So Do I
My book, Caution: Children Should Come With Warning Labels, is intended to be funny, because let’s face it, sometimes kids are funny little creatures. They squiggle and giggle and see the world so differently than their moms and dads that it spreads smiles, even when things aren’t going the way we’d like them to.
But, sometimes, being a parent isn’t funny. For some, it’s downright sad. Being the mom of four bright and beautiful daughters has been a bittersweet experience for me, one that I’d never exchange for anything in the whole wide world. But, it’s not always enough.
Our oldest, Samantha (Sam as she likes to be called), got married last fall. Now, that was bittersweet. We love her and her husband, Sean, and admittedly are extremely happy for her and for the opportunity to open our arms to a son in our family. But, he’s not our first son.
For Mother’s Day, the four bright and beautiful girls gave me the most thoughtful gift they’ve ever given me. Dandelions and pretty rainbows are great, but they didn’t hold an emotional candle to the bracelet they had put so much thought and consideration into. Inside the velvet box sat a delicate silver bracelet, glimmering with clear crystal gems woven along its beautiful chain. Hanging from it sat one lone charm—a prayer box through which peeked one gleaming blue gem behind the outline of an angel.
The gift was spectacular, but the words meant more. “Mom, I will need something borrowed and something blue for my wedding day. It would mean a lot to me if you would share this bracelet with me on that day.”
I cried. Yes, I did. Although I try to be strong and keep it all in, there are simply times when it cannot be done. This was one of them. We didn’t say it, but we knew what the bracelet represented—it meant more than something borrowed and something blue. It represented the brother who would be the only one of her siblings who wouldn’t be there to watch her get married.
Sam’s always felt his loss more than the others. She was the only other child we had at the time. There are photos of her holding him and kissing him—mementos of a budding relationship that never bloomed. Throughout the years, she’s shared that with me.
“Mom, I still wish I had a brother. I’ve missed that in my life.”
So do I. Oh, so do I.
“Mom, he would have been 21 today. I wish I could have celebrated that day with him.”
So do I. You don’t know how much.
“Mom, I wonder what Matthew would look like now. I bet he’d be big and tall like Dad.”
So do I.
I’ve often wondered what our little boy would look like today. He was a handsome infant, perfect in every way, with his father’s face and a head full of dark hair. I’ve followed the milestones he would have followed in his life without him. I never told anybody before, but I even went outside and watched the kindergarten bus pick up the children on what would have been his first day of school. I waved when it went by, tears spilling from my eyes, wishing I was crying because he was on that bus, not because he wasn’t.
But, I can’t wish him back, although I want to so very much. I can’t take away that awful morning when our son didn’t wake up. So, I transfer my dreams to four bright and beautiful girls, knowing my life is full, but yet empty. I don’t talk about it anymore, but one bracelet changed all of that.
“All four of us would like to wear this on our wedding day. We think it’s the perfect way to remember our brother.”
So do I.
“Mom, I’m glad you like it, but I really wish that we didn’t have a reason to give it to you.”
So do I. Oh, so do I.
Note: In memory of her son, Matthew McKenna, all proceeds in April from Patti McKenna’s book, Caution: Children Should Come With Warning Labels, a humorous look at the realities of parenthood based on Patti’s experience raising four daughters, will go toward SIDS research. To order, visit the Bookstore at www.UrbanEdgePublishing.com or you can order at Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Caution-Children-Should-Warning-Labels/dp/0981532691/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1234889371&sr=1-5 .Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 15 so far )
When our daughters were little, we used to play the “How Much Do You Love Me” game. Spreading our arms wide, we’d say, “I love you soooo big!” Sam always had a cute way of saying it–“I love you huggy much and sweet.” Those were the cute days, when love was enough to satisfy almost everything, except for their ferocious appetites, that is.
Now that they’re older, we say ‘I love you’ differently. A text message Luv u or a quick Love you – Love you, too, as the girls are flying out the door. But once in a while, I find it necessary to say I love you a little differently. Today is one of those days, and today this is how I’m telling my daughters that I do, indeed, love them.
Sometimes when I say no, it’s because I love you. Really.
Sometimes when I say yes, it’s also because I love you.
Sometimes I let you spread your wings and fly, visiting friends and spending the night with them. I know you need friends and fun, and I say yes because I love you.
But when you’re gone for three days and nights, I’ll yank you right back, just like a momma bear would do. So, fly, but always know that when you fly too far, I’ll clip your wings. Why? Because I love you.
I got you a cell phone because I love you. I know, everyone has one. But I love you enough to check in with you and make sure you’re okay. I love you enough to encourage you to check in with me and let me know you’re okay. But when that phone is at somebody else’s house on a charger and I can’t reach you, I love you enough to take it away. You don’t get the awesome privilege of texting your friends 24/7 if you don’t respond to me.
