When I became a parent, I got to see things through my mom’s eyes. What it’s like to raise kids. What it’s like to be a parent.
It didn’t take me long — one or two sleepless nights — to realize how totally unprepared I was. They have birthing classes to help you through that part. From then on, it’s very much learn-as-you-go.
It was a revelation: My parents did this for me?
When we’re young, we look up to our parents and think they know everything. When we become teenagers, we’re convinced they know nothing. When we move into a role of parent, we get to see it from the other side.
It’s a whole different view. It occurred to me that if my parents seemed a little bit crazy at times, well, I might have played a role in making them that way.
Parenting involves trying to make sense of what just happened. Sometimes on very little sleep. Often with very little patience left. There are moments when you feel like you’re looking into one of those fun-house mirrors and everything is distorted in bizarre and amusing ways.
As soon as you think you’ve figured something out, it all changes. And you’re figuring it out all over again.
(A favorite moment from the “Castle” television show: Castle’s teenage daughter calls him out for being overbearing and he says. “Be patient with me, I’ve never had a teenage daughter before.” Yep.)
When you get through all the hormones — theirs and yours — they become adults and start dealing with all new stuff. After so many years of hovering over them, it‘s time to let go of them.
At that point, you hope that you’ve loved them enough so that they will always know they are loved for who they are. You hope you’ve taught them some important things — things that they will forget, remember, forget again, learn and re-learn as they go along.
Which brings us back to my mom and the hot chocolate. And one of her last and most lasting lessons.
My mom had a stroke that left one side of her body pretty much useless. She was in a nursing home for about 10 months before she died. With every meal, she ordered packets of hot chocolate. Instead of drinking it, she saved the packets and gave them to my sister for her two young children to enjoy
Bed-ridden, she still found a way to give.
Packet by packet, she reminded us that we can always find a way to give something to somebody else. We just have to be creative. And persistent. And committed to giving.
Which brings us to the second lesson: The supply of what we can give is endless. This goes for hugs and love and understanding and forgiveness and all the good stuff. And, in my mom’s case, hot chocolate as well.
Just ask my sister.
Those packets of hot chocolate quickly multiplied in the darkness of her closet. Do the math: Several packets a day, 30 days a month, 10 months …
At my mom’s funeral, we joked that the pallbearers would probably notice one side of the casket was a little heavier — we’d given some of the hot chocolate back. (No, not really, but believe me, it was so tempting.)
It wasn’t until the following December that we shared most of the stash. A wonderful friend who cut my mom’s hair on occasion had two children participating in an outdoor nativity scene at their school. She thought the kids and parents might enjoy mom’s hot chocolate on the cold nights. And that mom would approve, too.
I kept one of the packets — that’s a photo of it atop the blog. It’s a reminder about my mom and about giving. Also, that it’s important to be always thinking about others, no matter what your predicament at the moment.
So maybe this week, you could get together with someone and sip a cup of hot chocolate or coffee or tea or some other favorite drink. It’ll be a reminder that you care about them. And appreciate them.
Then, do it again. Do it as often as you can.
The hot chocolate never runs out.