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How Do I Want My Children to Remember Me When I'm Gone?

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On the fifth anniversary of my mother’s celebration in heaven yesterday, I thought a lot about how I remember her. I thought about it all day, in fact. And at the end of the day, I thought about the mother my children will remember when I’m gone.

It was humbling. I have not been the best mother I could be, if I had really given it my best. But, it was also eye-opening. This is an opportunity. I can start again today, being the mother I want them to have. So, I took the challenge.

I made a list of my favorite things I remember about my mother.

I made a list of the important lessons she taught me.

I made a list of the ways she loved, supported, disciplined and encouraged me to challenge myself.

I made a list of her traits I respected and admired.

I made a list of her strengths where other people let me down.

I took note of how she treated me and treated others and how she spoke to my father, even the tone of voice she used.

I recognized while she never pretended everything was fine, she never burdened me with what might be troubling her. She let me see her humanity, her vulnerability. She let me see her cry. But, her problems were not for me to worry about.

No matter what, she always greeted me with a smile and open arms, happy to see me. And until the very last time, every time I pulled out of her driveway, she stood outside and waved until I couldn’t see her in the rearview mirror anymore.

Then, because no one is perfect, I made a list of the shortcomings that I’d rather not repeat with my children. Of course that was a very short list.

But, not until long after she was gone was I even able to acknowledge I had been holding on to some childish anger, for the times she wasn’t perfect and maybe dropped the ball a little.

It was hard for me to make a list about someone I loved so much and had put on such a high pedestal. That must have been a lot of pressure. I know she never ever let me down on purpose. But, I didn’t have the chance to mend that hurt while she was still alive. I wish I had. I hope it’s not too late for you.

So, If I’m going to strive to be my best at anything, I should strive to be my best for my kids.

Mom used to say, “Children didn’t ask to be born. That was our decision to put them here.”

My children love me more than anything. They need me. They depend on me to answer the difficult questions and the ones that are a little uncomfortable to ask. They count on me to protect them and keep them safe and clean and clothed and fed, and to get them where they need to be safely, prepared and on time. Our home should be the place where they can exhale, relax, be their true selves and know they are accepted, respected and forgiven when they make mistakes.

Granted, they didn’t come with instructions for us. But, they weren’t handed sturdy shoes and a map when they got here either. It’s not my job to do life for them. But, it is my job to show them how to maneuver through it themselves, with some degree of success — or at least advise against the same mistakes I made. And if they insist on doing it their way, sometimes, as hard and painful as it will be, I will have to let them find out the hard way and pay their own consequences. That’s gonna suck for me, because I’m a serious “rescuer.”

If you are a parent, I challenge you, too.

Make your own lists.

Make a commitment to these little humans who are flying blind without our guidance.

It may seem like it sometimes, but they do not run on autopilot. If we don’t lead by example and encourage them to be the best people they can be, then someone else will mold them into what they want them to be. And we have an opportunity, if we do our best, to affect every life they touch and the children they raise and ultimately, the world in which each of us will live, in a positive way.

How do you want to be remembered?


Getty image by Nadezhda1906

Originally published: June 14, 2018
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