A few days ago, my friend Kris texted me when Ben sent in his RSVP to a party:
Prince Hyacinth a.k.a. Ben Lehnardt.
And we both hurtled back in time, to exactly nineteen years ago when Ben and Anna Sam were obsessed with Thumbelina
and Prince Hyacinth, when they knew every line and lyric and Kris and I, as indulgent moms, made them costumes, not for Halloween or birthday gifts, just because childhood only comes once.
It was the same year I let them decorate our tree exactly as they liked.
Soon we were shooting texts back and forth:
“Remember the hours and hours of just playing and pretending?”
“And tea parties every day!”
“Acting out Narnia with Playmobil figures.”
“And letting the house just stay messy while we read a stack of picture books.”
We don’t regret letting the kids play in the sprinklers and climb on the roof; dozens of outings to the zoo, the park, the mountains, around the block.
I don’t regret hours and hours of nursing babies, even in the middle of the night. Of tracing their cheek with my forefinger, planting thousands of kisses on noses and bellies.
I don’t regret making them wear matching outfits and saltwater sandals,
or posing for pictures on the stairs.
And as much as I love the candid action shots, I don’t regret any posed photos, except for the ones where I made someone cry because they were being naughty, because really, who cares?
Ben looks like he’s been recently scolded in this one. Sorry Ben.
I’m so glad I made them take lessons and practice and learn to love music. But I do regret when I lost my temper during practice time.
Thankfully, I learned that lesson early, and I’ve been a very chill (if completely unambitious) music mom ever since.
I don’t regret a single hour spent at the library or a dollar spent on books or toys. I LOVE books; and I ADORE toys. Especially our golden pillars of childhood creativity: Legos and Playmobil. I used to calculate the cost of a dinner out or getting my hair done, skip those activities and spend the money on toys.
We spent hours and hours on the floor, creating complex plots and characters or just setting up a spectacular train crash. In fact I still have Playmobil
on my Christmas list this year. Not for the kids, for me.
I don’t regret tying simply flannel quilts for my babies or hand sewing the ruffle. More so, I’m glad I took time to just sit and watch Hans sleep.
I’m so glad I ignored everyone’s advice to vacation without the kids and just took them along instead.
And I’m glad I put them all in swim team for at least a year, but only to make them good swimmers, never to win.
The same with soccer. Every child played for a least a year (some played for ten), but we never cared who scored or which team won. We just loved to watch them play. And let’s take note: Ben still uses this expression in 90% of photos.
I don’t regret hauling six little boys downtown after the Utah tornado and letting them cross police lines to investigate the toppled trees.
Letting wildflowers take over the garden and giving the kids free reign to pick all the peas they could eat.
Stefan and Hansie.
I don’t regret giving them lollipops and ice cream cones and making ten thousand batches of cookies, brownies, blondies, lemon bars, banana bread, carrot cakes. Yes, sugar is the enemy and yes, I’d probably weigh fifteen pounds less if I didn’t bake for my kids. But I’ve always loved the simple chemistry of flour, sugar and eggs to make someone feel loved. A mother has to say ‘no’ to so many things, when they ask for cookies, I love to say ‘yes.’
I don’t regret keeping the puzzles down low where Gabriel could make a mess (while casually eating a granola bar). Because eventually, he learned how to put all those pieces together.
I texted Kris, “I have a feeling we could reminisce for hours. It wasn’t perfect, but it was lovely and we really did enjoy our children.”
Kris replied, “I disagree! It was perfect. We were so lucky! It just went too darn fast.”
We were lucky.
But there are things I wish I’d done better. I wish I’d really and truly let the house go– kept it up only to a basic health code level.
And there are a whole lot of things I wasted on my time that just didn’t matter– still don’t matter.
I wish I hadn’t taken myself so seriously; I wish I hadn’t taken the opinions of my neighbors so seriously. Because truly, all those disapproving faces have faded from my memory while the glorious, supportive ones like Kris (and Laura and Cindy and Katy) and her family are still there.
I wish I hadn’t worried so much about my weight or avoided the camera– because look, I was young and gorgeous!, and I didn’t see it.
It’s not possible to enjoy every minute of motherhood. All our messy humanness gets in the way. It’s like my friend when she took her kids on a dream trip to Paris, “We were in the middle of the Louvre and all we could think about was food, a drink, a bed.”
But just because it’s exhausting and expensive and full of unexpected problems doesn’t mean you aren’t grateful to be there; it doesn’t take away from the beauty.
Kris texted me again, “I don’t suppose you have a time machine in your basement?”
“If I did,” I replied, “I’m afraid I’d spend all my time in it.”
And that wouldn’t be wise. Because I’m still a young mom and I have so much to enjoy right now. Just ask the eighty year old women in my neighborhood: anyone with kids still at home is a young mom.
But if I could go back, just for a minute, I’d whisper in my own ear, “You’re doing better than you think.”