Tiny and Big Motherhood: My LTYM Experience

Thirteen Listen To Your Mother Baton Rouge 2016 cast members gave motherhood a microphone on May 1st.

We are a diverse group. I’m not referring to our skin color, hair color, or ages (I was the oldest, by the way), but rather to the diversity in the piece of our heart that each of us shared on stage. More intriguing to me than our diversity is the connection that runs through it. I don’t mean the show or the stage or even motherhood. I’m talking about the connection of experience and emotion.

  • I wasn’t the only mom who…
    • never planned to be one.
    • has learned from her (sometimes “adulty”) children.
    • questioned her heart, her love, her choices.
    • channels lessons and wisdom from the “giants” who came before her.
    • experiences the chaos, the hilarity, the heartbreak.
    • lifts herself out of the fear for future or the grief of loss.
    • experienced some healing energy this spring.

I feel uplifted, connected, and refreshed by this experience. I encourage everyone to attend the next LTYM show in their area. To those who have a story about motherhood (and you needn’t be a mother nor a woman to have such a story!), audition for next year’s show!

Thanks to director Meghan Matt for bringing LTYM to Baton Rouge, to producer Audrey Hayworth for helping her pull together a beautiful show, and to LTYM founder Ann Imig for being a Game Changer and making this experience possible for so many.

This is my story. I’ll share the YouTube video when it becomes available this summer. Thanks in advance for reading.

Tiny and Big

“I love you tiny and big,” she said with three-year old seductiveness as she mimicked her phrase with two pinched fingers for “tiny” and outspread arms for big. That about covered it for her. Sometimes she couldn’t love me big because she was overcoming a time-out; but she still loved me tiny. Now it had become a game. I would imitate her, hesitating between “tiny” and “big,” then watch her anticipation then satisfaction as I completed her favorite phrase: “I love you tiny… and… big.”LTYM-Audrey

I don’t remember ever telling my parents I loved them so freely as I grew up. I don’t remember being told often. We knew it, yet rarely said it. The few times we did, the expression swelled between us, tense, embarrassed, urgent.

My girls changed this. My mom can tell them easily and unencumbered by tension, “I love you.” I have noticed, however, that my three-year-old never tells her grandmother, “I love you TINY and big.” No, for her Mama Nick, my daughter stretches her arms apart as far as possible (even her facial muscles try to follow her hands) and tells my mom, “I love you thiiiiiis much.” Big. Only big.

I wrote this twenty three years and a dozen computers ago. My girls were joined by a baby brother less than a year later, and now I’m a seasoned mom of three adults. Through the mad rush of those mama years, I managed to save this snippet from my youthful, unseasoned motherhood, thanks to the nearly obsolete floppy disk.LTYM-Sarah

What about that young mom who scribbled her thoughts on a floppy disk? She had no idea how to be a mother! She wanted to be a writer. Is she still there? Or is she obsolete, like the floppy disk? Did motherhood take the write right out of her? I confess, the fear that part of me stayed behind, lost on a broken computer, gurgles through my mind from time to time.

That young mom didn’t realize how peaceful and simple those first few years were, how suddenly the energy would shift to work, carpools, soccer games, choir, volleyball matches, piano lessons, and swim meets. Write a novel!? Who was I kidding? I needed two to three years to READ the novel on my nightstand.LTYM-Sam

I wish I had written more as the children grew up, when the experiences with them were fresh. I’d have snippets like snapshots about rearing children. Like the day my son was born, and how my second daughter refused to look at him or speak to me. About how several months later, she would sit next to him and wait until she thought I wasn’t looking to steal his pacifier, take a few nom noms, then stick it back in his mouth. Or about their last bath together when they were three and one. She pointed at her brother who was twirling his finger in his bellybutton. “I want one of those!” she said. “But you have a bellybutton!” I replied, tickling hers. “No!” she retorted, pointing lower. “One of those!”

The humor and tenderness of mama journeys are often overshadowed by difficulties: the broken leg, the tantrums and time outs, the dislocated elbow, the first heartbreak, the science fair nightmares, the lost jacket, the stolen computers, the stolen car, the lost phone, let’s face it, the lost and stolen just about everything. I wish I had captured on a floppy disk more of those tiny and big moments in between the difficult ones.

