Let’s face it, we all think “We’ve got this, our parents did it, how hard can it be!” Well, maybe not everyone has felt that before, but I did. I’d say it was confidence, not cockiness or arrogance.
Let’s clarify, I did not have perfect parents and would certainly sit in judgement of some of their choices.
I was blessed with caring, loving, and faithful parents who loved one another and loved each of us. My father was able to express that love through words and deed. Mama’s was more “scripted” almost. I received the gifts of prayers, story telling, and songs at bedtime. I had no idea what treasures I was being given at that time. Of course she said “I love you,” but I was a snuggler. So, in Mass I’d snuggle up next to her and get enveloped in a hug, or I’d lay my head in her lap. She’d rub my hair. Yes, I know, I should’ve been listening to the priest, but I was in my own little Heaven receiving the gift of “snuggles” from my mom.
My dad could dole it all out. He was a great communicator, calm unless you really pushed him (saw that only a few times and decided I wasn’t a fan), unshakeable in his pursuit of what was “right” and gave gushy wet kisses. Aaahhh, when I was a little girl, he’d get the, “Daddy, you wet my face.” He’d get all giggly.
They were both such hard workers and determined mindsets was something they shared. They’d project together, hammer and nails out and I’d be enamored by them. They’d paint rooms together, again, on this one I wanted in. Mama said no, that I was to young to help. (My children have all been allowed to paint young- yes, rooms or spots in rooms, I changed that rule).
Even the two of them dancing was dreamy to me as they eloquently moved as one across the dance floor at Johnny Harris Restaurant. I found out within the last ten years that daddy knew of Mama’s passion for dancing, so he took private lessons for months before their wedding to surprise her on the dance floor after she’d said the words “I do.”
I’ve walked down memory a lot these last few years. Just as seasons change, life has changed and with great loss and change within a family comes time for acceptance and adjustments.
The love my mother and father shared, their love of God, their work ethic, their sticktuiveness , their desire to be good people, to make a small difference in the world, through a gift giving action or deed, made a strong impression on me. We did not have a lot of money, Mom taught swimming lessons over the summer at the Aquatic Pool and once it closed, at the campground pool down on Tybee. Daddy was manager of Red Cross. Mom said Daddy had “champagne taste with a penny pocket book.”
In so many ways they lived lives of service. I see that now in retrospect. From being involved in civic activities like Rotary Club, United Way, Boy Scouts, and so many others, daddy served. He served us, his family. He served God he told me from serving others and treating others how he wanted to be treated . He served Mama by loving her through thick and thin, and we had some “thick and thin”. Daddy had an attitude of gratitude.
He was an only child, adored by my Nana and all of our family in North Carolina. He was just a good and kind man who always tried to see the good in others. His positive “glass 1/2 full” attitude always made me smile. Always! I admired his strength of character and his determination to make a difference, from the smiles that he shared (he shared many) to the choices that he made daily, from head of our household to manager of the Red Cross.
I was a curious child by nature and would ask many questions trying to understand and gain insight into who he was and who my mom was on the inside. Shockingly, even as a child I thought deeply about things.
He told me his parents had raised him that way. He said his father (who had passed away by the time I was born) truly just adored Nana (his mama) and they were both so good to him growing up. He wanted to pass on what he’d learned, he was the eternal optimist. I loved that about him. Mom was the “glass 1/2 empty” gal.
Daddy focused on having an attitude of gratitude and Mama was worrying about this, that or the other. Actually, Daddy’s mom (Nana) was a worrier too. Nana’s brothers were such phenomenal men and I loved my uncles so very much. They were such positive and inspiring people. What were they too? Folks who carried around big giant worries.
So, I’m very thankful for my parents, the love they shared, and the gifts they bestowed freely on us through words, actions, and deeds.
I’m happy to report that I am a positive person. I see the good in others. That makes my heart swell with joy for it reminds me of my father and my oldest brother, both now in Heaven. Yes, this leaves me vulnerable and gullible, I know. There are times in which I have been taken advantage and teased that I was clueless.
