By Gabrielle. The photo is me and my mother.
My mom sent me a sweet note the other day. She was in a reflective mood and was missing the days when she had a house full of 8 kids. I asked her if I could share some of her email, and she said yes. I should warn you, I think some people will feel a wave a guilt as you read this, and if you do, please try and discard that guilt and come discuss with me at the end.
Here’s a section of what my mom wrote:
“I believe, when the day comes and you are forced to lead a simpler life, that you will be pleased that you spent time with your children when you had the chance. I MISS my children SO MUCH.
One afternoon in Morningside [our neighborhood] I wanted to get outside and called out, “I’m going for a walk. Anyone want to come?” To my surprise, everyone did. No one got to be with me enough, I guess. Maybe it was too much of a good thing for me. The kids were always there and the responsibility morning-noon-and-night, so it was easy to take our time for granted.
I wasn’t an absent mother. I noticed things. Kept track. I tried to listen when someone needed to talk, but the polite ones didn’t want to intrude on my time. Although nothing mattered to me more than my family, I had other things on my mind, too. Sometimes intruding things. I took on the PTA Presidency at the High School one year — so I could contribute or whatever. Ironically, a waste of precious time.
Why wasn’t my role as mother-of-eight enough for me to enjoy, to savor? I couldn’t have smiled in their faces enough. Touched them. Sat too close. Rubbed backs enough. Listened to and admired the [music] practicing. I don’t mean I have enormous regret, but “wonderful hindsight” is revealing.
As far as the future, I’m AMAZED at how much more healthy, productive, interesting time is ahead for a woman, after children. It’s been a major surprise to me.”
As I read my mom’s note, it’s no surprise my first instinct was to gather my kids around me, hug them, compliment them, listen to them. But my second instinct was to sort of sigh and resign myself to the idea that maybe there’s no avoiding what my mother is feeling right now.
It got me thinking of advice we’ve all received that sounds wonderful but is kind of impossible to follow. Things like “sleep when the baby sleeps”. I mean, I bet I managed to follow that advice maybe 5 times total in the course of my baby-parenting years. Though I could see how helpful it was in theory, it simply wasn’t advice that worked for me.
Similar to my mom’s note, another piece of general advice that’s often handed out is to “cherish every little moment when your kids are young because they grow up so fast”. I’ve said this myself. To myself. I know it’s true. But again, it’s kind of impossible to follow when you’re actually parenting the little ones. It seems like the only way to make it happen would be to become a person who has endless energy and never tires of small humans and never needs time for herself. (And of course, that person doesn’t exist.)
My mom didn’t send the note to give me guilt, she was just missing her kids and telling me about it. We chatted about it and laughed because I said, “I don’t think a person can ever get to a point where they say, yep, I’ve hugged my children enough. Check that off the list.” Hah!
So my question to you is: Can it be done? Are there people out there who have raised their kids and look back and don’t miss those days? Or don’t wonder about how they spent their time? Should they have trained for that marathon? Should they have taken on that extra assignment at church? Should they have skipped that weekend reunion with their college friends? Are you that person? No regrets? Not even little ones?
What’s your take? When you hear advice about appreciating every moment with your kids, how do you react? As for me, I don’t mind the advice. I hear it and I think about my awesome kids, and my awesome life, and feel loads of gratitude. And then I say to myself that if I’m going to miss my kids in the future (and I’m sure I am), so be it, but I can’t see a way to prevent that, so I’m not going to worry about it now.
How about you?
Also, any thoughts on the last sentences I shared from my mom’s note? About the productive, interesting time after the children’s are raised? Sounds delightful to me!