23 May 2011

The Most Important Thing

If all of my worldly possessions disappeared tomorrow - my house, my car, my hundreds of books, my room full of craft supplies, my impressive collection of dishes....it really wouldn't matter. It's all just stuff, background noise. There was a time (six years ago) when I never would have imagined saying that. I love my things, truly I do. I spend hours organizing and reorganizing, sorting and resorting. I love to clean, and arrange (and rearrange). I like order and neatness. Then I had kids.

I still like order and neatness, and organizing and sorting. But if a plate gets broken, or a book gets spit up on, or we waste endless amounts of card stock cutting out butterflies, I just don't care. What matters is how it feels to be the catalyst behind the smiles on my kids' faces. That the warm fuzzies they get come form interacting with us. That their favorite place to be is wherever we are. It isn't enough to just provide for them. In fact, they don't really care how much money we have, or if our cereal is store brand or name brand - they care that we sit in the floor and build towers, or curl up on the couch for a family movie (with fresh popcorn!). What matters is that whenever my daughter is scared, she is brave enough to come and tell me she needs me to hold her hand. Or when one parent tells my son no, he immediately toddles over to the other parent for some consoling and soothing (nevermind that he was trying to do something he shouldn't, like climb the bookshelves, or eat cat food).

I once asked a friend, the mother of teenage daughters at the time, how she raised such wonderful children. I'm terrified I'll screw up somehow, and they'll turn out to be a mess. And her very simple answer was "I always had time for them. No matter what." I'm the first person to admit I take on a lot; I pile my plate as high as it will go. I'm not good at relaxing. But everyday, I make an effort to fulfill that advice. Somedays, I fail. And I use those moments to teach my kids (well, really just my daughter at this point - my son just turned one, and he's too young to get it) that everyone, even mom and dad in their superhero capes, can mess up. I always remind them that it's what you DO with the mess you make that matters.

My kids have seen me fall apart. I have issues, and sometimes they are harder to manage. I don't hide it, and I don't pretend it isn't real. I put it back together WITH them, and when it all falls apart for my daughter (as can happen often when you are five and a half, and you don't get your way) I can talk her through it with experience, and point out to her tangible evidence that she can pull it back together.

Personally, my goal is to go to bed every night knowing I have done the absolute best I can for my kids that day. It's easier to take it one day at a time. I know I've done my job when I put my daughter to bed, and she reminds me that "I love you, Mommy, and you love me. And that's the most important thing." Yes, kiddo, yes it is.

This post was inspired by Left to Write's May book club selection, Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away by Christie WatsonTiny Sunbirds, Far Away  is an excllent coming of age novel of a girl in Nigeria...and so much more. Complex, rich in detail, full of love and angst...I highly recommend this book!

Although I received a copy for free, all opinions expressed are my own. I was in no way compensated for writing this post.

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