Tuesday, February 23, 2010

how i love you.

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.


Sara said...

What a wonderful post! You think about these things a lot and I read and go "Oh, yeah!". See, I too don't play with my kids. Oh we wrestle and we do things and I help them clean their rooms, but to play play, I don't usually. Partly the reason I had them so close, I knew a long time ago playing wasn't my skill. You cook to show love, I think I take pictures to show love, to show I was there, to show I am thinking about them.

You rock, Crystal

Marianna said...

Wonderful post! I'm a stay-at-home mom, always have been...however, I'm not the mom that gets down in the floor and plays with my kids. I'm not the mom that plays board games ad infintum with my kids. I used to beat myself up over this, but you know what, I finally realized that while I don't do all those things I do: make sure they have their favorite homemade cake on their birthday, fix them batch after batch of pumpkin muffins for breakfast, bring home books from the library that I know they will enjoy, take them to the nature center that they love going to etc. All this to say, that you, as one who attends to her children in a loving mother are a good mother. You may not be cast in the image of what is, in today's culture, the accepted norm for a "loving" mother, but you are the mother your children were blessed with.

I love this quote I read not long ago: "Availability does not mean being everything to everybody...The availability I'm talking about is...a more profound willingness, in things essential, to be present to others...to carry their deep interests always in your mind, to attend thoughtfully to their genuine needs, and to have the contours of your own heart sketched by the unexpected, inexplicable particularity of each of those persons you have been given to love." Wendy M. Wright

This is what you do when you make sure they eat a heathy diet, read to them, let them see you reading and enjoying a good book etc.

gardenofsimple said...

Marianna - what a wonderful quote! I love it!

I'm glad to hear from you (and Sara!) that I'm not the only one who has a hard time playing with kids. It seems so natural for so many people!

kiki said...

I admire you so much Crystal.
I love this blog - the honesty and vulnerability.

One of my favorite memories of my crazy dysfunctional childhood was that my mother made everything we ate from scratch. There was always food in the house and always something deliciou and nutritious to eat and I knew it meant I love you.

I still love visiting my mom because I know her apartment will smell of what she is preparing for me and her grandson and I will feel held and loved.

I don't play on the floor with my kid. I take him to the park and WATCH him play. I give him thumbs up and encourage him. I read to him. I kiss him. I tell him I love him. I don't play with him.

My mom didn't play with me either, but when I was a teenager she was there to listen to me and help me through my emotional and social struggles. You are a very thoughtful and articulate person and you will be able to interact with your sons when they are teens in a way that will be very valuable to them.

All parents have their age and stage where they get to shine. Maybe yours isn't in these years, but it is coming.

gardenofsimple said...

thanks kiki :)I know I've told you before, but your words mean so much to me!

I feel like I spent a lot of my early years as a parent just trying to not be my mother, instead of finding my own way to mother. Almost 12 years in and I'm still learning how to be a parent. I wonder if that ever stops?

Valkyrie said...

Beautiful post. I relate to a lot of this, but I guess I just don't regret the kind of mother I am. I mean, I don't tell myself to play with my kids. I don't think I am supposed to be their playmate.

I feel like you do--that making meals from scratch rather than from boxes, is a way of showing that you love your family. It is a lot of effort for a woman who works fulltime. I come home every day from work and cook for my family.

I also view going to work as a way of expressing love. I am providing for my family. I am proud that I can provide for them.

My dad worked fulltime, of course, and I have great memories of him. Many more wonderful memories with my dad than with my mom, who was there every day. My mom did not enjoy being a mom, and she just went through the daily grid out of necessity, but she didn't like it. My dad loved being a dad, and when he had time, he always spent it with us. He didn't do "kid stuff" with us, but he made us part of everything he did--the skiing, the camping and hiking, the flying, gliding, etc. And all of those memories are some of the best I have of my childhood.

I wish mothers would just feel like they do enough. You do enough, what you do is enough--more than enough really.