Tuesday, May 14, 2013

On What I'm Teaching Them

Colin and I were on a date. Everyone else had plans or meetings, so the three year old was stuck home with Momma once again. I decided that we should have plans too, so we went on a date.

He chose a hot dog, and I ordered a BLT, knowing that he would eat half the bacon for me. I let him pick out a table. I don’t really remember what we were talking about. He’s three. He rarely stops talking. But we were enjoying being together with no toys, no computers, no phones, and nobody else.

Just Colin and Momma.

As we were finishing up, he said, “Momma, I really like this Kool Aid.”

I laughed. “Of course you do. It’s liquid sugar.”

The gentleman at the table next to us laughed too. He was eating alone and had been privy to our conversation going on behind him. He turned around, smiling, and apologized. He hadn’t meant to intrude, he said.

Then he asked me, “Are you a teacher, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“No,” I replied.

“It’s just that my daughter is a teacher, and you talk to your son like she does her children. Always teaching. It’s so good for them,” he said.

I told him that made my day and that I was going to remember him saying it for a long time, tucking it away for days when I felt like a terrible mother. He laughed again, and then we eased into talking about the weather for a minute or two.


It was Susan, my life-long best friend, who taught me to always be teaching.

She taught me deliberately, giving me ideas of games and activities to share with my boys. Telling me which toys were good for stimulating which area of brain development. Suggesting books for them and books for me too.

I learned from my best friend that every moment of fun is also a moment of learning for children.

It has been hard to live up to her expectations of motherhood. I fail a lot.

And when I failed, she also taught me that we always get to try again.

Until, of course, we don’t.

Because some mothers aren’t there forever. Some mothers get cancer and die. Some mothers have to pack a lifetime of loving, teaching, and caring into five years of their child’s life. Some mothers like Susan.


I take a pill every morning. When I decided to start taking an antidepressant, I felt like a failure. I called Susan to let her know how broken I was. How I needed to take medicine in order to be a decent person. That I had depression.

Like every good best friend should, she laughed at me. “Take your pill and move on, Marty. Every mother I know does. It’s better for your family if you take care of yourself. Oh, and you aren’t broken. You have a chemical imbalance in your brain. It’s medical. That’s why they make pills for it.”
She was such a scientist.


I teach my children. I teach them to communicate. I teach them to be respectful. I teach them compassion. I teach them music, art, story-telling, dancing, singing, and anything else I can squeeze into our days.

I also teach them how to over react. I teach them how to throw a tantrum. How to yell. How to be self-deprecating. How to withdraw.

It is after those moments, the teaching of my own shortcomings that I rely so heavily on the kindness of strangers at next table and the wisdom of my best friend.

You are always teaching your children. Take care of yourself in order to take care of your family. And when you screw up, try again.

Because grace is one of the most important lessons of them all.