A day at the park. A day watching 150 first graders crawl, run, shimmy over equipment. Your eyes never stop scanning. Your heart never stops praying that no one breaks an arm. And a symphony of teacher voices churn, “Please don’t crawl on the outside of the slide. Don’t blow bubbles in someone’s face. Get out of the ants! Pick up your own trash when you drop it. Please be nice and play with everyone. If you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. Have a seat under that tree until you can control yourself.”
I watch the kids as they play. I study how some play with everyone while others are loners. Even the loners have fun and smile. They all play well, relishing the freedom of being out of the classroom for the day. They relish the freedom of being out from under my hovering thumb.
I study these children knowing some are neglected, some are spoiled beyond anything that’s healthy or normal. I see little faces that have no problem being alone because that’s all they know, and then there are others that need my reassurance from time to time. Too much freedom leaves them feeling detached and disconnected. They run up for a hug and then are back off into the fray.
I see my own children in the mix, my two babies who are no longer babies, who are now young adults. I wonder as I study the needy and spoiled…did I do that to my own? Did I cripple them? Make them believe they were the only children on the planet? Or were my children the ones who ran with unabandoned freedom over every square inch of the park? Were my children the ones who played nicely, including others, or were mine the loners who needed only nature and a swing as their friend?
Raising people is the hardest job on Earth. Every parent knows this. Raising a child is scary and tough and full of so many ways to screw up another human. During my tenure in teaching, I’ve met every kind of parent there is…the smothers who watch every second, the disconnected who use electronics as babysitters, the neglectful, the devoted, the ‘I’m doing my best but this hard…can you help me?’
I’ve seen glimpses of myself in all of them. Every parent, even the best or the worst parent, can fall into or climb out of each scenario. It’s a given that we’re all going to fail at times, but it’s also a given that we all have the capability to stand back up and keep on loving our children even when we’re tired, or mad at them, or when our hearts hurt so bad we think we can’t do another day of this thing called child rearing.
A wise woman told me once…never give up, never quit loving your kids, never think this moment in time will define them for the rest of their lives. So I’ve never given up, and I try not to spoil too much, I try to show them that this world is a huge, wonderful place and they are not the center of that world. I try to teach them to be kind, to be fair.
But still…I look at the little ones swarming the park like ants and I can’t help but wonder…did I do all I could? What could I have done to stop the mistakes? But then those mistakes are life, those mistakes remind me that the world is not all about me and my comfort. I am a mother, and being a mother is hard. I will keep on being a mother until my last breath because for good, bad or ugly, that’s what a mother is supposed to do.
To my children…I will never stay out of your business, not really. I will love you no matter what, even if I have to kick your bootie while I’m doing it. I will never give up on you, even when I’m mad and my heart hurts. I’m sorry for the screw-ups and unfortunately, I’ll probably screw up again. But most of all, I will never quit praying for you. I will pray every day for guidance, for you to find your path in this world, for you to yearn for God as He yearns for you.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms in the world, to all the dads and grannys and aunts who are filling that role. Happy Mother’s Day to my mothers in heaven…you all are missed every single day.
Mother’s Day 1999