One of the things that changed for me after the word terminal became part of my vernacular, was my approach to holidays. Each time one rolls around, whether it's Christmas, birthdays or family vacations, I can't help but wonder how many more I will celebrate. This can be dangerous as I find myself perhaps going over the top or spending more than usual to try and make it as memorable as possible. I often joke that I will be one of those lucky buggers who outlives their prognosis but will be dead broke from living my life to the fullest.
Mother's Day isn't quite like one of those holidays. Don't get me wrong, I love and appreciate everything my kids do for me on Mother's Day and was thrilled that I got to see each of them yesterday, especially since they all have busy, active lives and not all of them live just around the corner. But, I don't need
to see or talk to my kids on Mother's Day to know I am loved and honoured by them. That happens regularly when I get random visits, hugs for no reason, and texts in the middle of the day just to check in on me or share some good news.
Yesterday was one of my favourite kind of days because it was warm and sunny and I was surrounded by family. When I reflected on that last night I realized that I don't worry so much about not being around for another Mother's Day, but I do worry that I will never have enough time to be able to tell and show my children how much they mean to me and how they have all, individually and as a unit, changed my life.
My kids are all adults now, though the youngest just barely, but I never experienced empty nest syndrome. From getting on the bus for the first day of Kindergarten to heading out the laneway to post-secondary school, I couldn't wait for my kids to start each new journey of life. Every time they were presented with an opportunity, which included travelling to foreign places alone or moving across provinces, I always encouraged them to go for it. Would I miss them? Absolutely. That just gave me more reason to travel myself so I could see them as much as possible. I want them to experience as much as they can, as often as they can.
I've never wanted my kids to need me. I know that doesn't sound good, but let me explain. When they were little and wanted to know what something said, I told them to 'sound it out.' As they got older I made sure they knew how to cook, wash their clothes, drive, make an appointment for themselves, order their own meal in a restaurant, board a plane and make decisions. It doesn't mean I wasn't there to help them if needed, but my goal was always to raise four independent and self-sufficient children and I think I have (of course only with the help of their dad). The best words I can hear from them is when they say, "I know I don't need to do this, but can I just run something by you."
I've tried hard to resist giving advice (it's really hard) and instead I like to listen. I listen when they talk about things they like to do or things they enjoy and tuck that away to reference when it's time to buy a birthday or Christmas gift. I listen when they need to vent or just talk through a plan out loud. My kids aren't perfect and I've never pretended they were (they would say the same about me as well). I love them unconditionally, without judgement, whatever they do and whatever they say. Their opinions are sometimes different than mine and that's okay too. I love that they have opinions, often strong ones. I love that they can stand their ground on issues that are important to them. I love that they can look people in the eye and have a conversation about all kinds of different things. I love that they are passionate about what they do, whether it's work or hobbies or sports. My kids are all incredibly smart, not because of any letters they may or may not have at the end of their names, but because they engage in the world and learn about things that matter to them and to others. They are also all incredibly funny, in completely different ways, which means when we are all together, while it may be chaotic, there is always laughter. Okay, maybe they are perfect.
There are distinct things about each of them that I love but I have to be careful about getting too specific 'cause they're all just so damn competitive (which I think is a good quality as long as they also show sportsmanship).
Our oldest can be a little guarded, like me. She keeps her emotions in check. I have seen this girl in incredible pain and never shed a tear. When people talk about not knowing how some women do as much as they do, she's one of those women. Many times I've learned how to be a better mother by watching her. She epitomizes the phrase 'work hard and play hard.' It's not often I get to see her relax so when that happens I just sit back and watch her. When she pulls up a patio chair to settle in for the afternoon or, more rare these days, when she curls up on our couch in front of the fire, it's a good day. Sometimes I feel like we grew up together. We can be silent in each other's company and yet feel so comfortable. When she walks into the house it becomes home.
The second oldest is the complete opposite in so many ways. She wears her heart on her sleeve and it's a big heart. We can take her hands in ours, look her in the eyes and tell her we love her and there will be gigantic teardrops streaming down her cheeks in seconds. This is true. Her dad and I have done it many times over the years just to see if we still can. We're mean that way. She has been telling me things since she was four-years-old. About herself. About her friends. About a special rock she found in the backyard. About the world. If there is a child I live vicariously through it's her, not because she has done anything more extraordinary than the others, but because at 30-years-old she still looks at everything with wonder and awe. I know she has tough days but she is the most consistently happy person in our family and when I've spent just a few hours in her presence I feel joy.
Our next one is the only boy. He is strong and masculine and a hard worker, yet he's never ashamed or embarrassed to show his love for me. He has no problem giving me a hug and telling me he loves me whether it's in a shout-out on Twitter or in front of his friends. I love how honest he is, not just with me, but with everyone. Sometimes that gets him into jams, but it always makes me proud. It tells me that he knows, that no matter what, he will always have a family who supports him and loves him unconditionally. I always have his back and I know he always has mine. And, at the risk of offending anyone else in the family, he makes me laugh like no one else can. But more importantly, he always makes me smile.
Our youngest came along a few years later. Because of that, for a lot of her life, it's been just her and me. She challenged me from the get-go and kept me on my toes just when I thought I could get comfortable and complacent (being child number four and all). She is just starting to get her footing in the word, barely out of her teen years. Those years were a struggle for her, and as a result, for us. In our quest to get her healthy and happy, it almost broke us. Almost. My mind still can't go to the place that knows how close we came to losing her. Today, she is someone who I draw my strength from. She shows me every day what the word resiliency means. If there is such a thing as a child being your soul mate then she is mine, because I know I live within her and she lives within me. Her spirit gives me wings.
With all of my kids, I didn't always come at it the right way and I made a lot of mistakes. The poet Maya Angelou says, "when you know better, you do better
" and that's a tenet I try to live by. As long as I can own my mistakes, learn from them, and do better, then I hope they will continue to forgive those mistakes. I don't believe they are done needing a mother yet, but likely no mother ever does. I know I'm not done being one yet. There are graduations I still need to see. There are grandchildren I still need to meet. There are weddings I still need to attend and vacations I still need to be part of. There is listening I still need to do and hugs I still need to give. There are stories and experiences I still need to hear about.
Every day I negotiate for one more--one more holiday, one more year, one more milestone. I pray to an entity I'm not sure exists that I can be here for as long as it takes to make sure they are all where they need to be in life. It's not about how many Mother's Days I have left but how many days I have left to be a mother and for me that will never be enough.
Until next time.....carry on.