My husband lost his mother to breast cancer when he was just 16 years old. I have asked him often what he remembers most about his mother. He says he can’t remember all the details of his childhood memories with his mom, but he does remember the way his mother used to look at him. There were times when his mother would gaze at him, even in a room full of people, and it would seem like there was no one else in the room besides himself. She seemed to be in complete awe of his presence and he would feel like he was her special boy. He also remembers how it felt to lay in his mom’s lap. She would quietly stroke his head- moving her fingers from the front of his head to the back. And he remembers how it was really important to her to have dedicated time with him alone, and his sister alone. He knows that she made the dates with her children a priority in her life.
Even reflecting on my childhood with my amazing mother, it’s not the specifics of what I did with her that stand out. What I remember is my mother’s genuine excitement to see me everyday after-school, her face lighting up as if she hadn’t seen me in months. I remember and can still feel the warmth of her cuddles as a little girl, and I cherish them even more now as a grown adult. I remember how when I crashed my parent’s car soon after getting my driver’s license, that my mother didn’t once yell or even remotely get upset, but showed incredible compassion and calmly looked me in the eyes and told me that mistakes happen and that it would be ok. And throughout my life whenever I have doubted myself, my mother has always remained steadfast in her optimism and conviction that my siblings and I could conquer the world if we wanted to.
Now as a mother myself, I know there have been plenty of times when I have worried about the little details of my children’s lives- from what types of stimulating games to play with them to finding a good birthday party theme. I’ve felt guilty about being a working mom or the fact that I just gave them mac and cheese for dinner again. And yet perhaps a lot of the actual details don’t matter that much and it’s a lot more simple than that. Perhaps if we are truly present and compassionate with our children even just for a few moments a day- and just for a few moments we make them feel like there is nothing else as important as tuning into them, as empathizing with them- then that is what they will most remember. Only time will tell how my children will look back on their childhood with me and their father, but for now I’ll keep trying to make a little space each day- to worry less about the minutiae, and more about just having a few mindful compassionate moments with my children.