To My Dearest Son,
As I look back upon life as your mother, I would like to believe that I have the past 13 years preserved in my memory; that I have every moment jotted down in my mind, and that I can recall it in a heartbeat. But the truth is, there is so much about our life together that I have simply forgotten. I have forgotten how many sleepless nights I had and how many diapers I changed. I have forgotten how many cuts and scrapes I bandaged up and how many times you fell off your bike. I have forgotten how many spelling tests we prepared for and how many practices I drove you to. But, there is so much that I do remember. I remember the day you were born. I remember the moment I held you in the delivery room and smelled your newborn scent. I remember sleeping with you lying on top of my chest. I remember holding your little hand in mine as you learned to walk. I remember your first haircut, the day you learned to swim and your first soccer goal. I even remember how many broken bones you have had: one; how many ER visits you have made: four; how many jelly fish stings you’ve endured: one; how many nights you have spent at sleep away camp: thirteen.
You see, it seems as if much of life is like that—there are things we remember and there are things that we simply forget. And so, I have tried to experience life’s joys deeply and meaningfully—to truly feel them and hear them, to smell them and live them, in that moment, as they happen. As your mother, I would like to think that I have taught you many things: how to tie your shoes, how to express your love, how to be a good friend. But I am realizing that you have probably taught me more than I have taught you.
When you were 5, you marched home from school and declared that you wanted to play the violin. Not only did I not take you seriously, I actually ignored your request for a few days hoping you would forget. But your persistence taught me not to give up on the things that we want. Soon after, we bought you your first micro-sized violin.
When you were 9, you walked the cobbled streets of a mystical town in Israel and asked to buy a Shofar. In buying this magical instrument, you taught me about compassion, kindness and spirituality. I learned to never hinder a child’s desire to try something new. I learned that a young child’s heart and mind is so pure and so kind that it can carry the prayers of hundreds. I have watched you blow that shofar many times. Sometimes I sit back and glow with pride. Sometimes I scramble to record you with my camera. But other times, I just watch as you close your eyes, take a deep breath, and transcend into a state of total tranquility. And it is in those moments that I am brought to tears by how open your heart is to receive. I am in awe of how available you are to carry the prayers of friends, family and complete strangers. And I am inspired by the magnitude of your generosity.
I have also learned the difference between parenting a son versus a daughter. When I would ask your sister to brush her hair, she would spend hours combing and braiding until it was perfect. But I now know that when a boy runs his hands through his hair as he walks to the car, that constitutes “brushing his hair.” I have also learned not to call you to come inside when you are perfecting your layup, even if it’s dark and even if it’s cold outside. I have also gotten used to the soccer ball that seems to follow you as you walk from room to room. And I am no longer startled by the sound of a ball bouncing off the other side of my bedroom wall. In fact, I expect it as my Sunday morning wake up call.
I want you to know that your kindness and integrity are evident. Your desire to pursue your passions is unmistakable. And your commitment to your values and beliefs means that you will not bend with the wind; you will not follow others; you will not give up on your ideals just to be accepted. This strength that you possess is inspirational. But you should know that these are not easy characteristics to have. It means that you may get excluded, and you may be left out. But it also means that you value what is right. It means that you know it is not worth giving up on your ideals for the sake of others. And it means that in the end, you will be a stronger and richer person for it. You have taught me to not allow the judgments of others to persuade me. And I am indebted to you for your wisdom.
My prayer for you today is that you continue to teach and to inspire. Not just me, but those around you. Thank you for choosing me to be your mother, and thank you for being my teacher.
I woke up a bit disheveled this morning. I spent most of the night tossing and turning and I wasn’t my typical chipper self. I needed a bit of time before I was ready to deal with my toddler, and the best way to get me out of my funk would be a nice hot shower. Obviously, nothing too long and relaxing, since I am home alone with my three year old. I’ll just drag his beanbag into my bathroom so I can watch him while I shower. He’s still in his PJ’s so I give him his morning bottle, his blankie, and …..my iPad (shhhh, don’t tell my husband). Normally, we don’t allow our youngest to watch too much television, but this isn’t really the same as TV, right? I mean, it’s kind of educational, no? Oh well, I’ll be quick.
