When my precious baby girl was born, I did what any new mother does, I stared in disbelief. She was here! She was mine… and she was perfect. I traced her tiny ears, outlined her lips, counted 10 tiny fingers and 10 tiny toes, counted her beauty marks, took 48 pictures, (because thats the number of photos that my 35 mm camera had in it.) I stayed up all night watching her, listening to her breathe, while I tried to determine if she even remotely looked like me. Her tiny, tightly, clenched fists, drawn to her chest and her little legs were out stretched making her look longer then I had expected. Her cry was a soft squeal and there was something distinct about it that made it very different from any other babies cry, I have ever heard. It was musical and familiar. 2 days of getting familiar with this new little baby and studying her every move. There was a clear sense of change for me. A mothers natural instinct is to love, nurture and protect. It was in those first few days when I thought about how difficult it must have been for my own mother to tell us she was going to die. I wanted so much to go back to that moment. How do you tell your children that it is only a little while longer they will have you. That someday soon, they will be on their own. It hit me hard! How did she do it?
Growing up in a divorced family, my mom and dad worked hard at being good parents. My parents had a great relationship. They were civil and grounded and always put us first. There were many things that have stayed with me through life. My parents gave their all and then some. They had responsibilities to us and to each other. They chose to be good parents and acknowledge each others effort and they respected each other. They both contributed equally by taking ownership in teaching, guiding and disciplining us. They each did their part. They drove us to practice and doctor appointments, they sat on cold bleachers at football games while we cheered, were in the stands at the ice skating arena and were truly interested in our lives. I dug for worms, went fishing, rode horses, ice skated, milked cows, and went to dancing school. I shot a bow and arrow, drove a tractor and went bowling. I learned to sheet rock and spackle! I learned to iron, tidy the house, drive stick shift and fold laundry like a pro. I loved doing my friends hair and make up and can cook like a rock star. My point is, I had awesome parents regardless of them being divorced. We weren't manipulated or put in the middle, used as tools to barter. We were encouraged, praised and when needed diciplined. Taught! For all of that, I am thankful.
As a single mom, I wanted to make sure, I did the same for my daughter. I wanted to give her support, encouragement and guidance. I wanted to be a parent first, and her friend 2nd. I so wanted to let her win at Candyland and all the games we played but needed to let her lose so she would know how to deal with disappointment. I wanted to help her with everything, but also knew that I needed to let her make mistakes so that she was able to learn from them and could overcome and adapt. I wanted to shield her from the cold and cruelty that is out there, but needed to teach her to believe that there is goodness in people.
As parents, we need to lead by example. Children learn what they live. I cant help but reflect on this poem.
After my mom had passed, when going through her things, I found this clipping in her wallet. I took it that day and put it in my wallet. It has been with me now for over 20 years, and I am not sure how long she carried it, who wrote it, why it was in her wallet or where it came from. Its yellowed, torn, tattered and most of all… loved! I know now, that this was her mantra. I felt it every single day and I too, have lived by it. You can't teach someone to love or care.. you must demonstrate it. Live it. I like to think, I was able to teach my daughter the same. I took her to bring flowers to our elderly, widowed neighbor, whose son is handicapped and has never gotten flowers for Mother's day. We rescued baby blue jays that have fallen from nests, fed stray cats, helped find lost dogs and returned found wallets, I taught her it's ok to feel hurt, not win, to fall down dust off and get back up, be laughed at and be ok with not being perfect. I also taught her to be nice, say thank you, think of others and if at first you don't succeed, try again. I taught her that no means no and sometimes while she might not like me or even hates me, deep in her heart, she remember, I am always on her side and I love her with all that I am. I would like to give her the world and take away all of the possible things that could hurt her. I am terrified of leaving her someday. In the back of my mind, I don't know that I could ever tell her that there will be a day she will be without me. It just doesn't seem possible and yet somehow, my mother, with grace and courage did. Wow, she was amazingly strong!
So often we forget how important right now is. We say things like, when they are older, after this happens, when that happens, after high school… My baby, now 18 and in the midst of completing her freshman year in college is a young lady, making her own decisions, her own mistakes and learning her own lessons while living her own life, responsible for her own actions. As I stand back and watch her soar, Im so proud of who she is and love her with all my heart. The blank page she began with, that I got to fill, started her story. I only hope and believe as she is finishing another chapter in her book of life, she will someday reflect on and feel equally as joyful as I do.
I recently have been blessed with a wonderful step daughter to love. I get to take part and influence another little girls life. I've missed these days of playing board games and endless talk of silly stuff and I have learned. The house can't always be clean and neat. The dishes dont always have to be done the moment dinner is finished. They will be there if I don't get to them right away, and they will make it into the dishwasher, eventually. Time waits for no one, and technology is a thief of our time. So, in a differnt generation, I feel like I get to lead and influence the life of another person. When I look at my older daughter, I am so proud of her and the beautiful young lady she is.... I feel confident, that I am doing a good job so far.
So I guess.. the lesson I learned from my mother, in the short time I had her. Enjoy your time, love and hug your kids often, be interested, cherish the little things, and most of all give Love freely! When your in the moment, BE in the moment, spill the milk, watch the sunrises, feel the joy, share the tears, love your life, fear is always going to be there. We won't always be here but the lives we influence carry on.