Appreciation is just icing on the cake

I love being a mother. I fell in love with all my children even before they were born. I loved feeling them move inside me and dreamed about what they would look like, what their personality would be, and what their future might hold.

My kids haven't changed a lot since they were little.

My kids haven’t changed a lot since they were little.

The moment my first child was born (I have four), I devoted my life to being the best mother I could, which wasn’t always easy.

Now that my children are grown and have kids of their own, it’s easy to see where I went wrong (after all, hindsight is 20/20).

If kids did come with a manual, it might look something like this:

1. Spend one-on-one time with your kids, even if you have 10.

2. Make them feel important, loved, and safe.

3. Set boundaries. When you say no, mean it.

4. Give them a daily chore, even if it’s just picking up the front room.

5. Tell them you’re proud of them.

6. Encourage them to try new things, everything, until they find something they like to do or are good at.

7. Don’t try to be their friend. You can’t be their mom and their friend at the same time.

8. Ease their fears by being open with them and answering their questions to the best of your ability.

9. Teach them manners and to respect others; the Golden Rule.

10. Set a good example. Give them someone to look up to.

11. Don’t talk bad about their fathers, or anyone for that matter.

12. Teach them forgiveness.

13. Tell them you love them every day.

14. Never put them down or say they are bad. “Words once spoke, can never be taken back.”

15. Don’t set your expectations too high for your children.

Looking over this list, I can say that some of my parenting skills may have been lacking, but we learn as we go. No one is perfect. I may not have been able to give my kids the world, but at least they knew they were loved.

This year I received a letter from my youngest daughter, Lori, that made me realize that I must have done something right.

And she gave me her permission to share part of it:

“… Having my own children made me look at my mother in a different light. Everyone wants to be a better parent than their own, do things differently. And while that is true in some aspects, I also want to be just like my mother in many ways.

Even though my mom was dealing with her own issues while I was growing up, I always felt love radiating from her. I know she was proud to have us as her children, and she would do anything for us. And I feel the same exact way about my own kids. I think every mother does. But what my mom has taught me in the last ten years has had more of an impact on me than I could ever imagine. She not only quit drinking, she changed many of her destructive habits as well. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not perfect and she knows it. And I don’t think I could deal with it if she was. But she has taught me a lot of life lessons that I want to instill in my children.

She is so caring and giving. She would do anything for her loved ones and people she cares about. She is determined and tenacious. I can see how much her self-confidence has grown as she has achieved things she probably couldn’t have imagined before. She is selfless and passionate in everything she pursues. Her heart is so genuine. She is a deep and imaginative thinker. We can talk for hours on the phone, jumping from one topic to another, and totally follow and get one another. How many people can say they have that type of connection with their mom? I feel pretty damn lucky to say I do…”

Out of all of my children, Lori is the most sensitive. We are like two peas in a pod. It’s not that I don’t love my other children any less,it’s just that Lori and I share a very special bond. I think the greatest gift I could ever have received, especially on Mother’s Day, is the gift of being appreciated. It makes being a mother that much more rewarding.

You are there for your kids from the moment they are born, teaching them to walk, to talk, kissing their owies, teaching them to tie their shoes,  and to ride the bus alone for the first time.  You’re there holding them while they cry after their first break-up, and helping them get dressed for their proms and weddings, and holding your grandchildren for the first time.

When you’re a mom, you take care of your kids because that’s just what you do. You love them unconditionally because they are a part of you. You created them and you raise them to the best of your ability. And when it’s time to let them go, well…. that’s a little easier said then done. But you never really let them go. You just make them think you do.



The more the merrier

My daughter is pregnant with twins. She found out early on that they are both girls but still refers to them as Baby A and Baby B. The girls are due to come into this world Nov. 3, but as we all know, they come when they want to.

Two weeks to go!

I have four granddaughters and four grandsons, two of which are not by blood, but are still a part of our family unit. The addition of the twins will make 10 grandchildren for me, and I don’t think my children are done having kids yet. I have three daughters and a son. My daughters all have children, and may be done having kids, but my son, Sean,  is only 19. It may take him a while, but I know he wants a family someday.

But right now, Holly is feeling miserable. No one in our immediate family has had twins before, so this is a new experience for everyone. We have watched Holly balloon to three times her normal size. She has actually lost a few pounds from her starting weight. I told her it’s because she is taking better care of herself. She quit smoking, drinking, eating fast food, and is exercising more. Pregnancy seems to do that to a person.

She told me that carrying two babies is a lot tougher than just one. Everything is magnified; the stretching, the pressure against her bladder and pelvis, and the movement, while wonderful, makes it feel like they’re fighting for space, which, I’m sure, they are.

I keep reminding my daughter to enjoy these last two weeks because she is going to be busier than she ever imagined. It’s a good thing she has had some training; she has a 5-year-old rambunctious daughter, Isabelle, and she works as a server at Chili’s, but I don’t think anything can really prepare a mother for what comes next. You just learn to go with the flow and take this as they come.

