Both of my sons are far-away and will not be with me for Mother’s Day. This may be the reason I am thinking about them tonight, and what being their Mother has been like.
I am far from a perfect human. And certainly not a perfect Mom. I don’t spend my life being regretful, but I do
wish I had done a few things differently raising my kids. I was a very firm Mom. I don’t regret that. We had a lot of rules and expectations for our kids. Chores were mandatory. I remember the first chore our oldest child ever had was as early as age three. He fed the cat. He loved it. I think the cat loved it too.
Because I was a working Mom, as the kids grew they had to help with chores all around the house and in the yard. But homework was always the top chore of the day. Many arguments ensued over homework, but it was one rule we did not waver from. First and most important chore, to be completed before anything else.
One of the chores relegated to my younger son was cookie baking. Since we packed lunches every day, we went through a lot of cookies. I would have him bake cookies and do his homework in the kitchen while the cookies baked. He loved it when it first started, but slowly he grew to hate it when it was a chore, rather than something fun. I hope making him do that baking doesn’t make him hate to cook or bake all his life.
I am a list maker. It’s part of my DNA. And I always made lists for my family too. I understand now how much they resented those lists, and if I could go back and do that differently I would. I wish I had been a little more spontaneous, tore up those lists from time to time and just had a water fight, sang karaoke or laid in the grass and gazed at the stars with my kids. I didn’t do that enough.
We did a lot of things right as parents. We made eating dinner together a high priority and continued that all through high school as much as possible. I really believed that was an important time for us to be together as a family and share things. Even though there were many dinners when the question “what did you do today?” was met with a mumbled “nuttin”.
We watched movies together, both in the theatre and on video, all the time. It was a good cuddle time. I remember our youngest always asking if he could give me a foot massage while we watched TV together. He wanted a nickel. That cracks me up now. I loved those foot massages.
We sang in the car. We sang loud and long, particularly on many long road trips we took. I knew every Disney tune ever written and many more. When I hear these tunes today, I am transported back to my car with two little ones singing in their car seats in the backseat. I have no doubt my kids will sing with their kids. I have no doubt.
Our oldest son built a tree house when he was maybe eight. He had a lot of fun in that tree house, which included a classic sign that said “No Girls Allowed”. Which is actually funny because my oldest son was always a hit with the girls, starting pretty early in school. I think that sign really meant “Mom keep out”.
Birthdays were national holidays in our house, and still are. No matter the day of the week, every birthday morning included breakfast in bed, with all the other three family members bringing the breakfast in and singing happy birthday. Birthday’s were special and important. We made sure of it – the one day that was truly yours.
We made reading at night a top priority. This was a time my husband spent each night with the kids, while I finished chores or had quiet time. My kids enjoyed classic novels from Narnia to Little House on the Prairie and so many more. We all devoured Harry Potter and found lots of great time to discuss these awesome works of literature.
Despite the job that I earned a paycheck for, I realized pretty early on in my Motherhood career that my most important job was to be an advocate for my children. It only took one experience where one of my children was treated unjustly at school that I realized no one was going to be watching out for my kids like me. From that day forward it was always my priority to be sure they were getting everything available to them in school, sports and anywhere else. It was my job to see to it.
For our oldest son, the best thing we ever did was put him on a budget. This child loved to spend money, money which wasn’t his. So when he was in eighth grade we set up a special contract with him with goals and expectations and in return we provided him $170 a month. This money had to cover everything he did from buying school clothes to going on a date to buying a Nintendo. He learned quickly the value of money, learned to prioritize and budget, and learned he needed to get a job. It was a difficult lesson for all of us at times, but by far the most valuable thing we could have ever done for him.
Many days I wondered if working and being away from my children and their needs all day was the right thing. We had great daycare providers, particularly when they were little. And I am so incredibly grateful for that, because the reality is my children are who they are BECAUSE I was a working Mom. They are highly capable and confident. Working together as a family around the house helped give them a strong work ethic, probably the thing I admire most in both of them. Because I worked, our family had extra money that we enjoyed by traveling around the world. We skied and snowboarded, hiked and camped, and when the time came, both kids enjoyed the college of their choice. Some of these things may have been different had I not worked. And particularly with the travel opportunities they have experienced (Africa, Europe, South Pacific, Asia and 49 states) my children are tolerant, accepting and interested in cultures much different than their own.
I am far from a perfect human. And certainly not a perfect Mom. But somewhere along the way, my husband and I created some pretty close to perfect men. As we move ahead I have such a sense of excitement about their future, and finding where we fit in each of their individual lives. They are my pride and joy. There is absolutely nothing that is so rewarding as enjoying these two young men.
Dane and Erik – Thanks for letting me be your Mom.