Snapshots and Memories

As I raise this family of mine, I often hope that the good things will stick. Many times us mothers live in constant worry – as if our children will only remember every single bad thing we ever did and forget all the good times that happened in between.

There was a time when my oldest was small, where every time I would mess up, yell, or react in a wrong way, I would comfort myself with the thought: “Well he’s only two, he won’t remember that.”

Then, “Hey he’s only three, I don’t remember anything from when I was three…maybe he’ll forget it.”

Then four, “He might actually remember this.”

Then Five: “By this age he’ll totally remember…”

And then Six: “He’ll never forget that!”

Somewhere along the way I had become haunted by the thought that every single flaw, every failure would be carefully recorded, stored in their memories and brought out on the inevitable day when they most certainly will all go to years of therapy to undo all my mistakes.

But realistically, our memories don’t work that way.

My own childhood is a mixed-up snapshot, a mostly happy blur of highlights: playing dolls with my sisters, an old horse named Gus who I led around the pasture for many hours, dump runs with my dad, working outside with the whole family and then going afterwards to my grandparents house to swim and eat freezer-burnt Revels (which, by the way, I LOVED because of all the ice on the outside and the middle was yellowish and chrystalized just as I liked it!!), singing with my mom while she rocked me in our old brown rocking chair, random cartoon characters, knitted kittens and KFC at my other Grandma’s house, hockey cards with hard chewing gum in the packs, stories of my Father’s fascinating childhood in Mexico, new batches of kittens every spring, special family vacations, family gatherings with cousins to play with, morning devotions, camping disasters and traumatic news events such as Princess Diana’s death and 9/11.

Were my parents perfect? No.

But do I have a file of horror stories that I need deep healing from? Absolutely not!

In fact, almost every single one of my memories of them are happy ones!!!

Still there’s days where I wonder: Will my kids remember any of the good?

Looking back on pictures of my firstborn has many times filled me with deep regret. Regret because I wanted so badly to be that perfect parent that I wanted HIM to be perfect, so I barely gave him a childhood. Still I was trying my very best then, just as I am now.

“Let’s play a game!” I suddenly said to my children one lazy afternoon as I was thinking such thoughts as these.

I called it “Snapshots and Memories”

“Let’s take turns telling stories of our early memories (good or bad) and see what all comes to mind!”

What’s the worst that can happen?? (Part of me expected the worst.)

I started off the game with a memory from when I was five. My family was moving to a new community and I was so excited, yet sad, simply because I was really worried about missing the opportunity to sleep with our big class bear in kindergarten! Each child got a turn to take the bear home and sleep with it for a night…(ok that’s kind of gross now to think about!!) But my teacher was so kind that I got “randomly picked” the night before my last day at that school. I was thrilled! Now I could move on 😉

Next Bella shared a memory of going to a conference when she was six and being so embarrassed when a boy her age kept following her around telling her he was “in love” with her. She shuddered at the memory! (Oh the problems of being popular everywhere you go lol).

Then Jonas shared a memory of a spicy chip he ate and that I gave him a cold glass of milk afterwards…. (skipping that part about his dad encouraging it and filming as he changed from smug faced to “oh boy, this is HOT!🥵”)

Ok phew! So far so good!

Dallas shared next about going through my spices in the cupboard when I came up asking what he was doing and he kept saying “I’m trying to sell it” when he really meant “smell it”.

Emerson told a random story about monsters chasing him and me spraying them with a fire gun…which I quite enjoyed because I was the hero of that one and it most likely was 100% true…

AND…then the game took a very sharp downhill turn of made up senarios that I’m quite certain never actually took place, ALTHOUGH….the story of our family rocket blasting down Mt. Everest with two day old baby Emerson strapped to it really would be quite the adventure to tell the grandchildren about one day!

Maybe I’ll have to keep that one in the memory book…

As for their “ruined” childhoods, I am now certain that it’s not the actual failures I need to worry about, but the made up ones.

