All week, I wrote bits and pieces of this letter in my head. It started out as a typical Mother's Day letter idea...a thank you note for all that you've done for me.
About 15, even 10 years ago, maybe 5 years ago, it would have been just that.
But lately, as I've seen my children slowly but surely reach that middle part of childhood and the teenage years, my thoughts have changed in regards to my role as mother. What I've always heard has become hard reality...something I pushed back into my mind.
I am raising these children to LEAVE me.
My responsibility isn't just to keep them clean and dry and fed anymore...oh, boy, that's the easy part!
But now that hard reality...that game changer...that letting go, the "learning the hard way" part...those HARD teaching moments have begun. Teaching responsibility, natural consequences...so hard to watch, OWNING their lives...slowly but surely, letting go. Knowing when to shut up, knowing when to let the pieces fall where they may, and watching them put them back together...and hopefully hear that "click" in their mind...oh, I strive for that "click".
More than ever what I appreciate about the way you raised me is what you didn't give me. Because now I know, the giving is the easy part. The giving, as a parent, comes natural to most.
It's the holding back, it's the NOT giving...that's the hard stuff.
So this Mother's Day I'm going to thank you for what you didn't give me:
I know what you will say, "Well, we couldn't have if we wanted to." But you know that's not true, really. You chose to spend your money on education, not on material things. You knew that things come and go, and given easily, are not appreciated, but knowledge, the love of learning...your high standards for our education was worth more than any toy, any designer clothing, any extra-curricular, ANYTHING. Oh, I remember looking with envy as a child at some of my friend's stash of dolls, endless dance classes, and as I hit the teenage years, clothes and shoes, and even older, financial help. But now I look back at your choices and I'm so thankful. If you did make a purchase, the simple gifts we got for birthday's and Christmas's, you never chose quantity over quality...less is more, tastefully simple...classy is the word that comes to mind. I learned to live on less when I had too, to appreciate the beautiful things in life when I could, but always, always, that less is more.
I don't remember you actually playing with me, but I remember your constant presence . I have a great memory of you sitting up in the boy's room (when it has orange and brown soldier wallpaper) and cutting out paper dolls for me. I remember it because it was bedtime and I begged for it...and it was shocking to me that you said, "Oh alright, then it's time for bed." We were not "entertained" children, that's for sure. You supplied the crayons and the paper, the paints and coloring books, and 3 acres of trees, plants, rocks, grass, ponds and streams. The books too, and of course a few toys. And that was it. I was free to do as I pleased, but I had to think it up with my own brain. I wrote, I read, I drew, I played, I imagined, I dreamt, I contemplated, I exercised my body and my mind because you gave me little other option. What a gift!
3. Your Constant Presence.
Of course you were always available to me, but as I grew, you let me go, little bits at a time. I think now, this would be called negligent parenting, and that makes me laugh! For instance, you didn't go to my cross country games or basketball games or track meets. GASP! I ran, played, competed for ME. You weren't proud of me for winning, or disappointed in me for losing. I didn't run faster because you cheered, I ran faster because I wanted to.
I hardly ever remember you giving me advice. I could count on one hand. Even when asked. I look around now and see girls, WOMEN, who can hardly function without their mother a cell phone's reach away. I laugh when I think of what you would say if I called you from a store and asked, "Should I buy it in brown or black?" You taught me to make decisions on my own confidently, big or small.
5. An Easy Way Out.
I think you eschewed a common trend in parenting today to make everything easier for the child. It's so hard not too, I know that for sure! You saw the growth in struggling, and the reward of hard work. You gave us jobs: I hauled fire wood on snowy evenings after school, and worked for my spending money from seventh grade on. If I had the hard teacher and the mean coach and you didn't march in and demand something better for me. You let me dig my holes in life, and watched me dig out too. Life isn't easy was the message all the time. Be prepared for hard work and struggles. It builds endurance, resiliency and character and you knew this.
Thank you Mom, for what you didn't give me.
Thank you for holding back, for shutting up, for not stepping in.
For biting your tongue and sometimes probably, walking away.
For making the hard choices and waiting, most likely with baited breath, and lots of heated prayer, to see how I would grow from them.
To not being selfish in wanting to keep me young, to keep control, to keep parenting but having the courage to let go and trust.
For always keeping in mind the purpose of a mother...to work yourself out of a job.
I love you,