There is nothing that will make one feel more inept and often guilty than parenting. Guilt can ride your back like an ugly monkey if you let it. Taking from you every ounce of joy parenting can elicit. I have been on my fair share of guilt trips – both self imposed and those thrown at me by those with less than good intentions. Funny enough, I don’t believe that anyone is able to impose on me a greater feeling of guilt about past mistakes than I can impose on myself!
You see, I am quite aware that as a child/mother/wife of 18 years old, I did not set the best examples for my children. I am aware of the fact that I made many mistakes as I was bearing and attempting to raise four boys in my late teens and early twenties. I am also painfully aware that my mistakes cost me to lose so much time with the boys. Time I am unable to get back – nor do I want to.
That’s right! I said I don’t want to take back that painful time. Do I wish I had been a better parent? Absolutely! Do I wish that I had not made the mistakes I made along the way which made the lives of my children harder than they needed to be? Of course! However, those difficult times created resilient young men and helped me be a better parent to my daughters. Those tough times that saw me lose my temper and forget momentarily how precious life is, helped create young men of immense amounts of patience and compassion.
Now, as I look back, after laying next to my youngest sleeping child who had thrown her arm over me and snuggled in for a good nap, I am grateful. Grateful for the knowledge that those mistakes provided. Grateful for the growth that occurred out of the pain. Grateful for the fact that my boys know in their hearts that no matter my mistakes, my love for them is never-ending. There is no reserve amount – no price to be paid. I love them no matter what – even on their worst day.
This is another lesson from parenting you see. I had always heard of the unconditional love of God and my mom always provided me with her manner of unconditional love. I did not truly know the meaning of the term though until the girls came along. You see, there is a different type of relationship (IMHO) between a mother and her sons versus a mother and her daughters. There is no doubt that boys love their mamas without reservation or hesitation – and I them. The love of mother and daughter however, is another animal altogether.
I am not even sure I can put this thought into a cohesive paragraph that makes sense to anyone but myself. With the girls there is an understanding. We communicate on the same plane using the same words that identify emotions. As people of the female persuasion there is a different type of communication that takes place – sometimes it does not even require that words are spoken. We pay attention to the smaller nuances of human behavior and for a great majority of us, this means that we are able to attain a new or different level of understanding.
What I miss about the boys: the sound of raucous laughter and them calling for ‘mama’. The mornings when one of the youngest attempted to make my toast ‘crunchy’ the way I like it, but misinterpreted BURNT for crunchy. They served it to me before I even rose from bed, as though they were serving a queen! I miss sweaty boy hugs and the look of pride on their faces as they successfully accomplished whatever feat they had attempted.
For me, being a parent is quite similar to my ultra running and in fact, the two worlds often intersect in unique and interesting ways. I breathe a sigh of relief as I enter the dirt/mud/cobwebby world of the trail. It is often quite unforgiving, cruel and difficult at the same time it brings me a fantastic sense of PEACE. The trail does not require one to think much beyond putting one foot in front of the other. At the same time, there are an abundance of thoughts that occur within my head simply BECAUSE it does not require a whole lot of conscious thought.
Running, especially as slow as I tend to go, requires some patience and compassion; fortitude and stubbornness….persistence and consistency. Does this not sound very similar to parenting? Ironically I find that many of these characteristics I thought I did not have, I have found on the trail. Not only directed or felt for others….but for myself as well. There is so much we can learn about who we are and in what direction we would like our lives to meander by hitting the open road, sidewalk or nearest rocky trail!
It is my serenity….my peace and the place I go to think. It is where I go to just BE…..me. Not mother, wife, teacher, student, counselor….etc., etc., to just be a body cruising the trail….
I am thankful and blessed to BE back on the trail and that has been another lesson learned. That is a story for another day though.
Until next time, don’t be a stranger…