FOCUS: If you could choose five things your children would say when they are grown, about you in their childhood, what would they be? If you could only make four of those statement happen, which one would you discard? If you could only ensure three of the statements…? Do this until you have one statement – if you could choose one statement that you hope your children will make about their childhood, what would it be? What is one thing you can do this week to support that statement?
And here is my response.
1. Mom used to freak out and do shitty things when we first came home, but then she got some counseling, started taking anti depressants, learned how to control herself, and mellowed out a bunch, thus showing me that people can change, that she loved us enough to change, and that counseling might be a good thing to try if I feel like I'm messing up my life.
2. I always knew how much she loved me.
3. She really listened to me.
4. I learned so many good and useful things from her, even when she wasn’t trying to teach me directly.
5. My life long love of both reading and the outdoors come from her.
I didn’t have to go through the crossing out exercise—it was obvious which one is most important to me. (Well, the first one is pretty important too, but it seems to be a subpoint of the main idea.) To know you are loved--isn't that what we all need from our parents? It smooths over so much messiness and human error. It sets you up to love others, and to differentiate between actual love and any false copies you are offered.
And let's be honest--I'm hoping that if they can just understand that I love them, they will be able to forgive me for the rest of it. The "being human" part, and the "things I'm ashamed of" part, and the "things I never even realized I was doing wrong" part and the "things I should have done instead" part. The absolute certainty that my parents loved me sure helped me deal with the mistakes they made.
So what can I do to make sure they know? One thing I’d like to focus on this week is greetings. Me coming home. Them coming home. When they walk into the room I'm in. Whenever and however we come together after separation, I want them to see me light up. I know what a gift it was for me as a grown woman, knowing that my parents still lit up whenever they saw me. It's one of the sorrows of them dying. Nobody, not even my husband, sisters, or kids, can ever respond to me in quite that way. I want my kids to have that same sense that their very existence brings me joy.
Don’t focus on getting my coat hung up first.
Don’t focus on the dishes I’m working on.
Don't wade into the management of the evening or scolding about the mess or getting out of these damn shoes.
Stop everything and let my delight in my children shine directly at them for a moment.
It's tempting to add to this, to plan more bedtime snuggles, and focused attention when they tell me about things like Clash of Clans or 1st grade micropolitics, and asking interesting questions about their day...but I'm still busy banning busy, so I'm not going to overthink or overplan. Just...greetings.
I'm so glad to see you.
Let me give you a hug.
Oh, I've missed you today.
Hey there honey, what can I help you with?
Yay! You're home!
Look who's here!
And running through all of it, like light shining on water:
I love you. I love you. I love you.