Sunday, May 06, 2018

What I Learned from My Mother by Watching Home Videos

As I move further along in this parenting journey (I almost have a teenager, folks) the more I wonder how my parents did it with five daughters in eight years. I recently spent several hours watching old home videos of my childhood and found it interesting to see my memories from a different lens – that of a parent now myself. There was one major realization that occurred:

My parents were so relaxed. 

Granted we were pretty responsible and calm-ish girls, but still, five kids and they gave us a lot of freedom. All of us on the trampoline with no net? Sure, do that routine! Stick the ten-year-old on the ride-on lawn mower pulling a wagon full of kids? Why not? Let the kids run around putting snakes on each other's heads? Go for it! Wear the randomest hand-me-down outfit you can possibly find with impractical shoes and rock a bowl cut? Of course! Grab a hammer, nails and boards to build your own tree fort and climb up into it without the parents checking it out first? Sounds good to me. My parents could be seen laughing, smiling, reading, drinking coffee...just, hanging out while we ran around doing our kid thing.

Niagara Falls 1991

Why am I all over my kids at times to the point that Gary jokes that I'm the Safety Police? 

Is it because my boys more rambunctious? Is it because I'm afraid someone will get hurt and I don't have the time or energy to go the doctor/dentist/hospital? Is it because we often have extra kids in our home through fostering and I have to report all incidents/injuries to someone else? Is it because I care too much about things that don't matter? (Wait, wearing appropriate footwear matters, doesn't it?) Is it because I'm scared of what I see in the media? Maybe it's just that all firstborns are a tad more safety orientated?

My mom at my current age rocking her favourite track suit

And why do I need to turn everything into a teachable moment? 

Can't I just let them be and answer their questions when they have them? I think I feel this pressure of limited time and wanting to instill everything they could possibly have to know in them so that they are prepared for life. Who is telling me to do this? Where is this coming from? Learning for themselves through trial and error is sometimes a better life teacher. That said, Gary and I are both teachers and Gary coaches so it is sort of inevitable.

Grade 12 grad with mom

Although my mom passed away 12 years ago today, I can still learn new lessons from her. 

Isn't that a beautiful thought? Through watching these videos I could see her chill and enjoy life. By the way, she would love the word "chill" as she always laughed trying out the newest lingo like "sweet" and "word" back in the early 2000's. 

I gained some solid parenting skills from my parents (yes Dad, you did all right) but I can learned from the tapes that there is always insight to be gained by looking back with new life experience. 

Boating near Bamfield, BC
Boating near Bamfield, BC
For example, my memories of a fishing trip were of my mom cooking up salmon with brown baked beans and Mr. Noodles inside the camper. I remembered her also canoeing with my sister in the bay there. There was one thing I had forgotten: there is a video clip of my mom and I joking about who read more books that day and who brought more of them along. We would sit there for hours reading together and I'm so thankful for that renewed memory. It's small but it's a new one. She valued books just as I do today. Although I can "escape" the ordinary with a good Facebook scroll, it is much more satisfying to read a great novel – an important reminder to me.

Don't get my wrong, my parents were working very hard behind the scenes but they took the time to just sit back, relax and enjoy being with us. My mom was the only girl in a family with five brothers so she was so happy to see her FIVE GIRLS spend time together. It reminded me of this scene last summer at Tofino: I sat in my chair and half-watched (mostly read) while my kids dug in the sand, played pass and skim boarded. Maybe I just need to get away from the busyness to adapt to my mom's style – it's probably why I enjoy the outdoors so much. Truthfully it was probably the lack of WiFi on this beach that helped me get there. Isn't that embarrassing to admit?

All this to say: Maybe we need to chill a bit. We need to sit back, relax and enjoy the chaos of our beautiful and wild children and just pray silently that no one breaks their arm. Oh, and get out of WiFi range, that helps.

Are you good at just sitting back and relaxing?  How was your childhood different from your kids' now?


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