 

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A Short Summer, A Long Bucket List and Three Half Finished Novels…

Summer is almost over.

Since when do I literally panic at those words?!? I have a real desire to move somewhere hot for September, October and November and live in denial that it will ever end.

Summer in Canada is ridiculously short, but like most things, that’s what makes it so irresistibly sweet. We bear through a bitter six months of winter – half hibernating, half shriveling away in the arctic air and then after being soaked in the rain for a month or two, we finally can enjoy SUMMER. Children burst out of their homes, not a minute to lose! Playgrounds which were eerily empty and abandoned for the frosty months come to life. White legs stampede to the beaches. We book our holidays months in advance, being sure to make the most of every single second.

For the past two years, my kids and I have made a summer bucket list. It’s nothing crazy, no big life changing events are on the list, but it’s about 25 activities long and therefore, always is a rush to complete.

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This time, however, it isn’t so much the weather change that I am dreading, or even failing to check off every box on our list; it’s the realization that summer is almost gone and with it another year of my failed goal: to finish my first novel.

Oh, by the way, I am writing a book.

Actually three.

Cue the awkward pause as people nod politely and change the subject…

And in many ways I don’t blame themPublishing a novel and making any sort of career out of it, never mind actually becoming a bestselling author is almost like a child claiming they’ll grow up to be a movie star…😏 “Mmmhmmm, sure sweetie, you do that!”

Yet I have had this desire from the moment I could write words on a page and form them into something resembling a sentence.

I remember writing my first story in grade 2. My peers wrote their opening words, the only ones that could possibly be used to start a story at that age: “Once upon a time…” And I knew even then that that didn’t cut it. Already, at age seven, I knew that wasn’t the way to write a book. Not a good one. I still remember my teacher’s surprise when she read my opening line: “The sun shone warmly on little Jessica’s face, her dark hair blowing in the summer breeze…”  I remember her reading it to the class, devouring my writing as if it were a rare exotic treat. I felt gifted, as if I were a prodigy of writing, sure to blow the rest of the world away with my cleverly thought out plots and well-structured sentences. Only to find out in my teens that I actually had a long way to go before I would ever publish my work.

But maybe that’s why I’ve always loved it. It’s challenging, and still relaxing for me. It takes effort, yet is in some ways rather effortless. Not to mention, it is also the only talent I ever remember being noticed for in school.

But the funny thing is, I’ve never finished a full novel.  I’ve had countless ideas, some that eventually fell rather flat, some that took off. Until, well… I got near the end.  Every single time I’ve come close to finishing, I give up.  Eventually, after years of sitting in an unopened file on my computer I click delete.

I don’t really know why. But it’s as if I fear what will happen if I finish. So I finish…then what?

Perhaps, it’s partly because I think it’s childish, this dream to write.  Because writing isn’t a real job, right? More like an eccentric hobby for the most lonely of introverts, those crazy ones, who’ve never quite given up their childish imagination.

But even scarier to me is the thought that keeps plaguing me: If I do in fact finish it, will anyone actually read my book? Will they have any interest? Or will I finally be publicly exposed for the wannabe writer that I really am? Should I just grow up already and let go of my childish dreams?

However this time, I am further than I’ve ever been before. In all three books. And even though I’ve been working on them for months (ok one of them I’ve been working on for years!), I feel like I actually really like my work. I am proud of the writing I’ve done. And I feel like others may like them as well.

So summer, please stay a little longer. Don’t hurry away. Let the days slow down and the workload pause. Let me finish the bucket list. Let me enjoy my kiddos. Let me finish my novels. Ok, maybe just one of them.

Because I really want to know how it ends, and, even more so, if others will enjoy reading it as much as I do.

