Kenny Chesney told me not to, but I did it anyway.
And now, as I look at my life, I think of the overused rote Facebook aphorism, “Where did the time go?”
I’m not the wisest person in the world, but as they say, with age comes wisdom. I definitely have the age, and I’m hoping I have gained some wisdom, or at least the perspective, to review my life and find meaning and purpose.
I was never the mom who wanted “time to stand still.” I looked forward to my children reaching new milestones. No doubt, babyhood is a precious time–a time when you can hold your child tightly and get all the snuggles. A time when your children rely on you for their very existence. A time when you are needed.
While some of my sweetest memories of motherhood are of me simply holding my babies, those days were exhausting. I have never once wanted to go back to that time. As I have aged, my memory has glossed over the endless days of diaper-changing, feedings, and sleepless nights.
For me, the ultimate goal/reward was in the raising: taking them to church and teaching them about Jesus. Preparing them to go to Kindergarten. Teaching them to share and always use their manners. Embracing the look of awe and wonder when they discovered something new—an idea, a concept, a fact. Experiencing life, both good and bad, realizing that it’s in the mistakes where we learn the greatest lessons. Praying daily that they would grow up to be good and kind upstanding citizens.
When I think back on my life as a mother, I had it easy. I didn’t endure the pressures that mothers have today. Facebook wasn’t causing me to question my worth or inciting a need for approval. My phone wasn’t buzzing all the time with notifications, texts, and calls. (Maybe that’s because all we had was a land line). Friendships took time and effort to cultivate and grow. Receiving a card or letter in the mail was a big deal. Unexpected calls and conversations from high school or college friends were an extra treat.
It was a simpler time. I didn’t spend free time scrolling through my news feed on all the social media platforms, wishing my dinners looked as amazing as those posted online. I wasn’t inundated by “influencers,” who tell the world how they should dress, raise children, clean the house, put on makeup. Pinterest wasn’t available to inspire me to make the most awesome treats for my child’s homeroom class, or adorable and creative gifts for their teachers. Over-the-top parties and big productions were few and far between. Not everyone received a trophy or a ribbon, and championship rings were rare.
Although I hoped only good things would come for my children, I didn’t control the narrative, or protect them from the slings and arrows that life might throw their way. Maybe I was a slacker mom, or maybe I was just busy juggling life as a mother, teacher, counselor, and coach’s wife. I trusted their teachers, and the few times (three) that I had questions about situations, I approached it respectfully, always cognizant of the fact that there are two sides to every story, and that my kids weren’t perfect.
Brian and I believed it was our responsibility to raise responsible individuals, and we tried to teach our children at an early age to be independent. Our end-game was to prepare our sons to stand on their own, make good choices, and become problem-solvers.
If you think I’m touting myself as a candidate for Mother-of-the-Year, you couldn’t be more wrong. I have failed in epic proportions too many times to recall.
Here are a few of my blunders:
When Christopher was in kindergarten, the day I was to bring snacks fell on Homecoming, which in a small school is a really big deal for all students in the district. I thought it would be “super great” to make cupcakes with Columbia blue frosting in support of our team. The good thing is the teacher had no problem keeping up with her class—they were easily identified by their Columbia blue stained mouths. The bad news is they were easily identified by their Columbia blue stained mouths.
One morning we were running late, and I asked Charles to go to the refrigerator in the garage to get a Juice box for his lunch. I had no idea that sneaky Charles grabbed a Coke instead. That afternoon, Charles came home and handed me a full-page-typed-lecture stating why I shouldn’t send caffeinated drinks to school with my child. This was the equivalent of having my color changed.
When Charles was in Junior High, I forgot to send his money to go on the trip to Six Flags. He thought it had been taken care of (even though I never saw a permission form and information about the trip). On the day of the trip, the principal (who was a friend of mine) called and said Charles was lined up ready to go, but he hadn’t paid, nor was there a permission form. I was so embarrassed. I apologized and the principal told me he wanted Charles to get to go, so he covered the cost. That afternoon, I dropped a check in his mailbox reimbursing him. along with a note thanking him for allowing Charles to go.
One day I popped off in the teachers’ lounge that if the football team went to the playoffs, I would dress up in a cheerleader uniform and do a skit impersonating the Spartan cheerleaders from Saturday Night Live. I didn’t think it would happen, (oh ye of little faith). Our team advanced to the playoffs and the government teacher (who was a great sport) and I did the skit. Like most small schools, K-12 attended the pep rallies, so my boys were in attendance…
That was the first time I publicly embarrassed my children. When I picked them up after school, the first words they uttered were, “That was just embarrassing.”
For the life of me, I can’t remember the details, but Christopher missed being in the senior class picture. Don’t worry, they photoshopped him in, making it a great story to share throughout the years. To him, it wasn’t something he could change, so why be upset? One of the best things about Chris is he never sweats the small stuff.
There are probably a million more stories about missing birthday parties (not my kids’), being late, missing deadlines, and other parental missteps. With each mistake, a lesson was taught and learned by me as well as the boys. I never strived to be a perfect parent. There’s no such thing. But I always tried to do my best.
Since the beginning of time, parents have struggled to do it all. The more things change, though, the more they stay the same. Children grow up. They survive braces, and broken hearts. They hit the game-winning shot, or foul out. They graduate (sometimes as many as five times if you count Kindergarten, Intermediate, Jr. High, High School, and College).
And children leave home.
