Just hung up from a long phone conversation with my middle son and am still trying to collect myself. Tears are streaming down my face and I can barely control the emotional tremors in my chest. I literally am laughing that hard!
My mid-40’s son was reflecting on his childhood when he was about the same age as his daughter who is 8. He recalls an endless series of canoeing, fishing, water-skiing, beach trips, hiking, aquariums, Smithsonian, group snow skiing trips not to mention crafts galore, birthday and pool parties and big family gatherings. He was in awe of my ability to have the foresight to plan and organize a childhood so rich with adventures and activities.
I could barely catch my breath to set him straight and for a moment I pondered if I even should.
I caved — I pulled the green curtain back and let him see that amazing, wizardly (and younger) mom was no more magical than he himself is.
The real magic is how he reflects on those memories and what he values most about his childhood.
You see, I was just like every other mom — past and present — juggling too many things and barely keeping up with most of it. There was rarely advance planning for our spontaneous Sunday outings to the Susquehanna River for fishing or water-skiing, or a hike and picnic in Pequea. If we woke up on the weekend and the sun was shining and dad was off work, we may have decided to ditch the mowing and laundry, strapped the canoe on the roof of the station wagon and headed for the Conestoga River. A quick trip to Turkey Hill for gas and snacks was necessitated of course.
Evidently my son was unaware of the hustle to find lifejackets, coolers and boat cushions in the garage that was always in need of organizing. I recall packing sandwiches in an empty bread wrapper because I was out of waxed paper or plastic baggies. I shut the door to the laundry room so I couldn’t see the piles of wash also needing my attention.
When we got home as the sun was setting, three kids were escorted upstairs for showers and clean clothes while I foraged in the kitchen for something resembling dinner. A load of wash was tossed in as I was enroute to the car to round up the cooler, the trash and the soggy beach towels. Dad was busy washing down the canoe or the boat and leaning the lifejackets and cushions by the garage to dry out.
My hunch is that my children sat around the dinner table delighting in the odd collection of food for dinner, laughing about the antics and adventures of the day, feeling that delightful kind of tired that washes over you from a day of sun, water and exploring. That is what sunk into their memory banks.
Meanwhile, I had a mind full of “to do” lists, the “should have” lists and the “how am I going to catch up” lists?
Today I found myself relieved and grateful that my son did not remember the mom that nearly fell asleep while reading bedtime stories, or the mom who frantically searched for gym clothes on Monday morning, or the mom who lost her patience trying to get three kids out the door to school and herself to work on time.
By the time my son and I finished our conversation today, he too was laughing. Not much has changed but I did have some wisdom to share with him. Seize the moments to be spontaneous and don’t wait for things to be “perfect or just right”. Make the time to sit with your child and talk about what they enjoyed the most on those outings and adventures — let that sink into your own memory banks together. Go easy on yourself as a parent — you are probably scoring higher than you can even imagine in your child’s eyes.
It is indeed a Happy Mother’s Day.