How Will My Children Remember Me?

How Will My Children Remember Me?

One mom considers her legacy as a parent.


By: Liz Lenz

Until High School, the only hero I had was Deborah Sampson. I liked her because she pretended to be a man to fight in the Revolutionary War. After that, I venerated the Brontë sisters and George Eliot — all women who pretended to be men just so someone would take them seriously. And while they were all worthy and wonderful women, none of them is a ringing endorsement for the maternal life.

I’m probably not either. On average, it takes me two weeks to get the clothes from the baskets into the drawers. And at 2 years old, my daughter already criticizes my housecleaning by pointing out all the “yuckies” on the floor. I try. I paint. I hang pictures. I make bread. But I get so easily distracted. And all too often, my plans of making our home wonderful and inviting fall away to a book or a deadline. Then we end up with takeout and the dismembered pieces of a halfhearted craft lying in the corner of the dining room.

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Potty training isn’t going well because I’m squeamish and afraid. My husband is the only reason my child sleeps through the night. All too often, I use him as a reference for parenting. He knows what to do when our daughter is afraid of dinosaurs or won’t eat spinach, because he’s read the books and researches the problems. This isn’t the definitive list of my parenting failures — it’s not even the beginning. This is only the prelude. I’ve only been a mother for two years. I know I have more moments to come where I will try my best and still fail, when I will reach out and, instead of helping my children up, I will only push them away. It’s not what I want. I am just trying to be realistic.

Motherhood isn’t a role I trained for. In childhood games, I was always the Ken or the dad. And, that moment — when I turned to my husband and said, “OK, let’s have a child” — that moment took five years of therapy to build up to. And I spent the entire nine months afraid.

I still am afraid. Afraid because I now have two beautiful lives in my hands, because every day two wonderful people will look to me for support, encouragement and nourishment. And some days it’s all I can do to not to hide in the basement with a bag of potato chips.

But every morning when I wake up, usually to the sound of crying or the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” yodeled from the next room over, I wonder what my children will remember of me. Will they remember me disheveled and stumbling toward them in the dark? My stale breath as I rock them back to sleep? Will they remember the time we danced until we fell over laughing? The day I cried because no one remembered to leave me a cookie? Or the winter we spent under makeshift forts reading stories and pretending to be pirates?

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Will my children remember me as someone who couldn’t make banana bread to save her life? Or will they remember me as someone who pushed forward in relentless pursuit of a dream? Will they remember me as a woman who worked hard to make a living doing the thing I loved? Or a woman who ignored them as I focused on other pursuits? Will they be proud of me? Or will they be embarrassed?

When I was 15 a friend of my mother’s told me how lucky I was. “She’s an incredible woman,” the lady gushed. “Yes, but she’s not your mother,” I said. “You have to like her.”

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My children don’t have to like me. But they have no choice but to love me. In the end, I’m the only mother they will have, and that is a daunting responsibility. It manifests itself one day at a time, through cookie crumbs and princess bandages, through milk-nose giggles and late night fears. Every day I try to give my children something good — words, food, experience — even if all we can manage is a quiet snuggle and an “I love you.” Ultimately, I don’t know what my legacy on my children will be.

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But I know what their legacy on my life is. My children make me vulnerable, hyperaware and exhausted. They make me see beautiful small things in our backyard and the depths of the shadows in the closets of my own home. They are the best thing about me.

I only hope I can return the favor.

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@Tiffany, @Rachel -- We're glad you enjoyed this article! Thanks for reading and being part of our community.

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Rachel

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Pretty cool

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Tiffany

Tiffany

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ten are the best of us! Thank you for a great read.

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