At the end of January, in the middle of the worst winter on record, Ella and I planned a breakfast date before going to her new school. She was having a more than a little trouble adjusting, even though the move was her idea, and her choice. Instead of going to Starbucks for a before-school oatmeal breakfast date with my girly as planned, I sat in the dining room, watching desperately sad tears roll down her pink cheeks as if caught in slow motion. She was so sad. As sad as seven years old can be (which is, incidentally, very, deeply sad).
As usual, I had just asked her to put on her coat and then I sat down to wait. I took out my planner to jot down one more thing for today and looked up, only to notice her standing next to me. Not putting on a coat. Crying.
“Why do you only have me written in your book 2 times, mommy?” (choke, sob….heart breaking)
“What are you talking about?”
“You have all these things written in your book, and only two have my name by them. And one is CROSSED OFF!!”
At which point, she begins bawling in can’t-catch-your-breath sobs. I am confounded. This child, with whom I spend every waking (and almost every sleeping) moment, other than when she is at school, dearly wants validation in writing. As far as she was concerned I Forgot Her.
Just because we know how deeply we love our children, and even when we feel like we’re showing it, we can always take a minute to tell them, too.
It is so easy to forget how delicate children are. She saw all the things I was writing and quickly assumed they were the most important things in my day, my week, my life. Of course they weren’t. They were the things I was afraid I’d forget, or at least neglect prioritizing. I told her this, but the little soul-damage had already been done. I’m sure her little heartbreak is healed by now, but it’s made a lasting impression on me.
I never forget to prioritize my children. I wait at home (or rush to get here) so I can be around to listen to my 16 year old tell me about his day. I put my own projects aside so I can sit and listen with all my heart and mind when Ella practices violin. I mentioned in an interview recently that if I didn’t have children, I would just work all the time; that’s how much I love my work. But I don’t work all the time, because these kids of mine make Meaning in my otherwise busybusybusy life. I love them MORE. They require that I take time for nurturing, whether it’s caring for them directly, generally making time to connect, or even to take care of myself.
And how are they supposed to know that, if I don’t tell them with words? This is the only life they have – they don’t have anything else with which they can compare their life’s experience. They have the best mom in the world, but they can’t know that because they have never had a bad one, right? So, I have learned my lesson in communication. I acknowledge how important she is to me in writing.
I put her name in my planner at least once a day.
I’d love to hear from you:
Do you tell your kids how important they are with words? Obviously actions are more important, because that creates their baseline experience, but how do you come out and articulate their importance in your life?