Lessons From My Children: For Mother’s Day
“In this family, we support each other’s dreams.” —Emmeline, at age 10
“People come down from the stars, and when one jumps down to help those on Earth, the other one goes up to help from the stars.” —Indigo, at age 6*
One Saturday morning not long ago, my mother-in-law Dorothy was in the kitchen teaching her granddaughter Kate how to make pancakes. While carefully pouring small pools of batter onto the griddle, Dorothy announced, “We’re making memories Kate. That’s what we’re doing!”
In Buddhism, we are taught to stay in the present moment—giving our full attention to here and now. Present moment awareness of our breath, our thoughts, and our feelings can help prevent the spinning mental chaos that comes from mulling over past worrisome events or over endless future problems. Similar to 12-Step recovery programs, the focus is placed on living this day, rather than trying to tackle all of life’s troubles at once. The good part about staying in “today” is that you don’t end up missing it! You can then fully appreciate a warm sunny afternoon, flowers in bloom, and birds that briefly visit your landscape.
Despite the above sage advice, I find myself lately spending a fair amount of time filled with nostalgia as I watch my daughters posing for prom pictures in elegant formal gowns and celebrating with their friends the milestone of high school graduation. I notice I weep easily (and often) as I observe them stepping into their roles in the world as young women. The time has slipped by so fast!
I remember my youngest daughter as a baby, her thumb placed firmly in her mouth while her other hand rubbed my earlobe. As a toddler, she declared, “I knew you were my mommy because you had the softest earlobes.” I still vividly recall both girls wearing mismatched socks, sparkly capes, and flower garlands in their hair while twirling around the yard with pure enchantment because it was spring; or trotting off excitedly to a nearby hill at the first deep snowfall, bundled in snowsuits, scarves, and mittens while dragging sleds behind them; or pulling on rubber rain boots and running outside because they wanted to play in the rain. Each new day brought an exciting array of spectacular adventures. While playing pretend, they could be anything or be anywhere they imagined. They hadn’t yet accumulated a long list of rules or imposed limits to their thinking. As children, they dyed the tops of their feet with berry juice, painted their fingernails with magic markers, danced in the grocery store, sang in the bathtub, and created magical worlds of make-believe with fabric, ribbons, and glitter—without judgment of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or what people might think. They didn’t worry about how they might make a living. They were living!
Now, as my daughters venture out into the world as young adults, I want them to remember those early childhood days, where picking dandelions, doing cartwheels in the backyard, and eating ice cream gave them pure joy. They didn’t need expensive gadgets or awards or a certain grade point. They didn’t experience angst over future careers or over past romantic partnerships. It was laughter that carried the day. They freely explored their world and named things as they saw them, because they hadn’t yet been told to memorize or comply with what someone else had named. God could be a bunny rabbit or a watermelon. Rainbows were gifts that held beautiful promises. A tiny turtle discovered near the stream became a secret treasure. With astonished delight, they happily joined a world vibrating and dancing with dragonflies, butterflies, worms, caterpillars, cicadas, and lightening bugs.
For children, life is not so complicated. If you got cake on your birthday, you were special! If you gave a present to someone, it would make that person happy. Anger didn’t last days, months, years, or centuries. It came (usually when tired or hungry) and it went like the breeze. After a nap, life was good again. Creativity was boundless and answers to problems very simple: If someone is hungry, feed him. If someone is crying, give her a hug. Children know people should be nice to each other. They understand love is cradling a kitten in your arms like a baby or tossing a ball to a puppy in the park. Joy can be found making sandcastles on the beach or building fairy houses out of sticks, leaves, and tree stumps in the woods. They know that if you want to give someone a birthday present, you can draw a picture of a sun and flowers and write I LOVE YOU! in bright crayon colors scribbled across the paper. When happy, they unabashedly squeal at the top of their lungs while jumping up and down. They build their kingdoms with large cardboard boxes and colorful blankets draped over chairs. Often, the biggest adventure of all is sleeping outside on a warm summer night with friends.
Children easily say, “I love you”—to people, horses, dogs, cats, trees, and hamsters. If they fall and get bruised, they keep going. A skinned knee calls for a hug, a kiss, and a Band-Aid, and then they are off and running again. Children don’t stop playing because they once fell. They splash in the water, climb trees, and ride bicycles with gleeful abandon. And sometimes, while lying in bed, they wonder why grown-ups fight so much or why grown-ups get so mad all the time or why grown-ups argue about things that make no sense.
Rather than teaching our children, perhaps we can spend some time, today, learning what children most want us to know: How to be happy, in this moment.
Happy Mother’s Day!
In joy & gratitude,
Diana J. Ensign
* from Traveling Spirit: Daily Tools for Your Life’s Journey