The other night, I spent some much-needed quality time with my mom. We did some shopping and then settled into a local restaurant, a glass of wine in my hand, a martini in hers, and a big, steaming dish of spinach artichoke dip between us.
We started chatting. She made a comment about my little brother potentially moving to Minneapolis, which is 600 miles from here. I immediately pictured my own five-year-old son moving across the country, and my heart squeezed with sadness for my mom.
“Mom, how can you even stand it when we leave?” (Granted, I never left, but my sister lives three hours away and my little brother lives in Chicago. So they’re not here, but they’re also not too far).
My mom answered, “Well, I was always really happy for you guys and all your opportunities you got to take part in.”
“But don’t you miss us being little and close to you all the time?” I asked. I had been struggling lately with my kids getting so big, especially since my youngest will be in kindergarten next fall. I jumped to my next question without waiting for an answer. “What do you remember most about when we were little?” I was expecting her to say something about the fun we had or the hilarious things we said.
“Oh, gosh. I feel guilty about a lot of things,” Mom answered. Her answer surprised me.
“Guilty?” I said. “For what?”
“Well, there were some things we didn’t let you do that probably weren’t a big deal,” she said, dipping another chip. “And sometimes I think we disciplined too much and came down too hard on you guys. A few times we let you cry at night as babies because we just didn’t know what to do for you.” My dad later chipped in that he felt bad for being at work sometimes when he felt like he should have been at home.
“Sometimes we just worried we were ruining you guys,” Mom said.
I can relate with that now that I am a mom. But thinking back, I didn’t remember any of the things she mentioned.
I mean sure, I remember getting mad at my parents for not letting me do stuff. But that’s
not the overall feeling I get when I think back to my childhood. I don’t remember ever feeling like they weren’t there.
When I think back, I remember all the amazing things.
I remember long walks and board games after dinner. I remember making Christmas cookies with homemade icing. I remember her taking us to the zoo and the library. I remember dad always swimming with us at the hotel pools. I remember heaps of gifts on Christmas morning, even though we didn’t deserve it. I remember playing out in the woods for hours with my brothers and the neighborhood kids. I remember family dinners and movie nights and big holidays meals. I remember birthday parties and playing cards and family vacations.
I was completely oblivious to any stress or emotions my parents were feeling.
Guys, our kids won’t remember how overwhelmed we felt. They won’t remember when we felt inadequate as a mother. They won’t remember our exhaustion, our tears, our anxieties, our frustration, even if we do let it show sometimes. They won’t remember how sleep-deprived we were when they were babies or how hearing the word “MOM” over and over again was sometimes like nails on the chalkboard of our souls. (Other times it’s music to our ears. Motherhood is confusing). They won’t remember how late we stayed up making grocery lists, organizing the schedule, arranging babysitters, and wondering how we were going to pay for that extracurricular thing they wanted to try or how we were going to manage two barfing kiddos when we’re getting ready for Christmas.
They’ll remember cuddling on the couch with a stack of books. They’ll remember how we took care of them when they were sick, even if we were trying hard not to get sick ourselves because mamas don’t have time for that. They’ll remember we were always there when they scraped their knee or came home sad from school to cry on our shoulders. They’ll remember how we spent a full, fun day at the Children’s Museum…not how frazzled we were packing lunches and trying to get them out the door or how completely overstimulated and exhausted we felt afterwards.
They will remember having the time of their lives because someone (you) were working your tail off to make sure every one of their needs was met. And they weren’t even
aware of it. They were clean, fed, happy, and full of joy every time you teased them, played a game with them, or even just laid on the floor nearly in tears, exhausted, because you needed it to be bedtime soooo badly and laying there was all you could you manage in that moment. Because you know what? That meant they could climb all over you and what a treat that was.
Every day matters. All of it matters. There will be hard days. Days we don’t feel like we can do it one more minute. Days we feel like, welp, I screwed that up. But the big picture? It’s still beautiful! It all comes together to form a magical childhood (and to kids, it’s all magic!), and you were the foundation for all of it. You’re not a screwup because it’s hard. It’s hard for all of us! But God made kiddos resilient. I’m a walking example of how the good stuff always rises to the top.
Keep on keepin’ on, sisters (and brothers)!! Those kids look at you with stars and hearts in their eyes. Don’t let the bad days trip you up. Keep the big picture in mind. Enjoy right now because right now goes fast.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. ” Galatians 6:9