But, as with any hormonal imbalance, she is also emotional and her mood swings upset her. “I’m afraid I won’t love the twins as much as I love Isabelle,” she told me. I tried not to laugh, because I knew she was serious. I hugged her and assured her that will not be a problem.

I explained to her that it’s hard to explain a  mother’s love; it just happens, and nothing will ever change the way you feel about your children. You love them all the same, but different.

I guess she’ll just have to figure that one out for herself.

Birthdays–more than just counting years

Twenty-five years ago, my second daughter, Caryn, was born. Twenty-five years ago, my daughter, Holly, went from being an only child to having to share her parents with another, something I’m pretty sure didn’t thrill her much at the time.  Twenty-five years ago, I was blessed with becoming the mother of a trying but unique little girl, one  who would take me on a journey that would test my sanity, push my patience, and make my life far richer than I could ever imagine.  A rambunctious young lady, who would teach me about love, and heartache, and what it means to be a mother.

Every child that a mother has holds a special place in her heart, and there always room for more. Holly was the first; by the time she was two, she already had it all figured out.  Lori was my youngest daughter, sweet and innocent, and the baby, for a while anyway.  Sean came along, the only boy and instead of one mother, he got four.

Caryn’s birth was a difficult one for me, much more difficult than my first. The labor was harder, the pain more intense, and for some reason, I felt that maybe she didn’t want to be born just yet.  It was a cold January night in 1986 when I walked the halls at St. Luke’s Hospital In Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 

Caryn wasn’t due for 10 more days but I felt the first pangs of labor on Jan. 15.  I wasn’t sure of this was it because I had felt false labor with Holly.  “Let’s just wait a while,” I told my husband, Bruce.  So that’s what we did.  We timed the contractions and though they were light, they were regular.  We took Holly over to Bruce’s mom’s house and went to the hospital.

Once we got there, I was checked and told that I was only dilated three centimeters.  “You can go home and wait, or you can walk the halls,” said the OB nurse.  We chose to stay and walk because it was so cold out, (below zero) I didn’t feel like going home and just coming right back in, because, well,  that just seemed to be my luck.

So we walked.  And walked.  And walked. We walked up and down the long halls.  I watched women being rushed to the delivery room, and still I walked. The contractions became stronger, and still I walked. Finally, after what seemed like hours, I went back to my room to be checked.  “You’re getting there!” the nurse called enthusiastically from the foot of my bed.

I was not in the mood to be as enthusiastic, but managed a weak smile, because I knew that it would be over soon. I wanted my birth to be a natural one, like I had for Holly, so I held out for medication.  But it became extremely hard to resist.  The pains became more intense and they finally broke my water.  “I’m really in a lot of pain.  Can I get some pain medication?” I asked, almost pleading.

“No, the doctor says you’re too close, we have to get that baby out,” the nurse said, changing her tone.

So there I lay, in the most pain I didn’t think I would ever feel again (I was wrong, I had two more kids)  They say that women in child-birth reach a threshold and an automatic pain reliever kicks in a nd you don’t remember the pain. Well, they’re wrong.  

 But the moment they put that tiny baby girl in my arms, nothing else mattered.  When we went home the next day, it was bitterly cold. We bundled her, afraid that three layers of clothes wouldn’t be enough.  Holly had been born in May and we hadn’t had to worry about it.

I was excited to be home with Caryn but soon found that to be exhausting.  Holly got the chicken pox when Caryn was a week old and we were afraid Caryn would get them.  Then Caryn developed colic and she cried all the time.  At first we couldn’t figure out why.  I was breastfeeding and using formula to supplement. Apparently she didn’t like it and we spent hours trying to console her. She did grow out of that, but not for a few months.

When Caryn was 2 month-old Caryn was hospitalized with pneumonia, something that would follow her right through to adulthood. (She also had earaches and sinus infections and it seemed like we were at the emergency an awful lot.)

I was a little worried about how Holly would react to her little sister, but they became fast friends. But they were very different. Caryn wa s a very cautious child, who took to a security blanket and sucked her fingers when she was unsure of something.  She was quiet and clung to her dad a lot of the time.  But boy did she have a temper! 

It was clear that Caryn was her own person.  She wanted to be.  Not that she was really that independent but she made her own style.  She was a trendsetter.   She was a girly girl and loved to wear dresses and fix her hair. We bought her a pair of white cowboy boots that she loved dearly.  She loved them so much that she wore out two pairs of them!

I tell this story often, mostly because it enables me to hold on to that special memory of Caryn that is hers alone. Growing up was difficult for Caryn; divorce and step-parents only complicated her middle-child existence, and all I could do was tell that it would get better.  And it did.  She grew up and she was able to make her life the way she wanted it.

Now Caryn has three children of her own and finding out what it’s like to be a mother. Sometime she calls, at her wit’s end and close to tears.  Other times, she gushes how much she loves being a mother.  It’s all that…and more. 

So today I pay tribute to my daughter for surviving the awkward adolescent, teenage, and young adult years, and being able to enter the true adult years with grace and dignity.  Happy Birthday Caryn!  I love being your mother!