One of the things that has surprised me the most on my journey as a parent has been the amazing number of things that you have to teach your children. So often I think, “really – I have to teach you that too?”
When the kids were little, it was obvious that I had to teach them everything. They come into this world knowing nothing, right? So, we teach them how to talk and walk and eat. All the basic things. But then we build on those basics. We teach them how to dress themselves, and then how to pick out clothes that don’t clash, and then beyond that which clothes are appropriate for which occasion.
We teach them how to put their seatbelt on by themselves, and then we teach them how to drive, and then we teach them about when they should drive and when they shouldn’t and about winter tires and the best place to get insurance and who has the best price on fuel.
We teach them to not hit each other, and then how to navigate a fight on the playground, and then how to “fight well” with their partner. How to get along with each other, how to be kind and gentle, how to choose friends wisely, how to keep going when relationships hurt.
From the mundane to complex, from the basic to the most complicated, we have to teach them all the things. We teach them through instruction, through our actions, through just being in relationship.
And where did we accumulate all of this wisdom? Where did we learn all of these things? I don’t know about you, but I must have learned it from my mom. I don’t remember her teaching me all of these things specifically, but I clearly remember calling her and asking her how to boil potatoes, so that will tell you the vast number of things she had to teach me. So many phone calls started with, “Hey Mom, how do I…..what do I do about….what am I supposed to do with this?” If I had a question, I called Mom – she was always my first call.
Lately, though, I’ve been realizing there’s something I forgot to ask Mom how to do – how to lose a mom. My maternal grandmother died when I was 16, so my mom would have been in her late 30’s. My mom was very close to her mom and I know the loss was devastating to her. However, I don’t remember really talking to her about it. At the time, I was in high school and busy living my life. I’m sure my siblings remember more, as they were home, but looking back, yeah, Mom was sad, but I don’t really remember a lot else. I regret that now, being so caught up in my own “very important things” that I didn’t stop to see Mom being sad.
And then as I got older, we didn’t talk about it a lot. We didn’t talk about what that was like for her, losing her mom and still having 7 kids at home to raise and a farm and all the things. We didn’t talk about how she kept going, or what she did or how she felt when all she wanted to do was call her mom.
When Mom got sick, we still didn’t talk about it. I remember her apologizing for being sick, because she knew how hard it was to lose a mom, but that was the end of the conversation. I mean, really, I’m not sure what she could have told me, but it just strikes me that we didn’t talk about it. And now as I am still figuring out how to do this, how to live life without my mom, she is the only person I want to talk to about it. To just call her and say, “Mom, what am I supposed to do with this? How do I do this?” She didn’t always have the answers, but so many of our conversations ended with, “It’s going to be ok, hon, I can’t fix it for you, but you call anytime.” Gosh, what I wouldn’t give for one more call.
So now it’s my season to be the voice on the other end of the phone (or text or Snapchat) for the child who has a question or just needs to talk. I hope I can do half as well my mom did. I hope that I have been open and transparent enough for them to learn some of the hard lessons of life, just by us doing them together. That someday when I’m gone, they’ll know how to journey losing a mom, because I was open and let them into that journey with me.
And I hope that my kids know that while I will not always have the answers and won’t be able to fix everything, they can call anytime.