When my son was born, my mom gave me a poem which I placed in a photo album that I carried in my purse. It held all my favorite photos of him during his “early days.” The first photo displayed was the very first picture of Jarod and me taken. The photo where I met him and held him for the very first time.
Eighteen years ago.
In preparing for his Graduation Party, I pulled out this little album, along with photos I’d set aside of him during the years before digital — you know, the days when you printed photos and duplicates and kept negatives? You might even say that Type AA me has been planning his Grad Party since he was born.
I’ve had fun looking back at the photos and pulling out artwork, stories, paper plate awards and items I’ve saved over the years. But, I keep returning to this poem.
IF I HAD MY CHILD TO RAISE OVER AGAIN
If I had my child to raise over again,
I’d finger paint more, and point the finger less.
I’d do less correcting, and more connecting,
I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I would care to know less, and know to care more.
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I’d run through more fields, and gaze at more stars.
I’d do more hugging, and less tugging.
I would be firm less often, and affirm much more.
I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I’d teach less about the love of power,
And more about the Power of Love.
— Diane Loomans
Looking back on the 18 years of motherhood that took us to the “Grad Party,” I know there have been good moments, exceptional moments, challenging moments, fun moments, tearful moments, triumphant moments, devastating moments and thoughtful, reflective moments. And all of those moments have taken us right here.
I didn’t spend a lot of time finger painting, but I spent a lot of time with Jarod reading and playing at Barnes and Noble, traveling with him on his fire truck up and down streets and playing trash truck at the park. He helped me learn my Chicago choreography, dancing right in our driveway. And, we played together to draw and write his first story about Jack the Caveman. The Santa visits with Starbucks, Opera Theatre outings and Royal Oak Brewery dinners when dad went fishing were our playtime.
I know I did my share of correcting. All kids need boundaries and guidelines. But I like to think that it was the moments of Connecting “In The Park” during the “best two weeks of the summer” (his words) with Water Works, collaborating for the Community Awards, planning his first film showing at Emagine, rehearsing together in GPT’s Joseph and watching Bones side by side on the couch with “grapes” will stand out in his mind.
I worked from home for the first 10 years of his life, so a watch wasn’t needed much. But I watched him a lot. The 50 scrapbooks and stacks of photos will retain his story, whether he looks at them or not, and show how much I watched him with my heart and eyes.
Oh, I wanted to know what was going on in his life. Still do. But I know caring about him and his goals, dreams and hopes is more important than knowing every detail. He’s earned my trust and my respect on the path he’s chosen, my Thinker and Pretender, even during time he ventured off-road a bit in navigating his way. He’s writing his own story. I’m reading it. It’s suspenseful and comedic, and I’m fascinated.
We took a lot of hikes, especially in DC, Disney and Asheville. A lot of walks too. We flew kites on the beach and in the park. We jumped in the leaves and he danced on the stage at B & N, spending my birthday there at a Harry Potter book release party. It’s a night I will never forget. Pretending. Exploring. Experiencing.
We gazed at the stars, especially in Traverse City at the Pinestead Reef, his favorite vacation place in the world. I think he still gazes at the stars, though not with me as much as with other special people in his life. So, something about my showing him the power of the little moments stuck.
I still hug him. I tug a bit too, I’ll admit. I like to know what’s going on and where he is. But, he’s patient with me. This year’s Mother’s Day I worked with him and the special young woman in his life in the wee hours of the morning. He gave me this card … it told me how well he understands me and that losing my little boy isn’t easy for me. And it also told me that though change happens and little boys grow up, they still need and treasure their moms. That was a priceless message and brought tears to my eyes. So, a little tugging is okay as long as the hugs are more frequent.
Firm … well, I’m a bit like a brick wall at times. I believe in a firm hand, rules, honoring others, giving 100% and not phoning it in (“If you’re going to do it half-assed, don’t do it at all,” as my father-in-law said once) and mutual respect. But from the very beginning, I told Jarod he could be anything he wanted to be, if he worked hard enough. Anything was possible — is possible — for my Pretender. I was there for every play, every home swim meet and a few away ones, every soccer game (even in the pouring rain), every concert and film event. Every moment important to him, I was there. And, I’ve believed in him even in darker, more challenging times. You don’t Bury those. Those are part of what makes us. Every Mile Mattered, as Nicole Nordman sings. Every mile he’s gone through has brought him to the place he is now. The man he is today. And I love him for who he is today. If that isn’t affirmation, I don’t know what is. A firm hand with a gentle heart.
In terms of the house, well, I’ve definitely built self-esteem more. My kitchen craves a makeover and new counters. I pray my oven makes it through the party since the 7 and 8 on the electric keypad haven’t functioned in years. But, a job with flexible work hours, movie outings, vacations, cameras and film “stuff, suit and random clothes shopping — not to mention the Taco Bell lunches — are definitely the better investment.
As for the Power of Love, well, I’ve created 8 – 24″ x 36” photo boards (finding and printing over 500 photos in the process), gathered mementos and awards, sorted through drawers and closets seeking all the elements of his story so far, baked 3 batches of his favorite cookies (oatmeal scotchies with my secret ingredient) and prepped 14lbs of ground beef for the walking tacos. Plus, I have a surprise up my sleeve as well! My predominant love language is Acts of Service … so I’m pretty sure the Power of my Love is pretty clear. Over the years, I’ve shown it. I’ve acted it. I’ve spoken the words.
Oh, there are things I would do differently if I had to raise my child over again. I’d make some modifications and corrections. Select different words or make another choice for a few moments. I’m flawed and far, far from perfect. But, in looking at the man he is today, I’d say we did a pretty good job affirming and loving, playing and gazing, hugging and connecting.
Now he’s off to write his own story … This new chapter outside my walls is up to him. I pray the lessons, the faith and moments we’ve shared, and the examples and imperfections in my own life show him that it’s great to fly but that a few stumbles — as long as you get up and keep the Power of Love and Faith in your sites — will take you to the heights.
So, thanks Mom for the poem and to Diane Loomans for the good advice. I’ve raised my child with the Power of Love. Now, it’s up to him to take it from here …