I started this blog back in the golden era of the “mommy blogger” (way back in those ancient times of 2008) and despite achieving some recognition as a mom blogger, it was clear early on that writing about my kids just wasn’t a sustainable gig for me. I owe this in part to the fact that my kids were almost 14 years apart in age and my son was well into high school when I started blogging. Meanwhile, my daughter was a toddler and frankly there are only so many ways to spin a day in the life of a toddler so that it’s entertaining.
Over the years I have shied away from writing about my kids because really, their stories are not mine to share even when they affect me. Everyone is worthy of being allowed the space to shape their own story and to decide whether or not it is for public consumption; though occasionally I do share tidbits about my son’s music career and my now-tween daughter’s zany moments (right now Taylor Swift and Beyonce play on loops in my head thanks to her incessant need to sing their songs…Calgon take me away!).
However a recent visit with my adult son reminded me of just how fleeting our time is with our kids. Our culture dictates that for eighteen years, we provide material, emotional and mental support and guidance and then we send our precious children off into the world. Yet that supposed end is really just the beginning, what we are really doing in the first eighteen years of their lives is laying the foundation for the relationship that we will hopefully have with our kids for the rest of our lives.
In recent years, I have seen my own relationship shift with my father as sometimes it seems that I have become the parent as I guide him toward making what I hope will be the best decisions. And, at times, I have used my legal authority to make decisions on his behalf. Last year when my father was ill, many people asked if I felt put upon and truthfully, while I was frazzled at times, never once did it dawn on me to not be there for my father. I admit, there were some aspects of his hospital time that I really would prefer to forget forever! Looking back, I attribute it to the fact that while my parents weren’t the best parents…they were young and broke; sometimes a tad too gruff…at the end of the day they laid the foundation that I carry with me everyday of my life. No matter what, there was love and care. It wasn’t perfect but it sustained and nurtured even in in the hard moments.
Over the past six years as my adult son has navigated early adulthood, I have come to realize just how important the foundation we lay with our kids really is and how little of it depends on any of the things that so many of us get wrapped up in, including yours truly. In the end, the latest gadget, shoe or trendy item is fleeting but the time and the love we give is what is often going to be remembered. They aren’t going to remember or really care that you co-slept, nursed or used cloth diapers but they will remember how you showed up and whether or not you were just going through the motions. So many times I have felt that I have fallen short as a parent because I didn’t do XYZ but both as a parent and an adult child, I realize that the love we give and the respect and support that we give are the most important tools of parenting. They are the glue that keeps the relationship together as our kids go out into the world and form their own lives. It is often what we will be measured by when our kids grow up and decide if they want us in their lives. Space can always be made for the imperfect but rarely for the toxic and harmful.
At times, I feel like I have lived many lives in a scant 43 years, I have been twice married, buried a parent and seen most of my family die on me, thus becoming the matriarch of our little branch before the age of 35, I haven’t run Fortune 500 companies but I have been responsible for several organizations nonetheless. Despite a less-than-privileged start in life, I eventually hit the adult “milestones” and as I grow older, I realize that so many of the trappings aren’t what make this life and this journey. Granted, the trappings can make the ride a bit more comfortable at times.
Watching my son, the man, navigate the world and looking at my daughter grow, I am reminded of just how fleeting this time is and how as they grow, we grow. It is that continual growth that hopefully keeps us all connected. Parenting is not for the rigid; it is never-ending and while the early years may be when we put in the physically grueling tasks that at times interfere with our core functions, one day those moments and actions will be blips in the grand scheme of things. Hug ’em, love ’em and cherish even the small tedious moments, as cheesy as it sounds. As for me, I might even try to sing along with one of these Beyonce songs but I am sorry Taylor Swift. Your music, I just can’t accept.
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