I used to think," Somewhere in there is the old me, the one who has a passion for poetry, music and art." It wasn't until after I went through a period of mourning, if you will, that I realized the old me was very much alive. I just had to find new ways of uncovering it. I realized that I still have a passion for poetry, music and art, and that in some ways that passion has only been heightened by watching with wonder as my children discover for themselves that these are the things that make our world so wonderful. When my children laugh uncontrollably at a stanza of Shel Silverstein, the written word suddenly comes alive far more that it ever has through any Shakespearian sonnet. Teaching my daughter piano lessons is one of the single most rewarding experiences I have ever had. Her plunked out rendition of "Quiet River" rivals any phrase of Handel or Beethoven for the joy it brings my heart and soul. And my refrigerator is covered in the latest works of my two favorite artists. I never realized fingerpaintng could be so enlightening! So, it would seem that my children have not stolen my identity so much as they have helped me to discover it in new ways.
Having children also exposes the duality of our human nature. Since first giving birth, I have come to realize that I am more selfless than I have ever thought myself to be, but also that I can be more selfish than I ever thought myself capable of being. The second I cradled Morgan in my arms, I knew instinctively that I would do literally anything for her happiness and well-being. I still feel that way, but there were days in her infanthood when all I could think about was when the crying would end, and when I would finally again have a little "me time." I have also realized that there is a clearly defined limit to my patience level. My patience expires after exactly one 2:00 am.-6:00 jag of colic induced screaming. (Morgan was not the only one who felt like screaming on those nights- believe you me, I have screamed into a pillow more times than I ever thought I would.) Having children has certainly shed light on my weaknesses, but it has also shown me that I have more strength than I was ever previously aware of. The experience of motherhood has taught me, among so many other things, that I can do hard things, things that may seem impossible at first.
So, perhaps my identity was stolen in a sense. Maybe I will never have time to write a best seller because I am up to my elbows in mac and cheese, dirty diapers and finger paint. But by and large, the person formerly known as Shannon Stanger has been replaced by a much more compassionate and aware human being. I am grateful for the gift of being able to rediscover daily who I am through the eyes of my children.