I’m really enjoying my shower, the hot water pounding on my back, warming all my sore muscles. And as I begin to lather, I realize my son is quite content lounging on the beanbag, relaxing with his “educational” program. I guess I don’t actually need to rush. As I step out of the shower, he is completely enthralled with what he is watching and I manage to slip out of the bathroom without him noticing. Usually, he is keenly aware of my every step, and I can barely move without him following me. Maybe he’s beginning to develop a sense of independence. Just as I finish getting dressed, I hear him. “MOOOOMMMMM!!!!” I rush back into the bathroom, nearly slipping on the wet floor only to realize he’s on the verge of a tantrum because his program has ended. So much for new found independence. At least I’m dressed.
After breakfast, we head to the market together. Normally, we walk the isles leisurely, him in the shopping cart, me pushing him as if he is in a regal carriage. But he is particularly fussy today and I just want to get in and out of the market as quickly as possible. Fortunately, I have the iPad in my bag. What’s another show while I grab ingredients for tonight’s dinner? I mean, the clips he watches are educational and no one wants a toddler throwing a tantrum in the middle of the produce isle. I’m in and out of the market in a flash. And as I wrangle the iPad out of his hands while I buckle him into his car seat, I’m grateful I purchased his favorite snack. I strategically swap the device for the box of crackers, and once his mouth is full he hardly realizes I’ve repossessed the iPad.
Later that day, we make a trip to the mall. I would really love to buy a new pair of jeans, and I have a few hours before I need to pick up my older kids. I never would have ventured to the mall alone with my older kids. But as a seasoned third time mom, I’m totally prepared for the outing: comfy stroller that fully reclines for naps, diaper bag packed with enough snacks to get us through a famine, plenty of diapers, and a few toys to keep him occupied. Just as we walk into my favorite store, my son is whining for the iPad. But he’s had enough screen time for today; he will just have to keep busy with the toys I brought along.
As we head to the dressing room, I contemplate taking him out of the stroller. The room is big enough for him to move around, and I’ve got a bunch of things I want to try on. Once he’s settled in, with an assortment of toys in front of him, I begin to go through the new clothes. It really is such a delight shopping with him; I couldn’t have done this when my other kids were little. As I pull on the second pair of jeans, I hear him giggling softly. As I look over, I realize he has gone through my purse and dug out my phone. With a few swipes, he has found the videos I’ve taken and is contently watching himself splashing in the bathtub. He really is quite a genius. I mean, how many toddlers know how to swipe and tap just the right way? I should research some apps that will enhance his already advanced skills. As long as he is using a device, he might as well work on some important life skills. I mean, if he can do all this now just imagine what he will be doing by the time he is five! A new pair of jeans later, we head back to the car knowing we both enjoyed our time out together.
Since it’s not a school night, my husband and I decide to take the kids out to dinner. I’ll keep the groceries for tomorrow night and we can enjoy a nice family meal. Nothing fancy, just somewhere kid-friendly and convenient. We take a vote, and CPK wins! No chicken nuggets, but there is mac ’n cheese and pizza galore!!! Kids’ cups, crayons and wine—these people really know what parents need. As the waiter pours me a glass of Chardonnay, I look over to see my two boys huddled together. They really do play nicely together, and they are so lucky to have each other. Suddenly, I realize they are not coloring or playing tic-tac-toe; they are watching YouTube videos!!!! My older son is showing my younger son stupid cat videos and they are cracking up.
Ummmm, this wine is really hitting the spot. I’m so glad we decided to come out for a nice family dinner. I didn’t feel like cooking tonight anyway. The waiter comes by with our meals and comments on how well behaved my children are. Sitting quietly, patiently waiting for their food. I look over and beam at them with pride. Ok, I admit that at this point they each have an electronic device in their hands: the iPad for my little one and my husband’s and my cell phones for the older ones. But by now I’m on my second glass of wine and my husband is intently telling me about an upcoming project he’s working on. And I don’t really feel bad that they are occupied in that way. I mean, just look around the restaurant. Practically every child in here is captivated with something electronic. And what better way to get my child to finish a meal. This way, they are so distracted by what they are watching that they keep shoveling food into their mouths. At home, I practically have to chase them around the house to get them to eat. This is just so much more civilized.
