I have a confession. I am not a good mother. Ok, I'm not a bad mom. It just doesn't come naturally to me. It's only been in the last few years I've started enjoying being a mom. I mean, I never not enjoyed it - but I never really embraced it. I just did it. I didn't savor it or treasure it, not the way I do now. Not the way I feel now. I was so damn young. And I just didn't know. I didn't have a lot of models on mothering or parenting. I was just trying to get by. Just trying to not lose myself, not screw my kids up and still enjoy life. The older I get the more mothering feels more natural to me. Maybe because I've been a mother longer. Maybe because I'm finally growing up.
I don't regret, not for one second, having my children when I did. But I wish I knew more then. I wish I realized then how very, very quickly it all goes by.
Sometimes now, I feel the urge - this crazy need - to make up for lost time. To compensate for those years I wasn't fully immersed in being their mom. For the years I was too young to know better. Or in school. But I can't, because I'm still not there all the time. I work, full time. I have to. Not in the way that some parents have to - but because I am the only income. Right now, there is not another choice for us. And my kids feel it. My youngest says things like "we don't see you that often". And they don't, because I work till 9 at night. I've done this for almost 5 years now. It breaks my heart, every day.
Sometimes I wonder what I am passing on to my children? What will they remember of home? Of me? Will they remember me always being gone? Or will those memories shape themselves differently over time, like mine of my father? I've talked about this before. But it's a thought that bothers me.
I know I've said before that I can't force memories or force traditions, but that's exactly what I try to do sometimes. I think that's why making food from scratch is so important to me. Underneath everything else, the food politics, the nutrition, the cost the real reason - the most important reason (for me) is that is how I say I love you.
I tell my kids and husband I love them, all the time. I am not stingy with saying I love you. I don't think you can ever say it too much, it should never be held on to or hidden.
But it's not enough to say it. They need to see it, to feel it. And sometimes I don't know how to do that. I read to the kids, that's easy for me. I love books, I love reading. It's easy to share. We go hiking, another easy one. I am not good at getting down and playing though, or chasing around the yard. I have to make conscious efforts to do that. I wish I didn't. I wish it was just how I was. But it's not. Sometimes I actually scold myself, in my head "put down the (book, dishes, laundry, computer etc . . .) and go PLAY with your kids".
I don't think my kids or husband realize it andI didn't realize it until recently, but I show them I love them with food. Not with over feeding them. Not with sweets. Not with showering them with their favorite foods or urging second and third helpings.
But every Saturday when I go to the farmers market. That's me saying I love you. Even when they complain about the vegetables I bring home or lament that they want fast food. Every carton of milk, every head of broccoli, every package of meat, that's my love wrapped in those carefully picked purchases.
Every meal that's left in the crock pot for their dinner while I work and eat leftovers at my desk - that's me saying I love you. I may not be there to eat at the dinner table, but I'm with you. I thought of you, I prepared this food for you.
I may not be home most nights for dinner, but I am there every Friday night over homemade pizza and wings. We don't order out, because that pizza is my I love you. I can't do that with a box of someone elses pizza. My love is wrapped up in that homemade dough, hand shredded cheese and stove simmered sauce.
Years from now, they might not remember how I lacked in playing legos when they were pre-schoolers. Maybe they won't remember (at least not harshly) how I wasn't there after school or for dinner for years. But maybe they'll remember the smell of the crock pot simmering, of homemade sauce. Maybe they'll remember what bread looks like rising on the counter and opening a jar of home preserved peach jam in February. That almost every single night, even when I wasn't there - they had a home cooked meal. They'll remember that I loved them.