Saturday, May 11, 2013

for my kids on Mother's Day, on the one-year anniversary of being us

This Mother's Day, I only have the pure-of-heart homemade gifts that my kids made at school for me...and their love.  Last year was the final holiday I shared with my husband, and at that point our relationship was sputtering to a close.  I still have the card he gave me, written as if it was meant for a friend in a mom's support group instead of a wife.  Mother's Day marked an irreversible turning point in all of our lives.

I've decided that instead of accepting gifts and giving hugs, I want to give my kids something special for Mother's Day in return, something they can cherish for the rest of their lives.   They deserve to have a mom who is thoughtful, introspective, contemplates their days, and tries her best to figure out how to make them better, even it means breaking down the walls of my ego and looking at myself in an honest light.

My Mother's Day gift to you, little pumpkins, is to tell you what I want to do and what I'm going to try my hardest to do for you.  If I say they're promises, then I run the risk of letting you down.   As I am a human with faults, desires, worries, and dreams like you, I know that I can't possibly be the perfect person or mom.  But if I put these things down on paper, there's a good chance I'll get a little closer.   I've been working on this for 21 years now, but I don't think you can ever stop improving at it.  I hope to be able to do this every Mother's Day.  These will be my guidelines for the next year until then.

1.  Sleep:  The other day I was overtired and found myself overly short with you.  I apologized as the night went on, and tried to explain how tired I was.  Brandon, instead of getting angry with me, you asked me sweetly and with more maturity than your years if I thought I could work on getting more sleep.  That simple request has echoed in my mind for the past few days.  Sometimes I stay up later than I should to get some quiet time after you guys go to bed, but at the expense of my mood the next day.  You deserve a mom who has patience, is slow to anger, and does not get upset over the insignificant things just because I'm tired.

2.  Food: I'm getting better here.  In the beginning of all this, you got frozen pasta and vegetables microwaved in the steamer bag, breakfast for dinner, pizza, and (God forbid!) McDonald's meat paste.  I remember the first night we sat in the McDonald's had been just recently that we'd been there with your dad; in fact, I wrote about it on here. I didn't have it in me to cook at that point, and it was a last resort.  I had brought a school book to read, but there was no getting around the fact that I now shared a silent camaraderie with the solitary dads watching their kids play, even if we didn't look at each other.  I was getting so good at planning out our meals before, but that tanked when I couldn't find the energy to do it and I had to do everything on my own.  I'm nearly back to where I was before, but I picked up some bad habits and, I'll admit it, became lazy.  I realize that you enjoy the Friday mini corndogs at school, but I need to be much more purposeful when it comes to feeding you healthy foods and packing your lunches.

3.  Friends:  You want to have your friends over at the house more and not have to listen to me say that it's too messy and I'm embarrassed.  I either need to stop worrying about what other parents think about my housekeeping skills, or actually spend more time cleaning the house (which I don't have much of, so we might have to go with option #1).  Your friends truly don't care about my piles of laundry on the couch.  They run right past it all in search of a cat to play with, or they try to jump in it because it's fun.  Plus when you and your friends get together you seem to enjoy making more messes!

4.  Structure:  I let you guys scam out on a lot of chores because I haven't given you much structure lately.  I ask you to do the work, but if you balk and I don't feel like arguing, then I often will just do it myself.  I'm taking the easy way out, although at the time it feels like the hard way, when the hard way is standing my ground and teaching you about consistency with responsibilities.  I'm not doing you any favors in the long run to do the work for you, so I'm going to ask you to do more around the house in order to earn the things you like to do.  This probably seems like the worse Mother's Day gift ever, doesn't it? :)

5.  Understanding:  You know that I truly understand what you're going through right now, especially you, Brandon.  I've been there, and I know how sad and scary it can be at times.  I realize that it has changed all of you and I can see that, and I'm so sorry.  I will always feel badly about that fact for the rest of my life.  I need to bring the place of understanding to a deeper level though, because your experience is not my experience, and the two are not entirely comparable.  I don't know it all, not by a long shot.  One thing I do know though, is that through this experience you will become a more compassionate and caring person, having lived through hard times yourself, and maybe someday you will be able to help someone else who is struggling.

6.  Faith:  We pray at night, but do we discuss the deeper aspects of spirituality, like forgiveness, love, kindness, acceptance, and trust?  I think that we do in passing and on occasion, but not as much as I'd like to.  Spirituality is the foundation of how I try to interact with the world, and I don't want to lose out on this fleeting opportunity to share that with you while you're young.  I don't always make myself a living example of those characteristics, and I need to look inside myself to find out how I can do that.  I can't teach you if I'm not an example.

7.  Communication:  It goes without saying that whenever you want or need to talk to me about anything, I'll be here for you.  But the greater gift is to listen to you without judgment, respecting that you are an individual with different opinions than mine, and also realizing that when we disagree it is an opportunity for both of us to learn compromise.  The trick is to pick the battles wisely, and that task falls mostly on me.  Also, when we do talk you deserve my total presence, not the mind-wandering that I tend to do during conversations.  I need to turn off the phone, the radio, and stop what I'm doing to listen to you.  Minimize distractions.

8:  Kindness:  This is my largest task.  It is easy to be kind to those who are kind to you.  Simple.  But to those who are mean, taunting, belittling, and laugh when you fall down, it can feel nearly impossible, like there's no way it can be done.  It can be, and when you succeed, you free yourself from anger and bitterness and become open to love...even to love the person who's hurting you.  I believe that everyone and all creatures deserve kindness, because we are all children of God and blessed with life.  It goes against my nature to feel hatred toward someone, and I don't like that side of myself.  When you grow up, I want you to have good knowledge of what kindness means and to be able to treat people kindly...even when it seems like the most difficult thing in the world to do.  I want you to do better than I have done.  You're already schooling me, I'm ashamed to say.  I see the disapproving looks when I get a certain tone with your dad, and that helps put me in my place and remember that I need to be kind to him because you love him.

Aubrey, Brandon and Claire, I love you with all my heart.  You are my life, and I will always be here for you as long as I'm living.  Happy Mother's Day!