We’ve experienced the empty nest several times. The boys graduated from high school, went to college, graduated, and started jobs. Each time they moved to the next phase, we celebrated. It was a big deal. There were balloons, cake and punch, and sometimes, fajitas or brisket. Photos were arranged on the table, with decorations scattered around–nothing worthy of posting on Pinterest or Facebook, but it was enough. Friends gathered around to wish them well on the next step of their journey.
When both boys were out of the house, it was time for mom and dad (Sharon and Brian) to relax. To buy new furniture to replace the old that was passed on to life in an apartment inhabited by four guys, and returned in less than stellar condition. It was time to travel, rest, renew and refresh. To change the wall color, to plant new flowers. To sing and dance joyfully, skipping down the driveway, rejoicing, “It’s happened! We did it! We raised our kids and they survived!” We thanked God for His blessings and prayed for their protection as they moved out, and moved on. We were now ready for the easy part of parenting. We had done our job.
Well, folks, let me tell you. The older your children get, the more difficult it is to be a parent. There is a constant struggle to straddle the line between too much advice, or not enough. Should we tell them our way would be easier? Do we step in when we feel they might need our guidance?
You see, those little babies are adults, and now have lives of their own, even if we still see them wearing their new school shoes and backpack, ready to start first grade. Our roles have changed. We must respect their decisions and the way they do things. Being a control freak, this is difficult for me. And even more difficult than my need for control, is my inability to keep my mouth shut at times.
Charles and his family moved back to Tyler at the end of last summer. While waiting for their house to sell, they have lived with us. It has been a special, wonderful, amazing, and somewhat stressful time. We have been eyewitnesses to our grandchildren growing and developing into amazing little humans. How lucky we have been to have a front row seat, watching them reach new milestones. Words can’t express the love we have for Cooper and Harper. Grandparenting is a whole new ballgame.
But now, it’s time for them to go. To flap their wings and fly away.
Charles and Kaitlyn sold their house in San Antonio and are in the process of buying a house. We only have a few weeks left with them under our roof. We know it’s time for it to happen. It needs to happen. We weren’t meant for this extended, generational set-up. But it was great, and special.
Like all the times before, it will be hard to say goodbye. We celebrate, as they will only be thirty minutes away (instead of the six hours we had to travel to San Antonio). They will live in a lovely neighborhood filled with young couples and kids. Life as it should be.
During our time as an extended family, I’ve learned much about myself and my ability (inability) to embrace change, relinquish control, keep my mouth shut, and let things go. The results of my self-assessment don’t put me in the greatest light. There are things I definitely need to improve upon.
The biggest and greatest lesson I’ve learned in this season of transition is to live in each moment. To embrace the good and the bad. To not wish my life away, waiting to get to the next big thing. Sure, I’ll remember a year filled with birthday parties, holidays, and basketball, but the sweetest and best things weren’t planned or orchestrated: Seeing Harper walk for the first time. Cheering on Cooper as he raced his Little Tikes car down the hill. Watching them swing and go down the slide. Hearing “Mrs. Rachel” in the background, teaching them not only words, but also sign language which they use to communicate (so adorable). It’s been amazing to soak in these moments and take pride in how eager and hungry they are to learn. They are little sponges, absorbing everything around them.
We’ve cherished our time with Charles and Kaitlyn, as well. I was spoiled by Charles surprising me with a “coke sandwich” from time to time (the perfect mix of coke, diet coke, and coke, layered in a fountain drink). It was pure bliss to come home to the enticing aroma of Kaitlyn’s culinary masterpiece–gluten-free banana bread. Utterly delicious! Life at Camp Keith was never dull. Chaotic, maybe, but never dull.
As our time together comes to an end, I will seek forgiveness for my idiosyncratic ways: insisting the pillows on the couch should be arranged a certain way with the design on them pointing up, not down. Handing out coasters whenever a glass was set on the table, coffee table, or lamp table. Leaving notes and reminders taped to mirrors or the refrigerator. Soliciting unwanted/un-needed advice.
Mothers never stop mothering. We always want the best for our children. We want life to treat them fairly. We hope the world will be kind.
For them, we want “all the things.” (Job 42:4, Matthew 19:26, Mark 9:23, Mark 10:27, Romans 8:28, Philippians 4:13)
I am so very proud of my children. Chris, who has started a new career in Houston, is the kindest, most loyal person I know. He is a wonderful uncle, and is crazy about his nephew and niece, and his dog Ace. Chris is the friend you always want to have.
As well as being outstanding individuals, Charles and Kaitlyn are great parents and love their children with their whole heart and soul.
Parenting is hard, but in the words of Merle Haggard, “Mama tried,” and so did Dad. And when we failed, or came up short, got on their nerves, or in their business, we were always driven by the enormous and immense love we have for them.
God has indeed blessed our family. We understand it didn’t happen by chance. We didn’t just get lucky. We put in the work, and so did they.
To all you parents out there, you’re going to blink. Life will go faster than you want it to…
But you can’t stop time. There’s no way to slow it down (unless you’re a teacher waiting for summer, and the days seem never-ending).
Stop looking at your watch, the time on your phone, and the clock on the wall.
“Don’t wish away your days, waiting for better ones ahead.
The grand and the simple.
They are equally wonderful.”
– Marjorie Pay Hinkley
Embrace each day, and enjoy the ordinary moments, because that’s where you’ll find the most extraordinary things.