Mourning the Past

I see a lot of posts on Instagram telling people to enjoy their kids as it is all over too soon. That is true. When you are in the middle of the chaos and mess it is hard to catch your breath and find time to relax. The posts are very similar as they try to convince parents to enjoy more, forget about the mess. Dishes will wait. Little kids will not. Time moves on. All valid and yet when you are living it, no one talks about the stress you feel when your life is disorganized. Laundry piling up, beds unmade, stuff dropped everywhere as kids are good at that. But then so am I.

I remember thinking when I was a young Mom that when they all left, my house would be cleaner. Less cluttered, and of course life would be easier. Well, I am here to say it wasn’t the kids. My house isn’t much cleaner, there are still piles of stuff that sit gathering dust as I wait for just the right moment to organize the piles. Laundry still sits in the dryer for days until I have to restart it in order to get the wrinkles out. That usually happens a few times. But life is easier. Because I don’t really see the piles or the mess. I do what I want, when I want, and life is really lived in a very impromptu manner.

I used to feel bad that I wasn’t that Mom. We all know her. She has it all together. And the sheer joy she has in her kids is amazing. I know people put their best foot forward on social media but there seem to be a lot of people out there who build their lives around their kids. Who love their kids more than life itself. Like I said… That wasn’t me. Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids but when they were young, I felt more like a sheep herder. I was always looking to change things, so I had more free time. So, I passed chores onto my kids. I did the laundry and actually folded it, but I had a wire drawer unit where I put the clean clothes. Each child had a drawer. It was up to them to either put it away, that seldom happened, or to use it as a dresser in the morning. If they wanted clothes washed, they had to bring it to the laundry room. They made their beds, or they didn’t. I just closed the door to their room. It killed my husband, but he got used to it eventually. We had a calendar with wash off markers. Everyone had a colour. Our lives were on the calendar and if something was forgotten, it didn’t happen.

We tried various things with our kids and there were just as many fails as there were wins. I found it got easier as they grew older. The house was still a bit of a dump but by the time my kids reached grade seven they were extremely independent. Not only did they take the city busses, they, were responsible for buying their own passes. Their allowance was given monthly, and they had to budget. I incorporated lunch money into the allowance, but I bought lunch stuff if they wanted to make lunch and save the money. I did not make their lunches. There was still a ton of chaos, but I became more of the foreman, and they were the worker bees. I remember the pure joy my husband and I felt when our youngest child got his driver’s license. Seems odd maybe but we had no idea where he was one day and then when we remembered it was Thursday, we realized he was at drum lessons. We no longer had to chauffer kids around and it was freedom for us. Trust me, the young adults out with friends still brought late night phone calls asking us to pick them up somewhere. Sleepy eyed with coat over pajamas I would still drive to pick them up at three a.m. Sometimes we were awoken by a whispered, “Mom can you come and pay the cab driver?” They were safe and responsible. That is all that mattered.

Now in my retirement years life is calm and not chaotic at all. Although one child doesn’t really like me much the others do, and they include me in their lives. My time with grandkids seems to involve a lot of just lying on the couch cuddling or reading books. I am invited to watch the grands play sports and I show up just when it starts and leave right after. No early or late standing around like the parents. I have candy quite often which is always a hit. Sleepovers are fun too and games are big with the older kids. It is fun and easy to be a grandparent. Sometimes they just want you to listen to them. Sometimes they ignore you. But in the end, we are creating memories for them that they will one day hopefully look back on and smile. My kids still do that when talking about my parents.

Do I mourn the past? No. I look back on my life and try to remember the good times. I enjoyed my family. The one I created. In the early years when we were extremely broke, I tried hard to make things lovely for the kids. Bringing them everywhere since we couldn’t afford babysitters. Birthdays were made special with friends and parties even though the gifts weren’t extravagant. Spending time with grandparents was good for them and also gave us a break. My favourite times were putting them to bed. Sing three songs, say three prayers and tell a few stories. Then cuddle until they fell asleep. I usually fell asleep too and got up an hour later quite rested. I enjoyed my kids through all of the ages even when times got a little rough with teens. I love the memories we created as a family, and I look back with a smile and a feeling of joy. It was a period in my life and a very important job, but it is over. They are grown and have families and this time is about me. Doing what I want when I want. Staying up late and eating cake for supper.

Transitioning from one stage of life to another can be difficult. We get used to things the way they are and we find comfort in the everyday. Change is hard but necessary. Watching my kids grow and change was both awe-inspiring and frightening. Now, watching the grands go through the same stages and watching my kids navigate their own children, it brings me back. I am much wiser in the ways of childrearing now but as with anything, you can’t tell your kids what to do. They need to go through the experiences and learn. I do know that I have fonder feelings toward my own mother as I watch my kids. Sitting back with her mouth closed as she watched me blunder my way through life. She was a good example although I am just learning that now.

Recently my son has started to take long walks twice a day. Something his Dad and I used to do. When I am with Sam, he wakes me up early and says, “Let’s go”. After supper we are off again taking a new way. We talk about anything and everything yet often we walk in silence. My youngest daughter Drew is a personal trainer. She specializes in corrective exercise, and I love having her train me three or four times a week. These times are wonderful as we get to chat and visit as well as try and beat my body into some form of healthy old lady. My children include me on group texts, and I love the banter that occurs between them. We all send messages about what’s going on in our lives and answering is an option. Sharing thoughts and ideas without fear of rejection or judgement. I often laugh that my kids are messaging often when I am busy. I can’t tell you how many dings I hear during a golf game. Yet when I get into the car afterwards, I am excited to see what they were talking about.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow are all just places in time. What happens in those times are memories and experiences, but they aren’t really who we are. Nor is it who we were or will be. Life is just what happens as we get up every morning and go about our business. Every stage is fleeting and doesn’t really define us. Although I am a Mom, it is not my identity. I am a Grandmother. But again, not who I am. I am me, floating through life with its ups and downs. I embrace today without looking too far forward. The past is past, and I can’t ever live there again. If we spend too much time on the past or the future, we may miss too much of today. And who knows, today might be the best day of your life. If you let it. Letting go of your kids so they can fully embrace life is a gift. They aren’t meant to be charms on a bracelet that we show off.

I have learned a lot of what to do and what not to do in my life. Unfortunately, we often learn things after the fact. And we often bow down to outside pressure even when we feel in our hearts we are going in the wrong direction. But the lessons are never wasted. Look back to the past. Enjoy the memories. Rejoice in a life well lived and lessons learned. Live today with an open heart and no expectations. Remember those lessons. Welcome tomorrow as a blessing many will not receive. Don’t waste any of these times on regret or sadness over the past. It is done. Over. We cannot change it. We can however change today and tomorrow. Starting right now. We are able to find peace if we chose to. Hold tight to the memories and be happy you were able to make them. For yourself and for the little people in your life. Use today to make more. Make good ones. Happy ones. And share them with the ones you love so that one day when you are no longer here, they will look back fondly on the time they spent with you. That is your legacy. Your gift.

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