Are Your Kids the Best Things That Have Ever Happened to You?
The Bump has partnered with some amazing mothers who also happen to be amazing writers. They’re dishing out all their thoughts, observations and real life lessons about mothering in the best way they know how. We’re embarking on an essay series and we’re hoping you’ll follow along as these authors share what they’ve learned about motherhood through their inspiring navigation of the written word.
We’ve already introduced you to Maria Kostaki, Kelley Clink and Kamy Wicoff. This week: Susie Orman Schnall, a writer and author who lives in New York with her husband and three boys. Her award-winning debut novel On Grace (SparkPress 2014) is about fidelity, friendship, and finding yourself at 40. Her second novel, The Balance Project: A Novel (SparkPress 2015), is about work-life balance and is inspired by her popular interview series The Balance Project.
Make sure to join our #MomsWriteNow Twitter chat with Schnall on Thursday from 1pm-2pm EDT by following us at @TheBump.
It’s late afternoon and the house is quiet. On a normal day at this time, my boys would be shouting at me from various parts of the house:
10 year old: Do we have to eat healthy food for dinner again?
12 year old: Did you sign me up for horseback riding lessons yet?
14 year old: All of my friends get to play video games during the week!
But they are all at sleepaway camp. A magical time of year when they are happily off pursuing their interests without me telling them to be careful, to turn their socks the right side out before putting them in the laundry, to hurry up and get in the car, to eat leafy greens. A magical time of year when I have endless time to write, nobody to discipline, the opportunity to recharge my mom batteries.
Having them away brings into laser focus things that don’t register as clearly when we’re in our normal routine. How much they enrich my life. How much they make me laugh. And, to be fair, how challenging it can be to mother three boys. I often hear parents say their kids are their life. I know they don’t mean that literally, that they indeed have other things going on, but as I reflect in this quiet house,
I feel joyful, so lucky that my kids are not my entire life. A huge lovely part of that life, but not it entirely. My life is dark chocolate and good cheese and way too much bread.
My life is my family in California, my girlfriends down the street, the dear friends scattered around the world who share my memories. My life is an obsessive desire to accomplish, to smile, to dance. My life is trying to remember to speak kindly to myself, stepping outside my comfort zone, taking care of my health. My life is hikes, beach walks, tall mugs of English breakfast tea. My life is sitting at my desk to write. My life is pride in my accomplishments, the photo albums lined up on my shelves that hold evidence of all the blessings I’ve had, and the dear man who sleeps next to me every night.
I also often hear parents say their kids are the best things that ever happened to them. I’ve been thinking about that statement a lot lately. It used to ring hollow and inauthentic to me. Shouldn’t the “best thing that ever happened to you” be perfect? Shouldn’t it come along with zero hassle? Constant happiness? That’s truly unrealistic when it comes to children.
Sure, my children bring me joy, pride, and small flowers from grass meadows. They make my chest expand breathlessly when they hold hands with each other, use gracious manners in public, express painfully pure love in handwritten Mother’s Day cards. They stun me when I stop to perceive how the tiny advancements have morphed into wondrous accomplishments: This one knows cursive! That one is playing the Beatles on his ukelele! That one is in [tears threaten] high school!!
But they are not perfect. There is certainly hassle. The happiness is not constant. Perhaps constant and hassle-free perfection and happiness are not required though for something to be the best thing that has ever happened to a person. Maybe what’s required is just the something’s ability to provide wonder, challenge, tears, smiles, amazement. Maybe it is the struggles themselves, the efforts to overcome them, and the feelings of accomplishment that doing that brings. The worthwhileness of it all. The importance of it all. Maybe that’s what makes kids the something that is the best thing that could ever happen to a person.
It’s late afternoon and the house is quiet. There is a soft longing in my heart for the voices. For the people who complete my life. For the confirmation that the best things in my life are the four people who bring me the most joy, the most love, the most small flowers from grass meadows.