Later that night, after the hugs and kisses, snuggles and stories are over I climb into bed totally content with what a wonderful day I’ve had. My husband slides in and I ask him what book our toddler chose to read tonight. “Oh, he didn’t want a book tonight. I offered, but he just wanted the iPad. So we snuggled on the couch while he watched YouTube clips and I checked my emails.” I was a little baffled that my son didn’t want to read a story. He usually manipulates us into reading an endless stream of books. As I’m contemplating this, my husband chimes in, “Don’t worry honey. It’s not like he gets any screen time during the day. A few minutes at night isn’t that bad.”
As my husband turns on the TV I begin to ruminate. He is right. It’s not like my toddler gets THAT much screen time. I mean, I’m a stay at home mom and we spend all day together. We take walks around the block and look at the ants crawling on the floor. We pick up leaves and dig for roly-polys. I make homemade play dough and host play dates once a week. So what’s an hour, or two, or five of screen time? I mean, I bet if I took a poll on my trusted Facebook mommy group, I would find plenty of moms who give their kids WAY more screen time than I do. Plus, most of it’s educational…. isn’t it?
Over the holidays, I committed myself to cleaning out the house; kind of like a spring-cleaning in the winter. The New Year was approaching, and I wanted to start a lighter, fresher more unencumbered year. And since there were closets and cabinets I hadn’t tended to in quite a while, I figured it would be the perfect time to go through things and reorganize the house a bit. The project took me a few days, but I was determined to start at one end of the house and work my way through to the other side. It actually began as quite a liberating experience. I emptied closets and dusted shelves. I donated things I didn’t even know I had and trashed things I no longer needed. I kind of enjoyed the process and eventually was really to tackle my walk-in closet.
I share the closet with my husband, and I realized we weren’t maximizing our space. Over the years, we had just shoved things in there, some of which I knew I could get rid of. If I just rearranged a few things we would both have a bit more space. As I went through drawers and refolded sweaters, I came across an envelop at the bottom of one of my husband’s drawers. It was one of those knick-knack drawers, with an assortment of different things that didn’t really belong anywhere in particular. I could tell he had just thrown things into it over the years and hadn’t really opened it in a while. But all the way on the bottom, underneath an old college sweatshirt and an ugly scarf was a sealed white envelop. I recognized his handwriting instantly and I even recognized the addressee. As I picked up the letter and held it close, I found myself sliding to the floor, tears welling in my eyes. The enveloped looked a bit old and weathered, as if written several years ago. It seemed like he had stuffed it in the bottom drawer and forgotten about it. I was confident it was his writing because I too had received my share of these love letters. As I sat there, wondering what he had written, I knew I had a decision to make. I could either approach my husband about the letter; I could deliver the letter to its intended recipient the next time I saw her; I could put it back where I had found it; or I could rip it open and read through it….
I decided to place the letter back in the drawer, lay the ratty old sweater over it, and leave it be. I’ve always known my husband to be an eloquent writer who enjoys expressing his thoughts and emotions on paper because I have a shoebox full of old love letters, birthday cards and post-it notes that he has given me over the years. I just didn’t know there was anyone else who received these kinds of expressions. My tears weren’t those of anger, disappointment, or even sadness. They were the emotional expression of knowing how sentimental and precious such a letter is.
My husband and I have three children together, our eldest a girl. And I assume our daughter was nothing more than a toddler when my husband took the time to write this letter. It felt several pages thick, so he must have shared his most honest thoughts and feelings, his desires and fears, his hopes and dreams. But interestingly enough, he sealed the letter and hid it where no one would find it. Even more interesting is that the letter has an intended delivery date—less than one year from now. You see, our daughter was merely a child when my husband wrote this letter to her, and it seems as if he is waiting until her 16th birthday to delivery it. I know it won’t be the only love letter she ever receives, but I hope it is one she will cherish forever.
And so, I dusted a few more shelves, organized my shoes, refolded a few more sweaters and closed the closet door. Then I poured myself a glass of wine and sat at my desk. My husband had inspired me to share my thoughts and dreams with my child too. Just because he had written his letter so many years ago didn’t mean it was too late for me. There is so much that I would like to tell her—about myself, about life, about the world around her. And yes, I could just speak those words to her. But often, our verbal words are lost amidst the noise that surrounds us. But our written words are never lost. I sealed the envelope and placed my letter under the ratty old sweatshirt and knew I had let my MomAbility guide me.