When I was planning out my life and decorating my Barbie dream house and waiting for my first pair of stirrup pants and first swipe of liquid black eyeliner…
….I never imagined I’d have four children.
In the history of ever.
Four just seemed like it was approaching Brady Bunch level.
It seemed overwhelming.
It seemed too much.
It seemed like I was never going to make it in the successful mom department.
In the history of ever.
Teaching life lessons to the next generation is hard.
So much harder than it looks.
You begin with the standards.
Be kind to others.
Open the door for your mother.
Be nice to your sister. Hold your fork properly. Don’t wear white after Labor Day.
You ask for a please and tell someone to say thank you and remind them to take their plate to the sink and assign chores and follow up on their homework and discourage bullying of any kind and you cross your fingers and ten toes and hope that it all sticks.
You wonder if you are making a difference as a parent. You wonder if anyone is listening. You wonder if the chicks will fly when they leave the nest.
One day you see a glimpse. A glimmer. A spark of the adult they will become.
And it makes all the trying worth every word.
This Christmas this showed up under the tree.
My oldest son, Denton, made it for me.
This was his entry in the handmade gift department.
He made it himself.
He attached two frames together and placed a piece of paper between the frames that read, “Today I love you because.” Then he attached these hooks to the bottom of the frame—one on each side.
Then he handwrote 99 reasons why he loved me, punched a hole in the top of the notecards and threaded them through a jump ring.
Every day for 99 days I’m supposed to flip the reasons over to show a new one.
Each reason handwritten by him in beautiful wonderful Denton cursive.
And when I’m done?
I go back to the beginning and start it all over again.
Just in case I was wondering that day if I was loved?
I wouldn’t have to wonder.
I’d know. Because I’d read things like:
You recognize our strengths
You love to surprise us
You listen to our stories
Your grilled cheese is amazing
You always try your best
You saved a piece of my hair when I cut it
You’re concerned about me
You celebrate my accomplishments
And on and on and on
But the most amazing thing?
The thing that made me hide my head in my elbow and sob until my sleeve was wet?
All those life lessons?
All those things I had been trying to teach and instill and explain and communicate.
All the times I thought I was never going to make it as a mom.
All those times I thought no one was listening.
There they were.
99 of them.
Written in black and white and cursive.
Teaching me right back.
And the life lesson that’s the hardest to learn?
One day they grow up.
One day they leave the nest and take on the big wide world.
One day they spread their wings and fly.
You have to let them.
Today I love you because…
…you are you.