As we approach milestones in our own lives, I’ve found it pertinent to preserve these milestones for our children to reflect upon in the future. Lessons learned in motherhood, memories treasured, values cultivated; these all need to be passed on.
Half of my childhood was spent without my father, because he died in a car accident when I was ten years old. While I miss him every day, what I have found to be the most challenging as an adult is to wonder what he was like when he was my age. In my family, I really identified with him the most, both in my struggles and in my strengths. My mother and his friends can fill in some of the blanks, but it’s never quite the same as having an actual conversation.
Did I make the right decisions for my girls?
Will what I say really matter in the long run?
Where should my priorities lie?
As I quickly approach a birthday that shuffles me into the “advanced” age category in some medical offices, I thought I would take a moment to tell my girls the answers to some of the questions I never had answered. I don’t know if my increasing age automatically grants me the wisdom to instill parenting advice upon my daughters in the future, but at least the girls will have a record of what I thought in this chapter of my life.
So, to my girls; here are thirty something pieces of wisdom, as I turn an age of a similar number.
Thirty Something Lessons Learned
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I’ve made three really sound decisions in my life: Jesus, The Engineer, and becoming a nurse. One day, we will have a glass of wine together, and I will tell you about the less sound decisions.
Words of affirmation and quality time are my love languages. Couple this with being a feeling extrovert, and I’m quite the package.
I feel things a lot more than I think through them. This does not always lead to the most sound decision making. The trick is to find the happy medium between the two.
I apologize for my mistakes everyday; not because I am always screwing up, but to show you that I am far from perfect and the vital importance of humility. I want you to know that it’s always safe to make mistakes in our house, and no matter what you do, you can always come home.
I learned how to possess true gratitude after a few years in the hospital with the sickest of the sick patients. Having the privilege of caring for anyone through their last hours of life puts your own in surprising perspective.
There is a great deal of joy that can be yours, if you let it. Finding gratitude in the blessings that surround you every day is step one.
I worry too much. I always have, and it is usually about stuff that really does not matter in the least. I’m slowly learning to rely on God’s grace and the mind He gave me to use anxiety as a catalyst for change and not as a stumbling block.
I have a few vices, but the one that’s the strangest is the joy I get from cleaning out closets. Give me a Diet Dr. Pepper and put on repeats of some teen drama, and I’m content for hours.
We have two bottom lines in our house, or two things we really want you to learn before you leave it: God loves you unconditionally, and it’s your job to show that love to others.
You won’t always like me, or think what I’m doing is in your best interest. I hope that means I’m doing it right.
Nothing steals your joy faster than entitlement. I will work tirelessly to ensure that you know each and every day just how fortunate you are.
Comparison will quickly steal your joy, just like entitlement. This has been the toughest for me when it comes to a healthy body image, and learning to care for the body I’ve been given. Acknowledging everything it did to bring the four of you into the world was my first step towards honest self care.
I love telling stories. The Engineer is quick to point out that I have a storyteller’s license and will occasionally embellish one or two things. He’s wrong.
I want you to always look for the person who’s suffering. If nursing has taught me anything, it’s the vital importance of anticipating pain and doing all that you can to provide comfort. That extends well beyond the bedside and should be given to everyone you meet.
Four kids, all under the age of seven, was total chaos there for awhile. And, truth be told, it still is some days. I have learned to handle it by using the triage principles I used with my patients. So, if you aren’t actively bleeding (or the emotional equivalent), you might not get my immediate attention sometimes.
You all have asked me before why and how I gain so much joy and peace from The Episcopal Church service. The Book of Common Prayer is filled with words and traditions that have been in my life since it began, and can be traced back in our family long before that. I know you think now that saying to same words every weekend is boring, but I hope one day you’ll find it to be a source of comfort.
Fear strikes my heart when well meaning strangers ask why we didn’t “try for a boy”. There is no way that I could quickly articulate how the four of you have been on my heart since I was a child, and it worries me that you will think these innocent comments are the truth.
My greatest parenting insecurity (at least currently) is that we look like an out of control circus when we’re out in public. It’s as if I can feel the scrutiny and judgement radiating off everyone surrounding us, “Hasn’t that crazy lady heard of birth control!?!?” This is where The Engineer points out my flare for the dramatic.
I value working hard and being respectful significantly more than any grade you bring home or game you win. Success is in the eye of the beholder.
I never felt secure in my parenting abilities until our village, or the other families that are influencing your lives, was secure. This village will go through transitions over time, I have no doubt, but learning to humble myself and rely on the help of others was instrumental in my growth as your mother. I cannot imagine trying to parent without their support.
Though I am about the most uncompetitive person alive, college basketball is my jam. It has very little to do with the actual game, though I am a big fan of the climate controlled setting and the abbreviated length of the contest. What I love the most are the stories behind the players and the teams, and the values that the sport instills in the younger generation. Getting to watch you all play and love it is an added bonus.
It is critical to acknowledge that we all have different strengths and limitations. Someone else’s success does not equal your failure. And finding a way to celebrate in another person’s triumph will be your own greatest victory.
It is safe (and smart) to stop doing certain things if you discover you just aren’t any good at them. For me, it’s running and gardening. I have tried at multiple points in my life to adopt and enjoy both of these pastimes, and not only does it make me miserable, but I am TERRIBLE at it!
I have considered creating a Pinterest profile entitled “Truly Mediocre Creativity“. I will never be the mother with the perfectly decorated house, or the one who makes Easter baskets from the Pottery Barn Kids photo shoot, or who can start and run her own Etsy shop. And though it took me some years to get there, I’m completely content in my creative mediocrity.
I seem to be on a lifelong trajectory to find balance and peace. The closest I’ve come so far is the peace I feel in our home.
It took me way too long to realize how cool The Smart One is. It’s my daily prayer that the four of you realize this about your own sisters so much sooner.
The best gift your father and I could ever give you is each other. Treasure it.