I watch these children in the video who were saying their first words, who were captivated by presents left from Santa and who were excitedly waiting to blow out candles on their birthday cake. The videos are full of noise, chaos, family and laughter. Lots of laughter.
I find myself mesmerized watching these moments in time wishing I could go back and experience them all over again. I feel like I blinked, and the time passed.
I remember when the kids were little I felt anxious for the chaos to settle down. I felt stressed, tired, overworked, short of patience and guilty. Always feeling guilty. Guilty because in every moment of my children’s lives I wanted to be better. Every day was defined by how I could be the best mom possible. And always feeling guilty because I never felt like I was measuring up to be the mom I wanted to be.
Every decision was made in what I believed to be in their best interest. Sometimes I stumbled and sometimes I made mistakes. Mistakes or not, I tried to parent with good intent and with love…so much love my heart ached at the end of a bad day and overflowed at the end of a good one.
This past Mother’s Day we sat in a circle surrounding our picnic lunch. We went around the circle and listed two favorite things about our mommies and our favorite memory. My kids listed their favorite things about me as my ability to take an awkward or difficult situation and make it funny. They value my sense of humor. They told me they loved my kind heart and how much I have supported them over the years.
While those words of endearment touched my heart, it was their favorite memories of me that surprised me. My son’s favorite memory was of a time I had finished my half marathon and ordered a huge delicious bacon cheeseburger I had been coveting for weeks. Sitting in the backseat of the car, he asked for a bite. When he handed it back to me he had eaten two thirds of the burger. Laughingly, he says to me “You were soooo angry!”
My daughter’s favorite memory was of a time I took her bike riding on the Maple Valley trail. I had packed the bikes into the car and had envisioned this nice little outing with the kids joyfully riding their bikes and me walking by their side. Yet, what unfolded was an afternoon of tears and frustration. I didn’t realize kids aren’t naturally inclined to peddle forward. Their natural instinct is to pedal backwards and put on the brakes. I was overweight, out of shape and sweating profusely as I tried to help my daughter ride her bike. Frustrated I told her if she didn’t start peddling forward I was going to give her bike away. My daughter was crying and I was disappointed. I loaded her bike back into the car and called my own mom who set me straight. Big mommy fail.
How could these possibly be my kid’s favorite memories of me??
I have spent my whole life feeling guilty for moments like this. Memories like the time I threw my daughter’s purple makeup into the garbage as her little blonde curls bobbed behind me while she cried “No mommy! I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.”
Memories of me biting my lower lip so hard it was bruised. Biting my lip so I didn’t lose my marbles and release the frustration that was contained inside me like a raging beast. I never felt patient and yet my daughter told me the other day, “You were so patient.”
I was an imperfect mother. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. I didn’t always feel patient and I didn’t always feel wise. But I always felt love. So much love for my kids that it overflowed from my heart at the end of the day and made me want to be a better mom when I woke up.
My love tucked them in at night, wrapped them up in a warm embrace and made moments I’ve felt guilty for... into their favorite memories.
I have beat myself up for years for my imperfect moments in time. It’s time to let it go. As mothers we were never given manuals. We do our best. We make mistakes and then we try to be better. If we let love, a little laughter and good intentions continue to guide us…. our kids just might be okay.