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Stories

Stories, observations, and reflections from a life of raising boys

A Letter to Myself When My Kids Are Grown

Jenifer DeMattia

Dear Me,

Right now you are 32. When you tell most people your age they say, “You are so young.” And this would be true, but it is also the age you began to understand that life does move as fast as they always warned you about. The boys are 4 and 1, and you were blessed enough to stay home with them and cursed enough to question whether you are doing good enough. And feeling like your old life is so far in the distance you can’t remember what it was like without children. If I had written a letter before having children, I’m sure I would be shocked at what I discovered. I imagine the same will be true when you read this. The ways in which you have changed after becoming a mom are considerable. Reflecting on the old me is what led me to writing you. The me that will one day be, if all goes right, still a mother, but in a different role. Right now, your days are a wavering balance of absolute joy and unimaginable fear. Who will you become? A question you can sort of answer now, but it takes a lifetime to discover who we completely are. The boys are so complex already, but so are adults. So as the days continue to go by, sometimes at a tortoise’s pace and sometimes in a blur, here are my hopes for myself when my kids are no longer small, no longer dependent on me for each meal and each wound. Here are the expectant truths that I want to be a reality, but if they are not, I will change them immediately.

I hope you love your children no matter what.

I know you’re thinking, “Of course I love them,” but the truth is, right now, I have no idea what kind of trouble these guys will get into, what kind of people they will become. One possibly might jump out of an airplane for a living if I could guess now. They are impulsive and beyond adventurous. They are both strong-willed and defiant. I can only imagine this will continue and result in many things that I disapprove of. I hope, as they grow and come into who they are, you love them even more fiercely than you do now. You are doing your best, but they are who they are. Unique spirits just like you hoped. Perhaps they may turn down a path you may not think to be the best one, but they will find their way. I just hope you have mastered the art of disapproving in a loving way, accepting them completely for who they are, and frequently telling them you love them.

I hope you are doing something you love.

Do you realize how encouraging you are to your children? Of course you don’t. But you are always pushing them to accomplish something. A milestone, a task, anything that helps them grow. You have a wild son but still endured soccer week after week. In case you forgot, you spent an hour chasing him down the fields and dragging him back. You learned far more about soccer than he did. You desire like crazy for him to be passionate about something, anything. You want him to find a skill and run with it. Wake up each day, excited for the next opportunity to do it again and again. Well, I want that for you too. If you are reading this and haven’t discovered a passion to pursue, then get on it. Push yourself like you push those boys to find out what makes you go as wild as them when they are pursuing what they want.

I hope you love yourself no matter what.

A lot of things can happen in a year. And a lot can happen in years and years. Who knows what will be when your children are grown. What decisions have been made? What have you lost? What will your regrets be? I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that I have found the magical key in life that allows any door to be opened. Loving yourself is the hardest thing to do for some reason, but the more you practice it the easier life’s challenges become. It’s interesting to me that I am literally watching my children grow into themselves before my eyes, and it amazes me. But they don’t see themselves from my perspective. The act of growing into your true self is a daily progression of choices, behavior, attitude. It’s very complex. As I watch the boys grow I am challenged to say, “You did this too.” Through every bad hairstyle, weird outfit, poor decision and so on, we all go through so much to get where we end up. Love yourself still through it all. Bask in regret because it’s the only way we learn.

Basically, to sum it all up, I hope when the boys are grown you have followed your own advice. That you have chased your own dreams with the tenacity you will help your children to follow theirs. And if you are still living after raising two of the wildest children you have come across, well then love ever piece of yourself the way you love those boys. Just a thought tonight as I tucked them into bed. One day I will say goodnight to them through the other end of my phone. And feeling like my old life is so far in the distance I can’t remember what it was like to have those tiny, beautiful, rambunctious, and slightly crazy children in the house.

So goodnight, good luck, and remember that being a “mom” is not where your story ends. Although, it probably is the best part.

-Me