It’s easy for me to feel like I’m totally messing up this parenting thing. Some days I’m so tired I can’t form coherent thoughts or sentences. I’m too tired to play with my kids. My patience wears thin; I’m certain that if anyone asks me for one more thing, I’ll snap in half.
It feels like I spend all day telling my kids what do to: Eat your breakfast! Pick your socks off the floor! Be nice to your brother! Stop throwing toilet paper into the sink! Your sleeve isn’t a tissue! Please, for the love of God, get your damn pee in the toilet!
At the ends of my days, I wonder: Am I giving my kids a good childhood? Are there enough moments of joy? What will they remember about their lives, about their mom? Will they see me simply as the person who fed them meals, ordered them around, and wiped their snot off their cheeks—or as someone who brought them happiness, had interesting ideas to share, was fun, thoughtful, and kind?
I’m pretty sure they’ll remember a bit of everything. I know that’s how I remember my own childhood and my parents. I remember the yelling, the tears, the worries. But there are certain moments that are still crystal clear and forever beautiful to me—moments of pure bliss and connection. And I hope to give some of those moments to my sons.
I want my sons to see me as a mom, first and foremost, but also as a woman—a human, imperfect and flawed, but with so much to give, love that oozed out of me freely and without pretense.
I know I have a while before my sons’ childhoods will be distant memories. And—knock on wood—many years still that I will be a living presence in their lives. When I think of our lives now, and what I want to be preserved for them, it’s a few simple things—things that I don’t always notice about myself, but which I hope they are picking up on, filing away in the recesses of their minds.
So, to my sweet sons, this is what I want you to remember about your mom:
I want you remember the nights I told you over and over that I was too tired to do anything fun, but then at 7 p.m. on a Saturday, we threw our coats over our pj’s, walked to the deli, bought a couple of bags of M&M’s, and sat on the stoop eating too much candy and feeling the magic of the night.
I want you remember how I carried you like babies when you were sick, rocking you in my arms, and singing, “This Little Light of Mine” totally off-key, with half-remembered lyrics, until you fell asleep against my beating heart.
I want you to remember that no matter what, you could always come into my room if you had a nightmare, and I would hold your hand until you feel back asleep.
I know you will remember how I yelled sometimes, about what seemed like the most insignificant things, but I want you to remember how I would always say I was sorry if the yelling got too loud or lasted too long.
I want you to remember the nights we had breakfast for dinner, ice cream for dinner, French fries and nothing else—and I hope you will remember those nights fondly and not as a failure on my part to provide a balanced meal.
I want you to remember me as the mom who always stopped to look at the moon and who went crazy over a good sunset.
I want you to remember my soft belly, the little wrinkles between my brow, my unwashed hair, and my soft, raggedy sweatshirt as everything natural, wholesome—everything that radiated MOM.
I want you to remember me as an ordinary woman, a brave woman, a woman who spoke her truth to you and to others.
I want you to know that whatever I did, I did out of love, even the things I did terribly wrong.
I want you to know I tried. I tried so hard, and all I wanted was for you to feel safe and loved.
I know I can’t create the memories my sons will have. Those are for them to make; their childhoods are their own destinies, and I have much less control over it all than I think I do. And yet, a mom can hope, right? I hope that through the muck and mire of my days, I am providing opportunities for unfiltered, authentic happiness. I hope that what I see as my own flaws my kids will just remember as me being me, showing up, trying my best, loving them to the moon and back.