Raise Them Up

When I was pregnant with my son, I was absolutely convinced I was going to have a girl. I was going to name her Sarah Marie, and I believed that she would have red hair (like my husband before he went gray) and green eyes.  I was so sure of all this that I was actually shocked when the doctor put my son in my arms for the first time and said, “Congratulations, it’s a boy!”  Not disappointed, mind you…I loved my son completely and absolutely from the moment he was born….but definitely surprised.  And as I rocked my newborn son, a little part of me said good-by to Sarah Marie.

Honestly, that incident should have prepared me for what parenting is really all about.

As parents, we try so hard to make the right decisions for our children; to steer them onto the paths we think they should take and to instill our values and our knowledge in them.  And that’s as it should be.  But sometimes when we do that, I think we also make the mistake of thinking that our children will turn out to be exactly who we shaped them to be, and that they will always share our interests and always do things just the way we taught them.   But they rarely, if ever, follow exactly in our footsteps and sometimes set off on paths we never even imagined.  And that’s as it should be, too.

As a writer, I was thrilled when my son began writing stories for fun when he was about ten years old.  He was very good at it.  On some level, I suppose I even hoped he might grow up to have the commercially successful writing career that had eluded me.  But eventually he stopped writing those stories, preferring to spend his time playing sports and video games.  I remember being disappointed at the amount of time he would spend in front a computer when he could, in my opinion, be doing much more productive things.

And you know what?  That same son is now working happily and successfully in the field of technology.  He may not have taken the path I had envisioned for him, but he followed his own heart and found the path that was right for him.

Ann's photo 4

Neither my son or daughter turned out exactly the way I had pictured, and neither share every single one of my values and interests.  Instead, they did exactly what they were supposed to do and used the love, experience and knowledge they were raised with as a foundation upon which to build their own lives.  They are changing and evolving into exactly the persons they were meant to be.

My son surprised me, all those years ago in the delivery room, by turning out to be a bit different from what I had expected.  Honestly, both he and his sister still surprise me now and then.  And as their mother, I wouldn’t have it any other way…..

One More Try?

My husband and I have been official empty-nesters for almost three years now, and it’s been nine years since we’ve had both of our kids living at home full time, so I’ve had plenty of time to get used to the idea that both my son and daughter are grown up and out on their own.  But planning my daughter’s wedding really drives home the fact that my kids are now bonafide, independent adults, so I suppose it’s only natural that lately I’ve found myself spending a lot of time reminiscing about the years I spent raising them.  I know I was the best parent I knew how to be, and I’m more than happy with the way my son and daughter turned out, but that doesn’t mean I don’t look back and find a lot of places where I wish I had done things differently.

I wish I was more patient when they were young, both my myself as I was learning what it meant to be a parent, as well as with my children.  I wish I had spent less time and energy trying to make sure everything was “just right,” and more time being spontaneous and accepting of the hectic, messy and joyous reality that small children bring.  I would like to be more certain that I didn’t let my frustrations with other areas of my life (too many rejection slips from the editors I sent my manuscripts to with such hope; too much turmoil and too many pay cuts with my husband’s job at the time) effect the way I treated my children, making me more demanding and impatient that I should have been.

Martha & DanielI would have liked to have spent less time worrying about the small stuff:  why my daughter barely talked she was a toddler (she’s been making up for that one ever since); whether my son would ever gain enough weight that his pants would quit slipping down over his hips (that was before “sagging” became a fashion statement); whether they were keeping up with the other kids in terms of their skills and abilities.   And when they were older, I wish I hadn’t taken it quite so personally when the world wasn’t always kind to them, and they didn’t make a sports team, or a former best friend suddenly dropped them, or they didn’t get a good grade on a project they worked so hard on.  It’s never easy for kids to learn that life isn’t always good or fair, but I’m afraid that I made it much worse when they had to deal with my disappointment as well as their own.

In short, what I’d really like is a “do over” for the times that I wasn’t as good of a mother as I wanted to be.  And of course I know I can’t have one, and that regretting the past is mostly a waste of time that benefits no one.  The most I can do at this point is to stop longing for a non-existent “do over” and simply resolve to try to “do better” from here on.  I may not be able to erase my past mistakes, parenting or otherwise, but I can learn from them and use them to help me become the kind of mother, and person, that I really want to be.   I may not get to have a “do over,” but I do have, and will always have, the chance to do better.