“I’ll never stay home like you.” I remember saying those exact words to my mother in the car, although I can’t remember exactly how old I was at the time. It was quite a twerpy little statement, but my mother didn’t say one word. Maybe she had bigger fish to fry that day. Really, I’m not sure. However, I am sure that like many children I took my carefully tended world for granted.
I spent my days being shuttled to tennis lessons, Hebrew school, play dates and back again. Birthdays featured clouds of balloons, elaborately decorated cakes, and regular appearances by Penny the Clown. We spent hours shopping the Garden State for back to school wardrobes, and a seemingly endless stream of bar and bat mitzvah party dresses. Individually wrapped roses and small keepsakes laid in wait after dance and piano recitals. In the summers, we were sent off to camp with every last shirt, sock, and pair of shorts, carrying a hand sewn name tag. Nothing slipped through the cracks, and it was all so lovingly, beautifully done – all of the time.
My own home is hardly the scene of domesticity that I grew up with. Piles of tiny socks and pants burst from the top of my son’s laundry hamper. Seasonal wardrobes arrive in giant boxes from the Children’s Place and Old Navy. Dinners are delivered, or feature rotisserie chickens grabbed from the supermarket aisle. Birthday and holiday gifts are purchased on the fly, and wrapped by other hands. I’m not shirking my parental duties, but the details are frequently a blur.
That nags at me. I don’t want to live a life where we’re always rushing, always scrambling, failing to mark occasions in a caring and meaningful way. That’s not how I was raised. So I push back against the clutter, and set the dinner table. Bake the cupcakes myself (some of the time), get the laundry done before my son is on his last pair of pants (most of the time), and make time to celebrate school performances with a stop at his favorite ice cream shop (he’s not into roses).
These are the kind of thoughtful, careful things that my own mother did for me without question and without exception. I noticed all of the details, I remember them very well, and they made me feel special. While my efforts typically pale in comparison, I am so grateful for her example. I hope that my own son will feel that way too, even if the life he’s living is a little bit rougher around the edges.
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