I spent Tuesday with my daughter. I attended the fourth grade Downtown Nashville Walking Tour field trip. It was lovely day to walk around Nashville and learn about its history and historical figures. We even got to see the grave of James Knox Polk (the 11th president), who is actually one of our ancestors, on the grounds of the Capitol.
After our walking tour, Madeleine and I spent some time at the Downtown Public Library. It is my absolute favorite place in Nashville! It also is heavy with memories. When the kids were younger, I brought them to the Downtown library almost weekly in the summers and often on other school breaks. The library has a huge children’s wing and room dedicated to puppet shows, story times, and other performances. After story time, the kids and I would eat a picnic lunch in the library courtyard. Then I would watch them chase each other around the trees and splash in the fountain.
That seems like such a long time ago. Madeleine is over halfway raised now, and Ephraim is almost to that halfway point. I think about them growing up and going to college, and I just can’t handle it. I wonder if I am doing right by them or not. I feel like I’m still figuring out this parenting thing, and here I am with a kid who’s gonna leave me in just eight years. I admit that I had to hold back a few tears in that library on Tuesday.
While we were there I let Madeleine wander. I kept asking Do you remember this? And this? She nodded yes, and then she got lost between the shelves, picking up book after book to inspect it. I am so proud of you, kid I wanted to say. For your love of books and your love of learning and your growing independence.
I’ll go ahead and tell you that I’m not parenting a tween well. There have been a lot of arguments lately. It’s May, which means the end of the school year, which means everyone is low on patience. Also, sometimes I wonder if I focus too much on myself and my own pursuits. I want them to see a mother who stands up for herself, a mother who loves them but also loves her work, friends, and hobbies. I want them to know that I am their mother, but I am also a person. Am I too selfish?
Before we went to the library on Tuesday, Madeleine and I stopped to take part in this little confession booth that was set up in the park. The idea was to record a video message for either a caregiver or someone you care for. Then the company emailed you the recording and you could share it with your loved ones. You were supposed to start your talk with “I wish you knew . . . ”
I made one for my kids. It was pretty generic, I admit. I wish you knew how much I love you type of stuff. But it was off the cuff, and authentic, and when I showed it to them, they gave me great big hugs.
What do I really wish they knew?
I wish you knew how many times I was really too tired to read to you at bedtime, but I did it anyway.
I wish you knew how much I loved rocking and feeding you in the middle of the night even though I had to get up and go to work the next morning.
I wish you knew how many times my worries and fears for you keep me up at night.
I wish you knew that when I yell I you, I am usually upset or frustrated at something else or have had a long day, and most times I’m not that upset with you.
I wish you knew that I wonder what you will say or write about me when you are a grown up.
I wish you knew that I am trying to overcome my need for perfection, and I am working really hard to make you feel like you are enough.
I wish you knew how much I miss the days when you were wide-eyed toddlers full of mischief and wonder.
I wish you knew how much I cherish these days when you are developing your own opinions, thoughts, and goals.
I wish you knew that I see you and recognize the depth in you – the deep emotions, the deep fear of rejection, the deep need to be valued, the deep desire for independence.
I wish you knew that most days I don’t think I’m doing it right. But the one right thing is this: I love you.