Now that my own kids are grown up, however, I do reflect on the time when all of us were living together under the same roof. What would I do differently if I were a young mother again? What would I do the same?
I think I'll start with a few things I would do differently.
1 • I wish I would have read to my kids more, especially the two youngest boys who got hauled around a lot so we could accommodate their older brothers' activities. Ironic, right? I've been involved with the world of children's literature for many years now and yet I didn't always read to my kids at home. I was tired. They never sat still. We were all busy. If I had it to do all over again, however, I would say yes whenever they asked me to read to them even if their request was a stall tactic at bedtime.
2 • I would worry less about keeping my house clean when my kids were little. (Not that it was ever very clean.) (Which is why I was worried about it, actually.) But as far wiser people than I have noted, no one goes out of this life wishing they'd spent more time cleaning the bathroom.
3 • I would advocate for my kids more than I did sometimes. I'm not crazy about pushy parents, you know? Parents with sharp elbows who insist that their kids get the best of everything at the expense of other people's kids. It was more my style to take a deep breath, chill and see how things played out. Not always a bad strategy. But there are times I should have stepped up and insisted on something a little better for them.
In the end, however, I don't obsess much these days about what I didn't do. At my advanced age, I realize I (mostly) did what I could do at the time, no matter how imperfect it was. I suspect perfection is overrated anyway. Not that I would know.
On the other hand, there are some things I would definitely do all over again.
1 • Go to their games. When you have five kids, you end up having games, games, games almost every night of the week. You have games coming out of your ears, which doesn't sound like much fun when you've already had a full day. For some reason, though, I usually made myself go maybe because I knew it mattered to them. A lot. And now those moments spent watching them dribbling a ball down a basketball court or making a play at second are some of my happier memories.
2 • Listen to them. Or at least act like it. I also recommend a little eavesdropping when necessary.
3 • Give them some space. I always say this was the greatest gift my own mother gave me. I knew she was interested in what I was doing. But she gave me plenty of room to have my own friends, my own activities, my own life. I wasn't her project, her lump of clay to mold into the child she wanted as opposed to the daughter she actually had. I tried to do the same for my kids. I'm not sure how well I succeeded.
But I tried.
Happy Mother's Day to all the women who've tried, too.
Ann Cannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/anncannontrib.