well challenged me to celebrate my good week. Celebrate, as in mark a significant achievement by engaging in something joyful, pleasurable.

My immediate response was to rattle off a list of things I still haven’t done, things that would truly be worthy of celebration, you know, like 20K likes on Facebook, or a book deal, or publication in the New York Times.

This friend assured me that it was still okay to celebrate.

My next response was to feel utterly flummoxed about what kind of shape that celebration should take. Kellie, as we speak, is performing maintenance on deep cycle batteries on the Mojave Desert, so there’s no one at home to open a good bottle of wine with me.

But the more I thought the more I realized that I like food as much as wine, and I like my children’s company as much as I like anyone’s, and so I decided on sushi and cake.

Our evening wasn’t perfect. Mostly, in between bites, I tried to keep Stump from throwing sushi on the floor, and Smoke, who normally picks at his food, is very capable of devouring twenty dollars worth of sushi and then complaining that he wants more.

But the cake eating was leisurely, and I might have learned something about celebration: the preparation was 60% of the fun. Both Smoke and I spent our whole day looking forward to sushi, and in the grocery store we methodically examined every single option for dessert.  Also: I still have leftover cake which I will eat tonight, alone, after my kids have gone to bed. In other words, the celebration isn’t confined to a single moment. It spills into time, the before and after, and asks us to continue to value the thing that was marked.



  1. Yay! Jenn, for all the great things to celebrate this week! Next time Harlan and I win a prize, I’ll ask them if they can make it for sushi.

  2. I loved your essay and even though i have just one son, I strongly relate to your description of being transformed by motherhood. Buy more cake! (Then hide it.)

  3. Congrats on the Brain, Child publication! Honored to have you on Stories from the Belly and to have this noted among your reasons to celebrate.

    A teacher of mine talks about pausing when something good happens so that the nervous system gets used it – expanding one’s capacity to receive and savor such things. I am still working on that… I love the way that you celebrated and that reminder that it’s not just the idea of celebration but often it’s in the realness of what is going on. (I can think to a recent occasion when I was celebrating what I thought the celebration was supposed to look like instead of just savoring what was real.)

    • Yes–retraining the nervous system! I’ve been seeing a somatic therapist and she’s all about this. (In fact, she’s the one who challenged me to celebrate! 😉 )

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