The nest is empty now. I barely blinked! I would say “I raised my children well.” But that’s not the whole story. The learning was reciprocal. My children taught and continue to teach me tiny and big lessons. Lessons about their youthful world, lessons about myself. Listening to my heart was one of the biggest lessons.

I listened to my heart and started writing again.  

Last year, I wrote a blog post for Mother’s Day. It started like this:

I didn’t plan to be a mom.

For the first quarter century of my life, I boasted that I’d never marry, that I wouldn’t have children.

I would write, travel the world. I would be a nomadic wordsmith.

Yet here I am, mother of three adult children. Where did I go wrong? I didn’t.

As I circle around the empty nest and back to that writer in me, I understand I truly didn’t go wrong. A tiny twist? A big detour? Yes and yes. But I love everything about the journey. My tiny travel companions? I especially love them. I love them so big. Only big.


© Copyright Pennie Nichols, 2016. All Rights Reserved

LTYM gives motherhood a microphone.

This is my LTYM cast spotlight.

Cast Spotlight: Pennie Nichols


It’s time for our very first cast spotlight of 2016 and we are so excited to introduce you to Pennie. She is an “experienced” mom and her piece is one that really gave my heart the flutters and made my eyes swell with tears. When she walked into auditions she brought a quiet strength and calming presence. She is a content writer for textbooks and a freelance writer for fun, and an all around just cool freakin’ lady. Get to know her a little bit, and then come out and see her in the show May 1st at the Manship!

pennie face

How did you hear about Listen to Your Mother? What made you decide to audition?
I heard about Listen to Your Mother most recently through my local friend Connie, but also from my friend Danielle, who was in the 2013 Indianapolis cast.

I auditioned because I didn’t think this through. Performing arts is absolutely outside of my comfort zone. I do, however, love to share through writing. This LTYM experience will make me stretch, but I feel safe because I’ll be allowed to carry my security blanket (my words) onto the stage.

When did you start writing?
As soon as I learned to write and spell, I began to write poems and stories, and I often drew illustrations to go with them. In high school and college, I wrote mostly for school assignments: term papers and theses. As a freelance editor/writer, my writing continues to be about assignments, which is unfulfilling because the words aren’t mine. Last year I made a determination to redirect my writing energy and write for myself, or “write for real” as I like to call it.

Describe your writing style.
When I was about twelve, I remember working on a horror novel about a serial killer whose weapon of choice was a staple gun. Fortunately, I’ve lost that manuscript. My writing now is eclectic but tends to be introspective. My funny bone is packed under a few layers of fat, but I’m trying to find it. I write about things I love to do, imaginary friends and foes, and heart and social issues that are important to me.

What is something that you always tell your kids?
“Watch your letters!” when they use acronyms like WTH and WTF; and “Use your words!” when they substitute acronyms like LOL or OMG for words.

What is your dream vacation?
My dream vacation is a large house on a quiet beach with sugary white sand. My family and several friends are with me (the house is ridiculously big). We have a grill, a boat docked on the pier, and a few cases of Marlborough County New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. We cook, comb the beach, play games, fish, play music, float on the waves, SCUBA, and bask in the sun.

What is your mommy superpower?
Like most moms, I have many. Can’t find something? Mama!! Hungry? Mama!! Stranded with a flat? Mama!! I have trouble identifying “favorites” and “bests,” so I asked my children what they thought my ultimate superpower was. From the mouths of my three babes:
“You’re patient and compassionate.”
“No matter what we’ve done or chosen, you never judge us.”
“You effortlessly take the panic out of any situation.”
Based on their input, my ultimate superpower is not finder, cook, or lifesaver, but rather “defuser.” I apply patience and compassion to defuse fear, panic, and self-doubt so that my children feel safe to make mistakes, safe to come to me in a crisis, safe to call at any hour, safe to be themselves, safe to come home.

pennie fam

Come see Pennie and the 12 other incredible women at the second annual production of Listen to Your Mother: Baton Rouge on May 1! Until then, stay tuned here for more cast spotlights and information on our incredible and generous sponsors!