As I have with every one of you, I love you enough that I will not – ever- let you drive to school. Oh, I know that you think I hate you because of that, but it’s 100% based on love. I’ve attended the wakes of too many teenagers who never made it to school or home from school on that same route.
So, while you’re sitting here in our boring house tonight hating me because you want to spend the fourth night away from home, there are some things you need to know. When you push, I’ll pull. When you want more freedom, I might impose more limitations.
You see, everything is great – in moderation. Friends are wonderful, but they aren’t eveything. You have a family, too. We also need you. You also need us, though you don’t always know it. You need rules, restrictions, and reminders. You need to learn respect and gain the values you’ll need when you don’t need me anymore.
The only thing that doesn’t require moderation is love. Whether it’s SO BIG or huggy much and sweet, there’s always room for more.
Sometimes, the greatest way to show that love is provide limits, even though I know that, right now, you’ll hate me for it.
I love you enough to let you hate me.
Someday, I hope you’ll thank me for loving you that much.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
Oh, it has been a whirlwind of weeks, one with many ups and a few downs.
I’ve been working on marketing my book, but as in life, the best of all plans sometimes gets sidelined. And the sending off of our second daughter to college and getting another ready for marriage were the reasons for it.
On Monday, we addressed, stuffed, and mailed 159 wedding invitations. Tuesday, I picked 6 lbs. of green beans. Wednesday, we took Heather off to college.
If you’ve never sent a child off to college, I can tell you it’s a major endeavor. Buying new bedding, towels, robes, shower kaddies, and enough water bottles and snacks to feed our family of six for two weeks takes a lot out of you. Running around town, picking up immunization records, signing into the federal loan site 26 times to verify or print out the latest urgent, priority email, and still trying to work have left me zapped. Zipped and zapped, in fact.
There was no time for emotion, just a to-do list that grew, instead of getting smaller. Then, after packing everything, off we went, turning the page in our book as yet another child moved on into the big, wide world that didn’t include us. After standing in line, pushing, pulling, dragging, and kicking (yes) her belongings foot by foot for a good mile, we finally got to the elevators, which naturally don’t go to every floor – just every 3rd floor of the dorm. So, we hauled it all off the moving box and into the hall, where we took turns carrying everything up the stairs to the next floor, where her new room waited.
Hot, tired, and irritated, those were my emotions. Cool down time meant lunch, a chance to relax and refuel. Then, came the moment, saying goodbye. Along with the moment came the tears – mine, not hers. They started at around 3 PM and to tell the truth haven’t quite ended.
And she’ll be back today…for her big sister’s wedding shower tonight – I did say it’s been a busy week, right?
But it won’t be the same. Never. Again. We’ve turned the page, and she’ll never be here EVERY morning, having a cup of coffee with me, telling me what she needs me to do, or telling me what she wants to do. It’s changed. It’s scheduled now, and it’s intermittent. She’ll change, too. I know I already have.
The melancholy that struck me is backed up by the double whammy of a family bridal shower tonight for our oldest. Today, she does a trial hairstyle for her wedding day, gets fitted for her dress, orders her veil, and then off tonight we go to her shower.
And I have to come to grips with the fact that they’re leaving. Maybe they’re already gone, I’m not sure. But there’s a finality that was never there before that comes to me now, triggering stronger emotions than I thought. It is the price I pay for having their love and laughter for 18 plus years.
It’s stirred memories of their younger days – running in and out of the house, needing me by their sides, having to be closely watched at all times as they learned new things. For some reason, one memory ran through my mind. Meridith was two, maybe three, years old. She was outside with her dad, and I was in the house. Dad went around to the back yard for a minute, and Meridith didn’t follow. She walked across the neighbor’s yard, and he came to the door to let me know.
“Patti, your little girl, Big Time, I think you call her, just walked across my yard, you better catch her.” By the time I got out there, her dad already had caught up with her, so she was okay – and yes, we called her Big Time, an affectionate name because everything she did or felt was at maximum levels.
It occurred to me when I remembered this, but not when it happened, that it’s strange – unfortunate, really – that the people we trust with our children are afraid to go near them. He could have scooped her up and brought her to the door, but society tells us it’s wrong to touch another person’s child. Ironic though, isn’t it, that the people we don’t trust are the ones who aren’t afraid to go near our children.
So, now that the two oldest are gone or leaving, and yes, I’m crying again, I can only hope that people I trust aren’t afraid to touch them, and the people I don’t trust don’t get close enough to try.
I’m here, girls, always here. Ready to touch you whenever you need me.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )