Raising kids is not a walk in the park. They keep you young, they keep you humble — and they call you on your crap.
“A hundred years from now it won’t matter what sort of house I lived in, or kind of car I drove but, the world may be different because I was important to the life of a child.”
Between escalating birthdays and widowhood, I reflect on a lot these days on both the meaning — and brevity of life. The noisy, giggling, sibling rivalry days inherent in raising small children that seemed never ending — but did. The torch passed and now those babies are parental units themselves, running on the same relentless parental hamster wheel of schedules, homework, errands and laundry that once filled my days.
Looking back, though, there is nothing I wouldn’t do to be smack in the middle of those worrywart, race-against-the-clock days, and the babies who inhabited them. The days you lug oranges to soccer games, cupcakes to birthday parties and stayed up nights sewing Halloween costumes end. And suddenly, you’re crying at graduations, toasting an engagement and in the blink of an eye, another generation is on the way. You pass the baton. Long feverish nights, endless science projects, little league games and wee hours of waiting for cars to pull in driveways are now in your adult babies’ hands.
Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see. Neil Postman
Children change our lives. They toss them in a hectic blender of love, worry and crazy, then rearrange them incredulously inside people who become adults themselves. Like many in my generation, I was barely 21 when I had my first child. I dove headfirst into cribs and spit up baby food with no nostalgia about lost single days of island hopping, because there was none. Today’s moms trade successful careers, first single apartments and free wheeling travel memories for marriage and child-raising. They bring life experience, and a taste of fulfillment to their babies while others like me bring still young(ish) enthusiasm and a reasonable amount of energy to race lively grandchildren. Standing on the flip side of motherhood, I can totally appreciate both sides of that same coin.
From the minute those squalling little bodies are placed in our arms, our lives are never the same. As they grow, we will do every crazy, exhausting thing we can to try to keep those nuggets safe, healthy and happy. I remember when I, and my neighbor/best bud, went on a no-nitrate, no additive ban, convinced we would rule as health-conscious moms. Unfortunately, boycotting hot dogs, Wonder Bread, and bologna demoted us to the bottom rung of our kids’ food hit parade. Though still suspicious of Marshmallow fluff and Taylor ham, we eventually sold out to hot dogs, but, to our credit, they were turkey so…
Today, threats to children’s well being loom larger than nitrate filled luncheon meat. As the type grandparent who endlessly clips random articles about GMOs, guns, and social media bullying, everything, short of a zombie apocalypse, seems like a possible threat.
Children are not things to be molded but people to be unfolded. Jess Lair
Kids keep you young; they also keep you humble. Leave it to your kid to call you on your crap. They will let you know when you’re boring, when your sense of fashion is ‘so yesterday’ and when saying things like ‘supper’ instead of ‘dinner’ marks you as, well, old. They make you laugh more than you thought possible, and cry in equal measure. They make us see patience we don’t have, how quiet a house once was and who we should be, to be worthy of them.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, they belong not to you.
As much as I’ve lost in this life, I’ve also been gifted in abundance with next generation sprouts. Twenty eight years ago, my first grandbaby ebulliently burst into this world. Through the years, I tied her skates and ballet slippers, let her sweet-talk me into bringing meatball sandwiches for high school lunches and drove her to an abundance of community theater rehearsals. She’s made me laugh, worry, cry — and proud. A year ago, that beautiful grandgirl got married; graduating my daughter to mother of the bride and sealing three generations together in the circle of life.
Looking at young grandboys’ missing baby teeth and ridiculous energy, it’s hard not to envision my own young son. Was it that long ago that my now goateed, handsome adult boy dragged home frogs that became bizarre cadavers discovered behind my washer and couch? It seemed like yesterday, I helped him earnestly construct his Pinewood Derby car, yet now he proudly shows me his own kidlets’ finely sanded painted racers.
On the other side of parenting, we’d like to assure our offspring, up to their eyeballs in chaotic childraising, that it will all be okay, that they will be okay. Of course that won’t stop them from worrying. As long as you’re a parent, you’re stuck with that one. But, to remind them, that this time next year, next month, even next week the right teacher, marks or choice of fashion statement will not be important. If we could reassure them that, even if their house could qualify for a Hazmat inspection list, that too will pass. And, when it does, they’ll actually miss the mess. I promise.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
I’ve replayed in my mind those timeless poetry lines of Gibran a million times over the years. They become even better in hindsight, when nighttime feedings and early morning carpooling are in the rear view mirror. The words resonate their innate truths, that like the cycles of nature, life also goes from budded green to its ultimate autumn. The sprouted souls before us truly do ‘dwell in the house of tomorrow’. We will neither see nor know their future selves.
From the back side of life, we can accept that whatever mistakes we’ve made or good we didn’t impart, our children will turn out okay. Damned okay. They will end up as they were meant to, with their own lives, thoughts, and destinies and we’re just along for the ride to bear witness.
Raising kids is not a walk in the park. It’s the greatest responsibility, experience, wild ride, blessing and priceless privilege ever. If we’re really, really lucky we get to see that precious life circle continue in a brand new set of wondrous little people. And the best part? Now, when these delicious little beings get us tired, worried or crazed, we lovingly hand them over to the kid-dults who made them.
And we go home. Win. win.
To my original three nuggets,
“If I had to choose between loving you and breathing, I’d use my last breath to tell you . . . I love you”