Even with limited technology skills, I often use and greatly appreciate the wonders of Google. Entering only part of a quote I remembered, Google responded instantly with missing words and the author’s name. Amazing! That technological capability alone is worth a computer’s cost. With Google’s easy to obtain valuable information, it makes me wonder how it might have helped me through previous years of questions and concerns. Alas, my generation was forced to tough it out. “Building character” would have been my teachers’ and parents’ response to the situation.
The beautiful quote I was searching for is: “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Elizabeth Stone, professor at Fordham University and author of three books, is credited with those words.
She hadn’t composed that sentiment when I gave birth to my first child in March 1974, but I was confident my one birthing experience provided me limitless wisdom in parenting. My older and more experienced friends likely found my naiveté humorous and probably somewhat annoying. I realized later my parenting skills reached their zenith before I had children. Experience is an effective but not always gentle teacher.
Two more children provided additional tests of patience and fortitude; goals not always achieved; and humility as a frequent companion. The job was considerably tougher than the parenting books I’d read made it seem. One lovely day was typically followed by two challenging ones and sometimes dismal moments for reasons not clearly understood. Eventually, toddlers became teenagers, then college graduates, followed by the proverbial empty nest. The years went by quickly, but some days seemed eternal.
Now I’m that “older” woman who thinks but never says to struggling parents, “enjoy this time with your children, dear, because they grow up so quickly.” I remember my own stares and frustrated silent responses of “Not quick enough!” to well-intentioned grandmotherly comments.
My husband and I were recently vacationing in warmer climates and children we saw reminded us of our son and two daughters. No, I don’t wish I were still pushing a double stroller while holding on to the hand of a three-year-old. I’m in an enviable position now with seven grandchildren to love and enjoy, without being responsible for all those required decisions and necessary negotiations of living with them.
It was important to their Dad and me that our family visit people and sights much beyond our neighborhood. We learned to vacation economically but joyfully, and those memories of discovering new places continue providing pleasure. Some disciplinary decisions I’m still ambivalent about, but every mother’s revengeful retort to a sassy kid about “I hope you have a child just like yourself someday” doesn’t bring me that pure pleasure I used to think I would savor forever.
Every year on their birthdays, I’m beyond sentimental, remembering assorted details of their lives. Many are delightful or funny; others sad or heartwarming, and some I’d like to do over. I’ve told my children if they ever call me right as I’m experiencing those emotional highs, I’d likely give them their heart’s desire, if possible. They’ve yet to hit the exact moment. Little do they know that now anytime can be right for the asking.