When Children Grow Up too Soon

I have a girl who’s almost 10. That’s her in the picture at the darling age of 3. She is an excellent reader and extremely mature for her age. Now, seeing that her books were getting far too easy for her reading level, I went in search of something that would challenge her. First I tried the “Chronicles of Narnia” series. She found them boring (as I had at her age, but to be fair to the series, I only read the first couple chapters of the first book.), then I tried a series called “Heros of the Faith”, which she absolutely loved. The first books are so interesting, yet as the series goes on the books are hit and miss. So Bella lost interest after reading two in a row that weren’t as exciting. Then finally I gave in and let her read my “Mark of the Lion” series by Francine Rivers, after all, I had read them around 11 or 12 years old. She loved these books so much that she sat in her room for days reading them! She finished them in three days (I was surprised because they are REALLY thick!)

All was good until one day, I scanned through the books again since it had been years since I’ve read them…and my heart dropped. These books may have been right at her reading level, but they were far, FAR to mature for her.

I may have forgotten the content, but I realized right there and then that I had I completely failed my girl by giving her the books. It was my responsibility to scan through before giving them to her and now she had already read them. I felt terrible! If you’ve never read the series, these extremely well-written books have quite a bit of history in them and take place in the years following Christ’s death. The setting is in Rome and the Romans are more bloodthirsty than ever. Terrible persecution is happening to the Christians and the Jews. The Colosseum is at its height in entertainment. People are starving while the rich feast away watching their deaths. The tale includes ongoing wars and slavery which also comes with gladiators, rape and temple prostitution…now your probably wondering why anyone should ever read it! Great book for a nine-year old girl hey?

So I went and apologized to her, letting her know that I was wrong in taking away some of her innocence by allowing her to read those books. Her response? “Oh Mom! That’s okay, I could handle it.”

Tears welled up in my eyes, for the words were far too familiar to me. Of course she could handle it! But just because she could, doesn’t mean she should.

Throughout ancient history and in some places even now, girls have been taken to be brides at ages not much older than my little girl. They become mothers as young teens and grow up with their children. Could they handle it? Sure, most of the time, I guess they could…they were forced to! But that doesn’t mean that a 13-year-old girl should have to take on such a heavy load of managing a household!

The same goes for children who are orphaned in third world countries. Overnight the oldest child becomes a caregiver to his or her siblings. They care far too deeply about their little brothers and sisters to do otherwise. And often, given the conditions they are living in, they do a better job than I would be able to do – fetching water, gathering food, earning a few dollars a day all while carrying a baby on their back.

And we cry when we hear these stories because they shouldn’t have to bear such a heavy load! They shouldn’t have to grow up so soon! They have a whole adult life ahead of them to “handle it”, they should be able to be just kids for a little while.

My daughter Bella, she’s a beautiful young girl…but of all my children she grew up the fastest. And with a house full of babies I did not complain. She talked in full sentences before any of my other babies could even say ten words. She walked the earliest. She could read before she was in kindergarten. She’s been the first to ask the hard questions. She gives in before anyone else will. I get it! She’s always been ready to be older than she is. And being my only girl, it’s difficult for me to let go of the innocence in her, to watch her grow. But it’s one thing to let go and let her mature, it’s quite another to realize when I’ve sped up the process.

I was the same as she was, always reading things, learning things, watching things way before I should have. I enjoyed knowing. I always could handle it well (or so I thought).

But man, I wish I hadn’t.

I rushed my childhood away, my innocence away before it’s time and I missed out on friendships. My favorite teddy lay in my closet, hidden away lest my friends would see that I still liked it. I missed out on playing with my last doll who sat in the corner watching me try to be older than I was. I missed out on the Polly Pockets which I sold at a garage sale just a couple of years before I was really ready to let them go. I missed the youth events with innocent, good fun and laughter. I missed out on much of my youth and I regret it because I can’t get those years back. I had my whole life ahead of me to be strong, why did I choose to grow up so young?

Sweet little daughter, take your time. Don’t rush the process and don’t slow it down either…let your maturity run its course. Adulthood will come and you can and should take on your responsibilities when it does. I know you’ll do great, I know you’ll handle life well.

But for a little while longer, just be my little girl.