My youngest just celebrated his 10th birthday last month. It is a bittersweet moment when the baby of the family is no longer a baby and those glimpses I used to catch of him (not long ago) that used to take me back to his toddling days have faded behind the young man he is quickly becoming.
In fact, I just bought him deodorant the other day, and lost it as soon as I dropped it in the cart. You see, it was only a short time ago he was sitting in the front seat of this cart, sucking on his binky, fussing for the squeeze snacks I just added to the heaping pile of paper towels, diapers, and Goldfish crackers.
It is in moments like this, the unexpected ones when you are rushing around to get to everything that needs getting to, that you stop for a moment and wonder how you are doing as a parent, if you are bringing your best, if you could or should do more. It’s easy to shine the light on the times where we feel we are not doing enough for these humans we decided to bring into the world, these people we love more than anything else, but when we stop and look a little deeper, we will see for the most part, we are doing a hell of a job.
That morning, I was waking up when he climbed into bed with me for an early morning snuggle, and I held on tight. I know all to well these moments are numbered. As I put my arms around him, I began telling him the story about the day he was born. He has heard it many times but never tires of it. When he came into this world, it was early in the morning, frost covered the ground and it was still dark outside. I woke up knowing it would be the day I would meet my new son.
As he rushed downstairs after our talk, I let myself be alone with my thoughts for a moment. Time is fleeting, as we all know, and I constantly go between feeling like I am doing a great job as a parent to questioning myself.
Our kids take us places we have never been, and we are tested during these times. All we can do is pray and hope we are giving them the strength each and every day to handle themselves in tough situations. We question ourselves, we beat ourselves up, we ask for advice sometimes, and other times we know, without a doubt, we have made the best decision. But we all have also made choices we wish we could change, and for some reason, those seem to sit a bit heavier with us. It is easier to recognize our mistakes than it is to give ourselves credit for the stuff we are getting right.
His father takes him out for breakfast every year before the sun comes up to celebrate with just him, and as I came down the stairs to see him off before his annual birthday breakfast, his sister was sitting waiting for him at the kitchen island. She was so quiet, I didn’t even hear her come down the stairs. I know she wanted to surprise her brother and she did — with some sweet toys she had taken from her own room and wrapped with tissue paper and pretty bows. He opened each one carefully and gave her a tight squeeze before grabbing his coat and rushing out the door for his chocolate chip pancakes.
A few hours later as I was cleaning up after everyone was off at school, house quiet, dogs sleeping, I found something that I have looked at every day since: My daughter had made him a card to go along with her secondhand gifts, and as I read her words “Happy birthday to the best brother in the world. I love you so so so much! We have made so many memories together,” I was reminded that I am, in fact, doing a good job with these souls that have been entrusted to their father and me.
There are moments that define our parenting — some good and some not so good. And then there are moments that change us, and for me, this was one of them. It set me forward on a new path.
I have tried every day since then to focus a little more on what I am doing right, and to slow down and be able to see these moments when my kids show them to me — because they will keep showing them to us with every “thank you,” every helpful gesture, and every sweet note. They are there for us, presented like little gifts, and we need to recognize these moments and give them just as much merit as we do when we beat ourselves up over not getting something right. Because in between the tough times, there will be a big sister wrapping up gifts for her baby brother just to remind him that he is loved, and you will hold that moment in your heart forever.