Did I Love You Enough?

One good (or bad) thing about being unemployed is that there is a lot of time for reflection. One being my life and my effect on other innocent lives. Specifically, those who were entrusted to me simply because I was fertile in my childbearing years.

How does one tell if they are “ready” for parenthood? Sounds like one of those $64,000,000 questions, doesn’t it? A lot of us didn’t exactly plan for it. Some didn’t NOT plan for it; kinda denied the law of averages when becoming sexually active. If you like to dance, sooner or later you’re going to have to pay the piper. My Grandma told me that.

I was married quite young and then, while trying to find a birth control method that would work without resultant monstrous headaches or nausea, the stork came calling. I was not upset or disappointed—only fairly petrified of failing this growing, tiny, and helpless human being.

And so, approximately 32 weeks later, along came Ryan, baby boy #1. Well, I wasn’t exactly clueless, in that I had done some babysitting and was the oldest of 5 at home. I had watched Mom taking care of the very youngest of my siblings and specifically remember the lesson of not letting the baby’s face get in the water while in the Bathinette. Change those diapers frequently. Babies need liquid nutrition. Babies like to stay up all night and sleep all day. They prefer to be held and catered to. They are extremely well versed in the language of Cry. That is a language that all new parents learn on the job—there really is no handbook for that one. No repeating after the teacher, as in Spanish class. No Rosetta Stone CDs. And it’s pretty darned amazing to think back on how quickly you pick it up. Which cry means, “I’m just testing your reaction speed.” “I’m thinking about hollering…soon.” “Get this wet, nasty thing off my bottom.” “It’s been an entire three hours since you gave me anything to eat or drink. Did your watch stop?” And even the, “One of those tiny swords you inexplicably put in my diaper has mortally pierced my delicate and undeserving flesh.” You soon learn the difference between a bored cry and a loud, urgent wail for help. Takes about…oh…three sleepless days and nights.

Poor little, innocent Ryan. My guinea pig, so to speak. So far, he’s survived 32-11/12 years. All by the grace of God; don’t I know it!

Six years later, with a little more planning this time, it was David’s turn. David, who came out squalling and I am not kidding! They did not have to suction that one’s mouth! Still, it was a beautiful sound to hear the healthy cry of my youngest child. Just several months earlier, I had delivered one destined to be silent in this world because he or she was just too tiny to survive. The little body fit in the palm of my hand. There was no mistaking that 5-inch little being was a human baby. Scientists and doctors may have called that a “fetus.” If that helps them to deal with the tragedy they see far more often than the rest of us, so be it. To me, that was my lifeless child, and I mourned.  

It took all of about 48 hours to see the differences in babies born to the same mother. Ryan was more “insistent” in his messages. He did not give any warnings before sounding the alarm. He opened his mouth and let the noise soar! I never had to “guess” if I heard him crying. He had awakened after a night’s rest and it was time to eat (half an hour ago)! The nurses had even called my room while I still was in the hospital, immediately following his birth, to ask if they could not bring him to nurse an hour ahead of schedule, since he was fussy and obviously hungry. Ryan was determined to break me in right.

Little brother, David, was a little more forgiving. He would wind up, like a baseball pitcher. A pitcher does not strike out so fast with his pitch that the batter doesn’t see it coming. There’s the whole balancing on one foot act preceding the hurl of the ball, after all. And the stance on the mound and quick check of the bases preceding even that acrobatic pose. A few little hints if you’re paying attention. So David would start out with little, staccato-like grunts. Three or four of those, eventually followed by some stronger “heh-hehs.” If I had not pulled myself out of my lethargy by then, there would be cries akin to the noise the little baby dinosaurs made in Jurassic Park–one syllable and getting louder. If I were feeling especially lazy or just seeing how serious David was, the shriek eventually would be loosened. He had given me more than fair warning, however. Isn’t it crazy what mothers will remember?

I can see my boys shaking their heads, right now. Denying all of it. Thinking it’s just Mom embellishing the facts yet again. Okay, so I’ve embellished now and then. Truthfully, though, not that much. Isn’t it odd that God keeps those memories hidden from the babies (right up through about age 40) but Mom’s brains have no trouble remembering the minute details? An acquired trait, I guess.

I did not work outside the home for more than short stretches when my children were babies. I felt an immense duty to make sure they “imprinted” on their real mother and not some for-hire stand in. God bless the babysitters/nannies of this world—I have been one, myself. You are necessary and important–to sanity and safety. I especially want a shout out to their aunties, who were a true blessing to me (except for that bad language stuff a certain younger sister found highly amusing). I remember looking at those little faces and wondering if I would raise a Hitler or a Gandhi. It was an enormous task and it was intimidating. So, I made sure that I was their primary caregiver for as long as feasible. I felt bad for going to college when David was a little over 2 years old. Sacrifices must be made, at times. One can become a parent after college, which may be a smarter option than the one I chose, as far as finances and emotional maturity are concerned. One also can wait a bit too long, according to some people I know who were late in life “oopsies” and grew up with parents who couldn’t chase them around as much as either the child or the parents would have liked. There also can be that proverbial “generation gap.” In my case, we all grew up together. At least I had the energy, back then. But there will be challenges in any age gap situation, rest assured.

