My children are all very different from one another. To the point that I know there are people who believe they cannot really be related. There are days I could believe that. And as a result, the way in which I love them is all very different. Let me explain:
Shelby– I could tell Shelby I loved her until the cows come home, but that is not going to get through. Words fail at the true expression of love for my Shelby girl. But touch does not. And not just any kind of touch. Shelby needs deep, lengthy hugs and squeezes. And she needs tickles and back scratches. But she also needs prolonged silences staring deeply into her rich brown eyes. Moments when I wish I could understand what she sees when she sees me. But moments too when I know she knows I am her mother, that I loved her before she was conceived and that I would never love her any less than I do now, but I hope to love her more.
Joey– My mother sings. My mother is a good singer. A great singer. She’s a cantor and sings in the choir. I have no voice. I don’t even have a full octave of range. But I try. Every night Joey begs me to sing him ten songs. Always ten. Not operatic arias. Not even deep meaningful songs, but any songs in my struggling semi-alto. TV theme songs. Commercial jingles. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds. (sing it like Jamaican, mama). I hate the sound of my voice speaking so the sound of it singing is akin to nails on chalkboard. But I sing with all I have. I sing to tell him, I love him and would never trade his pale, freckled skin, blond hair or ocean blue eyes for all the tea in China or the lost treasures of Atlantis.
Will– Perhaps the child I understand best of all my children. He begs to sit in my lap and snuggle his brown curls naturally highlighted with blond streaks under my neck. His ear resting close enough to hear my heart. He sighs. Then suddenly says, “I love you too, Mama.” Love, to him, is simple. It is not fraught with huge tasks, or elaborate displays. It is only the needing of a look, a few words, a closeness.
I have been pondering after reading this, just how it is that I mother my children. Are the moments we have filled with love or filled with my worry over if my failure at baby-wearing three-times in a row has made my children anti-social? I have been able to let go of many of the consuming worries for Shelby’s future, but what about my boys? What happens to them if I am constantly grooming them for some presumed future event forgetting that right now is just as important?
There is a quote from one of my favorite moves, Dazed and Confused (no comments from the peanut gallery) where the character of Cynthia (played by Marisa Ribisi) says, “…if we are all gonna die anyway shouldn’t we be enjoying ourselves now? You know, I’d like to quit thinking of the present, like right now, as some minor insignificant preamble to something else.” And while in the movie she is referring to drinking and partying, I have found that quote echoed in my parenting. Shouldn’t I be enjoying Joey’s mirror writing now, not freaking out about it not “correcting itself” by the time he gets to kindergarten? Why am I rushing so much about little things that, in the end, will not matter even a little bit?
And then I think, do my children know I love them? How do they know? How I show it? After all, love is not something we say but something we do and am I doing it right by them? And I go to watch them sleep and look at them amazed that six years ago, none of them were here. There was just Jeff and I. Then one by one they grew in my body and were born and I nursed them. They were babies ( a fact that all three find very amusing). But now, they aren’t. And now that they are older, now that they remember, will they remember the mother that loved them or the mother that worried whether she fed them pop-tarts too much? When I stand before God will I say, “Lord I did everything I could to love and protect my children and teach them Your ways?” or “Lord, I took them to mass, we said grace, received sacraments and I broke my back to get them into good colleges?”
Upon reading the same article I linked to above, Jeff said it reminded him of the words of former Nascar driver Kyle Petty on the loss of his son, Adam, in a wreck in a practice for a race. Kyle’s words were, “We look at it as we were blessed with nineteen years.” And in the end, that is all God blesses us with. Right now with our kids. In the blink of an eye, it could all be gone. So, no, I don’t care what the old lady who sees me carrying my two-year-old says about that child ought to be walking…he does most of the time, but I won’t be able to hold him that close much longer. Embrace them now, love them now and let God worry about tomorrow.