A Thank You Letter to My Children

To My Daughters:

In a few days it will be Thanksgiving. In school, daycare, and church you have been reading stories about turkeys, crafting cornucopias, and making lists of all the things you are grateful for. On the wall in one of your classrooms is a brainstorm chart that reads: my bed, my room, the food I eat, my mommy, my daddy, my teachers. You are told to think of all the people you love and things you are lucky to have. I’m doing the same thing.

What am I thankful for? Obviously I’m thankful for both of you, and the brother or sister that you’ll get to meet in the spring. But it’s not enough to stop there, because being your mom has made me more grateful than any other experience possibly could. It has amplified my appreciation of everything. Let me try to explain what I mean:

I was thankful the minute I knew about you. It was so hard to believe that I could have been granted such a gift that I often found myself anxious without knowing why, counting the days until the next doctor’s appointment just to prove that you were still there. When I heard your little heartbeats I could breathe easier for a while. Sometimes when the worry set in I would prop my feet up and eat gummy worms, just to wake you up and feel you kicking.

I was thankful when you were born and you were just fine, much better than fine, the images of perfection. I was thankful to bundle you into your carseat for the very first time and introduce you ceremoniously into our home and family, making you officially ours.

I have been so thankful to watch you grow and learn, from first smiles and laughs to first steps, first words, even first tantrums. Every day, in some way, you bring joy into my life. You make me laugh, sometimes intentionally, other times without knowing what you said that was so funny. You are amazing. You are awesome in the old-fashioned sense of the word. I am awed by your beauty and brilliance. I have been since day one, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop.

I am thankful for you because I get to watch my husband be your dad. I watch him pick you up and make you squeal. I listen to him read to you, sing to you, and try to coax you into your pajamas. I hear your delighted cries of “Daddy, daddy, daddy!” and I couldn’t be more thankful that you get to grow up with a dad as proud and loving as he is.

I am thankful that you have each other. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the two of you playing together. I love to sneak up and spy on you as you hide behind the crib and “read” each other books, or chase the dog, or try to do somersaults.
I am so grateful that you will always have one another.

I am thankful for every single person involved in raising you, every person who loves you or has helped me when I needed help taking care of you. The list is long. I am thankful because I want to be with you all the time and when I can’t be, I know that you are in good hands, and my mind is at ease.

I am thankful for all that you have taught me. As your mom, I have learned how to be patient, creative, efficient with my time. You have taught me that splashing in puddles during a rainstorm really is more fun than sitting inside by the TV. I have had to sort through and reexamine my beliefs and priorities as I’ve realized that everything I say or do, every decision I make, may impact who you both become. Consequently, I know more about myself now than I did before I was your mom.

I thank you for giving me the experience of motherhood, for helping me join a community of wise, brave, exhausted women with whom I can connect and empathize. Because admit it, darlings, you can be rough on your mama, and sometimes I just need someone to tell me that they get it and you will inevitably grow out of whatever stage is driving me bananas.

Honestly, I am an ooey-gooey, rain-boot-worthy puddle of gratitude. You made me that way, and even though a couple of hours ago you were both screaming your heads off for a reason that only you know (or perhaps you don’t), I wouldn’t want to be any other way.

Me Day: Is Just Being a Mom Enough?

This past Friday was declared the 2nd Annual You Day at the school where I work. On this day, students and faculty are asked to bring in props and dress in clothing that represents who they are, then have their picture taken for the yearbook. Last year, for the inaugural You Day, I was totally game. I strapped on a Baby Bjorn, stuck a baby doll in the front, and with a shrug showcased a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in one hand and a copy of A Tale of Two Cities in the other. There I was: a disheveled but happy mom making things work with the consumption of caffeine and even making time to cultivate my love of literature.

This year, the task of choosing how to stage my picture was much more difficult. I haven’t changed in any major way since this time last year, and as a chronic over-thinker I couldn’t bring myself to just replicate what I did the first time around. I racked my brain: What are my hobbies and interests? What do I do for fun? To relax?

Here’s what I came up with: Well, I used to write. I blog maybe once every few months. Does that still count? But do I want to have to explain to students what type of writing I do? What if they Google me? Ok, so, other hobbies… I used to be pretty into yoga. I haven’t been to a class in over four months, but once in a while I set my alarm fifteen minutes early and sit on my mat to stretch. Sometimes, when both of my kids are screaming, I take deep cleansing breaths to keep myself from joining in. Yoga is totally one of my hobbies. What else? I really love wine, but as a pregnant lady that might send the wrong message. Oh, and obviously they’re not going to publish a picture of me pretend-guzzling a bottle of Old Vine Zin next to pictures of twelve and thirteen-year-olds brandishing Minecraft swords and inexplicably wearing cat ears. Seriously though, what do I do for fun? Can I bring in a couch and get my picture taken sprawled on it with my eyes half open as I try to stay awake long enough to find out who the Bachelorette is going to eliminate next? 

In the end I opted for a Syracuse basketball Final Four shirt, a travel guide to Europe, and my passport, despite the fact that I only watch basketball during March Madness and the last time I was in Europe was ten years ago. So in a way, a day that was supposed to be about celebrating all the various talents and interests that make me who I am became something else entirely. It made me even more aware of how I should have posed for my picture: wearing a sweater streaked with toddler snot, toting a giant bag full of work to grade, and clutching my iPhone, my outlet to stay in touch with other people who have some sense of where I’m coming from when I need to vent about this wonderful, stressful, joyful, maddening life of mine.

I love my family and I love my job, but can they and will they define me entirely? Is a hobby even a possibility that will fit onto the already loaded plate I am carrying? I know parents who do manage to maintain serious extra-curriculars, but there must be some give somewhere. Maybe they can’t always sit down for dinner with their families. Maybe they’re content with getting only six hours or less of sleep every night. Maybe they don’t collapse onto the couch as soon as the kids are asleep. Or maybe they just have jobs that don’t require hours and hours of work outside of the “office”.

There are things I really want to do: learn more about photography, try out rock-climbing, take some kick-ass vacations, with and without the kids. But if I beat myself up about not having enough time or energy or willpower to pursue these interests, that’ll be just one more thing I’m beating myself up about, and what mom needs that? Maybe in ten or twenty years I’ll have some really cool past-time to show and tell, but I think next year, instead of stressing, I’ll just hold up a sign that says, “I have 123 kids: 3 at home, 120 at school. I love them all. I do my best. What more can I do?”