I like to see the world through my rainbow glasses. Having flowers in our home, a candle burning, music playing, art on the walls, crosses hung, and Holy Water in a little font fills our home with simple pleasures that fill my heart with joy. I know they do my husband’s heart as well. What about our children? You know what I’ve never realized: I really don’t know. So much of what I thought I “knew” in my earlier days, it was just a perception of me “Knowing”.
Here is now what I know: there is no perfect formula for raising children. Each child is immensely different and what works for one may not work for another. We have tried to teach them our faith, manners, respect, and shown them love.
I was the cornball who used to say to Kaelan, Rachael, and Ashton: thank you God for this beautiful and sunshiney day. At prayer time I’d throw in with them sometimes (not always), “Thank you God for Daddy and his job, for our home, the electricity, the water, and the cars.” Yes, some of that is just “stuff”, but Richard has worked with the same determination as our parents. He has let his career cause him more frustration than my father had with working with the Red Cross. Each of us is different and how we process information varies incredibly as well I believe.
So, where is the “magic” book or what is the “perfect formula” for raising children? I know of a book called the Bible. I believe in self-help books. I’ve read a lot of them. I believe in counseling (done a lot of that too).
What do I know at almost age 50? There is no perfect formula. We are each simply trying to do the best we can to navigate through the “clutter” of this world and share the most beautiful gift: LOVE.
We have aimed high in trying to share our faith, teach please and thank you, have a genuine attitude of gratitude, helped them find their gifts and talents so that they may share with others, and accept that they are each by God’s design.
I’m now a far more anxious person than I once was long ago. I accept I’ve probably always dealt with anxiety. I’m far from perfect. Yes, I take anxiety medicine and don’t know how long I’ll take it. I love others, even though their actions or choices sometimes confuse me. I get excited about many little things in life. It’s a child like excitement that brings me much joy. I love encouraging others through my art and being creative.
Repeat: yes, I have anxiety. Yes, I accept this about myself. Yes, I focus daily on my blessings. Yes, I am happy to name out loud that for which I am grateful. Yes, I infuse all of my feelings into my art for my art is me, my soul on a canvas. Yes, through talking with other artists and reading about other artists, we are very emotional beings. Yes, I’ve tried to prioritize being a woman who loves God, puts my husband and my family first, and is now genuinely also following my true passion. My soul, my being is that of an artist. I am emotional, tenderhearted and can overwhelm people with my tears, passion, excitement, and enthusiasm. I am long winded and have a hard time “landing the plane.” I am happy, even though I cry and worry at times. I am following what God wants me to do… I am an artist. I am strong, I am sensitive, I am a faithful soul, I am a worrier, and I am not perfect. Not today, not next week, and not ever. All I have ever tried to do is my best, in all that I do. I am willing to accept things in which I am weak. I’m not a mathematician, I’m not someone who enjoys anything medical and I am not very scientific. I get confused by people and life. I try to figure things out but, I’m not good at it. For at age 49 it hit me, through lots of help, I am not able to solve others’ problems. The Serenity Prayer comes to mind: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Here is a little game I used to do as an ice breaker with the girls at St. Vincent’s Academy when I helped with retreats: take your name and with each letter, come up with a word describing you that contains that letter:
* A- I am artistic
*N- I love nature
*N- I try to be nIce to others
I find joy in sewing the seeds of love, joy in a sunrise or sunset, in the Lord, in a hot cup of tea, in the warmth of a hug or kiss, and in a back rub. I ask God’s forgiveness daily for mistakes. I ask him daily for the grace and mercy for him to help me be who he wants me to be. I pray for my husband, our children, our families, and friends. I pray for those who have no one to pray for them. I pray for the hungry, needy, homeless, and less fortunate. I pray for those in nursing homes, hospitals, and handicapped. I am so thankful for all of my many blessings. I’m glad God gave me an artist heart and happy he gave me “rose colored” glasses. I like seeing the rainbows in the world! I enjoy watching the birds and the butterflies.
I squeal at the sight of new flowers. I love honey way more than vinegar, so I’m going to aim to be sweet as often as I can for the rest of the time I’m here living in “Ann Land.”