I hope this letter makes its way back to you when you have your own children. I hope this letter makes its way back you at a time when you too, can realize that children, especially your own, can and will be your greatest teachers of all time. There’s a reason they say, “Out of the mouths of babes…”
The other night, you had a nightmare. I heard you screaming for me, sounding panicked. I ran to you and carried you to our chair in the living room. We sat together until you were able to calm down. I rubbed your back and held you to my chest. There weren’t any lights on and we weren’t speaking to one another. It should have been a moment I wanted to soak in for forever because rarely, do we have quiet cuddle moments where you ‘just want your mommy.’ Instead, I was sitting there wondering when you’d feel better about going back to your own bed because I was ready to go back to mine.
After several minutes had passed of us sitting in the silence of the night, you picked your head up, looked at me in the eye, and said the words that will *hopefully* forever make in impact on my heart.
You said, “Mommy, when are you ever gonna start playing wif me?”
I immediately got defensive because how could you possibly expect me to play with you right then and there?! It was the middle of the night, clearly this is not the time or place to play!!
Then, the next words you said, absolutely will forever be heavily engraved onto my heart.
“No momma, not now. Just ever. I’m the only kid in this house and you never want to play wif me. I need someone to play wif and you’re all I have.”
Oh my sweet boy. Until you have kids of your own, you’ll never truly know the awful feeling of knowing you have failed your children. Failure. Not just the ‘mom fails’ that we all joke about when we forget to pack your lunch or when we forgot to send a jacket in 20 degree weather. Actual, real failure. Failure that was obvious enough for your own kid to take notice.
I couldn’t even respond when you said those words; hell, I could barely breathe. I laid your head back into my chest so you wouldn’t see my tears.
I didn’t sleep very well that night and had the worst feeling in the pit of my stomach the next day. I hated myself because I knew you were right. I could literally hear myself telling you I didn’t want to play with you or I didn’t have time. I was guilty and there was no denying it. I had failed your little 5 year old heart. I made you think your wants and needs didn’t matter to me. I made you believe I didn’t want to spend time with you.
Luckily for me, you, and children in general, are very forgiving. Also luckily for me, God has a way of slapping us in the face just enough so we can feel it in our soul and want to fix it so it doesn’t happen again. Because that shit hurts.
Parenthood is HARD. Like really really hard. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Most of the time, parents are trying their very best to do what is right for their kids; what’s not always awesome about that is, what we think is right and best, isn’t always right or best. Believe it or not, as a parent, you will be wrong. A lot.
What is also true about parenthood is that we get so wrapped up into the ‘adulting’ part of it, we lose sight of the fun part. It’s very easy to get caught up in the bills and the schedules and the homework and the laundry and the every day crap. The every day crap that isn’t playing. We forget that you (kids) don’t care if the house is clean. We forget that you don’t care if we just have hot dogs for dinner. We forget that you are little and innocent. We forget you don’t know what a mortgage is, and frankly, even if you did, you wouldn’t care. My point is, adults have stressors in their life that make them forget how to just be little. It’s a very poor excuse, but it’s true. We have forgotten how to play and more importantly, we have forgotten why we should play with you.
My dearest son, here is what I want you to take away from this letter.
As I’m writing you, in this very moment, I have officially been your mom for 5 years and 8 months. To date, this “mom fail” has had the most impact on me, more so than anything else. You called me out on something I deserved. Even though it stung me to my soul, I am forever grateful to you.
In those few sentences that night, you taught me so much!
First and foremost, you made me realize I have no excuse to not play with you. Playing is simple and easy. I should never see it as a task. It’s important to you, so it needs to be important to me.
Secondly, you made me stop and think about the obvious – I’m all you have and you are all I have. You’ve never been more right. I’m your only parent and I need to step up my game where you are concerned. And guess what, more than likely, you’ll be my only child. You’re it. I’ll never have another 5 year old. In a few months, you’ll be 6, then 7, then 18. These years are SHORT. They have already flown by and I hate myself for wasting them.
Lastly, you taught me to listen and to be thankful for second chances. I’m a firm believer that God works on us, through children, very often. He sent you guys here to be our teachers, to guide us. I’m sure, if you are reading this as an adult with a few years of parenting under your belt, you’re thinking, “geeze mom, it was just playing, I was only a kid, I didn’t know better.” But it’s not about just playing, son. It’s about the level of importance to you as a child. At age 5, playing is the most important thing on the planet and it’s our job as a parent to make sure our children know we value what is important to them, at that time, because sooner, rather than later, what’s important to them will be much bigger than playtime. I’m so very sad I told you I didn’t want to play when you asked; I’m disappointed in myself for making excuses. But like I said, I’m grateful for second chances to make things right before any more time passes.
The minute you got home from school the next day, we played legos for an hour in your room. I even set a timer so we’d both know I wasn’t trying to skip out early. Since then, I have made a point to play with you, uninterrupted, every day after school. And I have enjoyed it.
My wish, is that you are able to look back on your childhood and remember me being present. No matter what age, no matter what was going on, I pray that you can say, “my mom was there.”
My wish, is that you continue to teach me how to be a better mother for you.
My wish, is that you continue to be forgiving and patient with me.
My wish, is that as a father, you will be open to what your kids are teaching you.
And my wish, is that as a father, you will always find time to play.
I love you more than anything,