It is virtually impossible to appreciate what our parents do for us when we are children. We have no real frame of reference. It’s all really about us and we’re mostly oblivious to what our parents go through as they learn how to be parents themselves.
My mother became a Mom when she was 20. That may seem old in some cultures but I think the rest of us can agree that is pretty young. My Dad was only 25 when I arrived.
I don’t think I had the maturity or emotional capacity to become a parent at 25, let alone 20 (in fact, I’m certain I lacked any reasonable dose of either). My parents raised me, my sister and my brother as best they could and without that elusive Parenting Manual that never seems to arrive when our children do.
The three of us now have families of our own and it’s only really now that I have an inkling of how my parents must have felt as new parents.
I’m still pretty new at being a Dad (about 9 years in) and I’ve learned that being a parent is mostly about doing the best you can to keep your children alive, clothed, fed and happy.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes, some of which I have shared and some which you’ll never hear about. I think I’ve also done a few good things too. Mostly, being a parent is a learning experience. It happens moment by moment and there are days when it all seems to be so easy. There are other days when I can only barely keep the doubts and worry at tolerable levels.
When I look at other parents, I see other people also trying to figure this stuff out. Some are better at some aspects of parenting and not so great at others. There are, of course, the parents who really seem to have figured this stuff out and I’m constantly envious of them.
Mostly, though, none of us really have the “How to Be An Awesome Parent and Never Let Your Kids Down” manual. We just muddle along and aim to make fewer mistakes that can’t be resolved with years of therapy when our kids are older.
So, this was what was running through my mind when I sat down to write my letter to my Mom.
I’m sure she feels guilty about mistakes she feels she made as a mother just as she is (justifiably) proud of the many great things she did. One of the things I wanted to communicate through my letter to my Mom is that whatever mistakes she may feel she made don’t matter anymore.
What I take from my experiences of being my mother’s child (at least in the first two decades or so of my life) have inspired me to be a better parent to our children.
When I think about how to deal with a difficult situation, I don’t think back to some dark, tragic moment in my childhood where my parents let me down (there really weren’t any). I think back to the happy moments, the positive lessons I learned and the times I felt loved. Those are the childhood experiences that shape me as a parent today and will in the years and decades to come.
So, after all of that I have two last things to say. First, go read my letter to my Mom. Second, thank you Mom. Love you lots!