What do you remember about someone when they're gone? What they did, what they said or how they made you feel?
What will my kids think of when, hopefully decades from now, I'm gone?
Will they think of what we did?
Baking, playing Monopoly and never-ending art projects. Will they remember their mom dressed up with them at Halloween, how I loved taking them to the movies, and our countless mini golf and bowling competitions? Please let my son think of me when he takes his kids ice skating. Let him tell them how he hated it, but his mom kept making him go to the rink and taking him off the wall, skating around and around, holding his hand until he could do it on his own. I hope my daughter remembers that I encouraged, OK forced, her to take that swim test she was scared of because I knew she could do it. I want her to remember how she felt after she passed and the celebration we had. I hope they both remember the Saturdays spent in pajamas at home doing nothing except piling up all the pillows in the house and jumping off the bed into them. What about the cards I gave them for no occasion and the bigger fuss I made over actual occasions? I hope Ben smiles when he thinks of me loudly and frequently serenaded him with my horrible pitch. I want them to remember their first trip to New Orleans with beignets and my foot getting stuck in the deep mud at a music festival. I want them to remember our trip to Disney World and then Universal Studios. The three of us touring Hogwarts Castle and by the last day I had to close my eyes on the rides or I was going to puke. Ski trips and weekends at the beach. Will they remember all the days spent on the field, at the rink or in the gym for their games and lessons with me cheering on the side? What about Emily's first concert, the signs and t-shirt we made hoping Taylor would notice us? She didn't. And what about her first Phish concert, which ended after the tailgate and before the first song? Thanks, thunderstorm. Will they recall the at-home birthday parties and the homemade cupcakes? Walks around town, day trips to New York, dance parties, games of Clue and countless games of "pig?" And here's to hoping they don't forget the quieter moments of popcorn and M&M's on the couch and laying in bed reading all seven Harry Potter books together.
My fear is that what I said, my "refrain," will be what sticks in their minds.
"Brush your teeth, make your bed, put your clothes in the laundry, whose turn is it to set the table? Emily, clear the table, Ben, wipe down the table and Emily, sweep the floor. Put down the iPad. Now. No more TV, no more electronics at all today. Yes, it's bedtime, no you can't stay up late again tonight. THIS is dinner. No, I did not make anything else. Ask me nicely. Try again. Try one more time. Do your homework, practice piano. No, you can't have hot chocolate and chocolate chip pancakes. Don't just stick the bowl in the sink; rinse it off or else the cereal will stick. Hang up your coat, put your shoes away. Ben, what did I say about your cereal bowl? Eat some fruit. No more snacks. Look at all the dirt still on your arm, go back in the shower. Lower your voice. Speak up. I need you to be quiet for five minutes."
There are days I can't stop hugging, kissing and squeezing my kids. I absolutely adore them. But love isn't only in kisses, hugs, cuddles and "I love you's." The truth is I am hard on them. I squint to see the life they will have, at the people they will be, when they leave my house. What can I do now to help them achieve real success, fulfillment, peace and joy? I look to their future, which is much greater than the amount of time I have them under my thumb. My time with them underfoot is short and while my repetitive refrain plays daily, it does so out of knowing that what they need to be happy later has to start now. My sincere hope is that when they're gone from my kitchen table, out of my bed and off my couch, that my doing and saying will linger in a feeling. A feeling of knowing they were loved.
Because, all of my doing and all of my saying was because of the love I feel for them.
And if not, someone show them this. Intention has to count for something.
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