These are my very early parenting memories. But the nagging thought behind this article actually is, “How did I REALLY do?” Parenting magazine has never had me on the cover; nor should they. I made some bone-headed mistakes, for sure. Some dumb decisions, some lost tempers, some impatience.  

Approximately 30 years ago, my grandmother made the remark that people never know how to be really good parents until they’re grandparents. She said the sad part about that is that it’s then too late for your own kids. Guess I’m not alone in the second-guessing department! Not sure how relieved I should be about that.

I wonder what my kids will say about me when I’m gone (and unable to defend myself)? Will they remember only the spankings and none of the hugs and kisses? That thought has tears threatening to spill right now. Will they remember lots of raised voice volume and only a few whispers and giggles? There were times when they were mistakenly blamed and punished, only to be found innocent, eventually. They will not understand the torture that causes my heart until they wake up one day and experience it with their own child. I hope I’m there to counsel them about learning the lesson and forgiving themselves for being far more human than Divine.

I can remember lots of laughing (sometimes so hard that we eventually were shedding tears). Precious touches of a child’s hand on my shoulder or a gentle pat of my face. Of holding them on my lap when they cried their little baby (sometimes older) frustration tears at some injustice. Episodes of Doogie Howser, MD. Of pizzas and ice cream cones. Proud times when they achieved some type of milestone or stuck up for the underdog (or one another, which could be rare). There had been times when I was so worried and heartsick at their choices that I could do nothing other than pour my heart out to Jesus and once again realize that they are loved far beyond what I feel, as their Mom. And curse my own limitations and failings. There have been times when I’ve thought, “Boy that apple did not fall far from the tree.”

It is such a tedious balancing act, most times. To not discipline “enough” could result in raising children who are self-centered, self-absorbed, and societal cripples who think the world owes them something—no, EVERYthing. The kinds of kids who make the headlines and we shake our heads.

And then, sometimes discipline has to take the back seat due to natural, but stiff, consequences. The times when they have to know you love them even when you know you’ve told them a thousand times (and so do they).

It hasn’t been, wasn’t, and never will be, easy to be a parent. Some are not committed to the task at hand. Children are left with other family members or, much worse, left alone. Children having children is nearly an epidemic. Unfortunately, our reproductive organs grow up much quicker than do our minds. All is not lost if you’re a teen parent. You don’t have to act like the ding-dongs you see on television reality shows. If you don’t have family support, there are agencies that will help you to learn as you go. Ask a clergy person, a healthcare professional, or a trained counselor. Just don’t leave your children in the garbage dumpster or by the roadside or in an abandoned building. Hospitals, police stations, and fire stations have pledged to accept babies with no legal consequences to the parents.  

As with most people, my life has not been a “charmed” one. My children did not have the best of things. They did not have the latest gadgets or even the best clothing, at times. Sometimes they did not have two parents in the home. They had a fully human mother who made mistakes.

Ryan and David also have a mother who always did, and continues to, love them. A Mom who still spends much time in prayer over them. Someone whose heart aches when theirs do and rejoices when they are happy. Also, a Mom whose advice flows too freely, sometimes. I hope they know with the best intentions. Not to say that “I did it better.” Exactly the opposite, in most cases; advising how not to follow me in doing it “worse.”

I now am of the age where I’m waiting to become a grandparent. And I hope I am, indeed, GRAND at it! I hope I’ve learned more from my children than they have learned from me. And that little, curious fact of life might continue in their own lives, one day.

Ryan and David, I love you and have from the time I first was informed of your impending arrival. I will love you in the life to come because love is the one thing we are allowed to take with us. I believe the Biblical definition that God is love and there is no love without Him. While I pray for you, I also pray that you will remember more than just the discipline and the disappointments I caused you. Please remember that I never considered giving you up to anyone else to raise, no matter what my own mistakes brought me. Sometimes I wondered if another life would have been better for you…or at least another Mom. Being a parent means often second-guessing your decisions. I needed help along the way, for sure. Special thanks to grandparents, great-grandparents, and those aunties!

There are some Mothers of the Year out there, if we believe the magazines. I’ll be content if my children, now as well as when I’m no longer living, can smile when they think of me and the goofy things we’ve done together. If they can remember more pleasant memories than painful ones. If they truly can believe they were children who were imperfectly, yet passionately, loved by a highly imperfect mother.

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~ by saginawrobin on March 23, 2012.

2 Responses to “Did I Love You Enough?”

  1. I guess you said it for all of us! And very well at that.

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