An Open Letter to My Children

Hey Ducklings!

Just to give you the background, I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking about parenthood lately.  And it’s mostly motivated by a comment I heard recently.  While out running errands a few days ago, I overhead a woman venting to her friend about the tribulations of motherhood.  I SWEAR I wasn’t eavesdropping.  This woman was VERY frustrated and her volume had risen accordingly.  From her comments (while she and her friend were waiting ahead of me in the checkout line) it became clear that she had kids and one of them was a daughter somewhere around the age of 12 or 13.  I’m not going to lie – that is not exactly a “fun” age with girls.  This mother kept . . . oh, let’s be honest and call it what it was . . . she was complaining.  Just as the friend finished paying for the items she had purchased, the cranky mother said something that has stuck in my brain – “After all I’ve done for her, that little brat owes me.  Big time.”

That stuck with me.  And not in a pleasant way.

So I’m taking this chance to make myself ABSOLUTELY clear:

Esther, Margaret, Janessa and Jay, I want to say to all of you – categorically and without any misunderstanding – that you owe me absolutely NOTHING.  Nada. Zilch.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve just known I was going to be a mom.  And God got crazy with the blessings and gave me four of the funniest, most creative kids any mom could have.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all fun and games.  Being up repeatedly with a newborn made for some very tired days.  Four children so close in age made the schedule a little crazy at times.  Sick kids, cranky toddlers, stubborn temper tantrums, mouthy attitudes, teen-aged angst . . . there were moments that made me want to scream or pull my hair out or put myself in time out just so I could get my head back on straight.

But none of that matters.  You don’t owe me a thing.  I did not become a parent as a way of setting up some sort of “savings account” that I could tap into down the road.  I didn’t create a score card on the day that you were born so I could start tracking the time I spent being a mom.  Being your mom has been a privilege.  It has allowed me to learn about myself and to grow as a person.  It’s taught me that I can solve problems creatively, that my “mom instincts” are pretty good and that the simplest solution is sometimes the best.

I did not do what I did as your mom to “earn points” or set you up for a big payback down the road.  I chose to have children and I chose to love each of you unconditionally.  Watching you grow, learn, try and fail and try again . . . all of it has brought me more joy than I could ever have imagined.  There are many parts of my life  that I have loved and many experiences I will cherish.  But next to being married to the love of my life, being mom to the four of you is the richest blessing I could ever have hoped for.

I make no pretense about my “mothering skills” – I’ve gotten it wrong as often as I’ve gotten it right.  Might have even screwed up MORE.  But you have been loved since before I met you and nothing will ever change that.  I love you “to the moon and back.”

“Love you forever, like you for always.”


Mama Duck

Growing Up

What is about to follow may end up sounding like a rant but I just cannot get this off my mind.

Hubby and I took our youngest daughter on a visit to the college she is planning to attend in the fall.  There were a significant number of students there and they were all being honored for earning one of the academic scholarships that the college has available (they have varying levels based on grade point and test scores).  In the opening session, some introductions were made and instructions given.  As they were getting ready to dismiss the students to their seminars and the parents to their COMPLETELY SEPARATE seminars, one mother just a couple seats down from me, leaned up (we were sitting near the front) and got the attention of the gentleman who had been giving the instructions (he was an administrator of some sort). She said, “It’s okay if I go with my student to her seminars, right?”  Without missing a beat the gentleman responded, “No.  You will need to go to one of the parent seminars.”  The student in question walked away with a smile on her face and the woman turned to her husband and said, “This is ridiculous.  How am I supposed to know if she asks all the right questions?!  There are things that I need to know so we can choose her college!”  I wanted to turn to her and say, “Ma’am, you’re daughter is obviously intelligent enough to win an academic scholarship, I’m pretty sure she can choose her college on her own and I’ll bet she can also figure out what questions she needs to ask!”  I kept seeing this woman all over campus as we went to lunch, toured the residence halls, etc.  And EVERY time I saw her, she was bugging some faculty or staff member with question after question.  I even saw her family walking with one of the tour guides (a current student) and MOM was walking next to the guide asking dozens of questions while her daughter – the potential student – was walking behind saying nothing.  Seriously, lady.  CUT THE CORD ALREADY!!!

I teach as an adjunct professor at a local Community College and I can tell you that the Family Educational Right to Privacy Act means that a student over the age of 18 has the right to expect that their educational information will not be shared with anyone.  Not even mommy and daddy.  This woman is in for a rough year next year.

Sadly, this lady is not an exception.  Colleges are having to take a tough stance with parents because there are many out there like the crazy lady that I saw today.  The intentional separation of parents at visitation weekends is just one step.  Some colleges are also going to a specific “check out” time for parents when they drop their students off in the fall.  In other words, at the time set by the college, the parents are asked to hug their student good-bye and leave!

Why does this bug me?  “Helicopter parents”, as they are not-so-affectionately known, cripple their children.  When we let our young adult or adult off-spring make their own decisions they may make a bad one (or two or three or . . . ).  But they have to make their own mistakes and learn from them.  It would be SOOOOO much easier if we could list for them all of our bad decisions and know that they would learn from our mistakes.  But they have to make their own mistakes.  They have to learn their own lessons.   Don’t get me wrong – I did ask the campus tour guide a question or two (about laundry facilities and mail delivery) and I asked one question in a parents Q & A about financial aid and general academic information.  I am NOT advocating total hands-off disinterest. But my daughter’s choice of college is HER choice.  She will be the one living on campus, taking classes, making friends . . . I’ve had my college experience and it’s time for her to get hers.