My friends and I discuss the world quite a bit. We try to make sense of it as best we can with each other, so we can then go home and attempt to explain current events to our children. Even the events that are too sad to understand.
Many times, we parents feel the need to protect little ones from the harshness of the world, especially in times of tragedy. I was approached by my friend, Teresa, with a blog topic for discussion after a particularly hard summer and fall of loss for our city. Stories kept coming in of toddler deaths, hate crimes, and war. She, like all of us, was struggling with a way to understand why bad things happen to beautiful children and adults. These were topics she and I discussed in great detail when considering how to go about living positively for our kids.
When she reached out to me about making sense of sadness, Teresa put my sentiments into words beautifully. She said, “I was feeling so sad yesterday, and then we went to Mason’s (her 4th grader’s) choir concert. There was a line in one of the songs that said, ‘…here’s my hand, so take it…’ It made me think of how [Mason] saved me. I think we focus so much on protecting and caring for them that we don’t let them help us in return. They save us from the endless ‘what if’s’ and force us to live in the moment. They pull us out of that downward spiral and say, ‘Look at me. I’m right here in front of you.’ I never thought about how the parent/child roles could reverse. How a 9-year-old could pull me out of the darkness.”
Teresa’s words resonated with me, and I completely agree. When my first child came around, my husband and I were struggling with some of the responsibilities of trying to further our careers, find a house, budget wisely, etc. that it seemed so overwhelming. The first child to call me mommy was a saving grace. He had us refocus our attention to what really mattered. Now each child brings more to our lives. We watch them grow; we watch them love each other (most times); and we watch how much they love us. It is really something beautiful, and it should be cherished. There is never a more important time to live in the moment than with our children.
Teresa and I have been on all kinds of crazy adventures together throughout our friendship, but we often discuss how parenting is one of the craziest. There is nothing wilder than watching them take their first steps, read their first words, and appreciate their first slumber party. We care for these tiny humans and work so hard to keep them out of harm’s way. As parents we have a responsibility to let them experience pain and truth, so that they may deal with the real world when it’s their turn. However, the balance of letting them learn from their mistakes and simultaneously keeping them safe is difficult. Because this is our role and essentially our responsibility, we forget that we need them to take care of us as well. And they do this so well and without expecting much in return.
The way they save us keeps evolving. Now, I see my oldest son take out the trash, shovel our walks, do the dishes, and do laundry. He performs these actions here or there when he can see I need help, and I realize that this is his version of loving me. My middle kiddo pampers me with sanity-saving hugs and utterances of “You’re the best mom anyone could ask for.” And just the other day I wasn’t feeling 100%, and my daughter said, “That’s why you need a massage, a movie, and to snuggle with me, mama.” Now, please know that these times are also interspersed with rage-cooking, homework standoffs, and WWE between my boys, but these precious moments will be with me forever. They do take care of us in their own way, and it’s so special.
It’s daunting to be the person that is bringing life into the world. Once they get here, navigating through the mess of the universe is stressful. When we are the most engaged in stress, that’s when we need to step back and allow our kids to take over. When work piles up, put it down for a second and run around with your kids. When you question purpose or place in the world, remember that the only purpose or place that matters or lasts is the one with your family. Snuggle on the couch more. Love up on your babies, because those moments fill us with enough hope and love to last through the mess of the world. In turn, you’ll also be creating loving individuals who will feel loved enough to take on the world in a better way.
I came across an article that reminded me to not sweat the small stuff and appreciate our little saviors right now. There is a great article on Huffington Post by Kari Kampakis that states, “One day there won’t be stickers on my sink. There won’t be Barbies in my bathtub, baby dolls on my bed or Mary Poppins in the DVD player. My windows will be clear of sticky hand prints, and my home will be quiet because my daughters will be hanging out with friends instead of nesting at home with me.” Now is the time to savor the lovely messiness that kids bring.
My friend Teresa is an incredibly intelligent woman, and this topic is one of the ways she continues to add positivity to my life. Listen to Teresa. Let your children save you. They can save us in times of stress. They can save us from constant terrible news on our social media accounts. They can save us from ourselves. Thank God for kids.