As my colleague Karen pointed out in her post “Why the death of Elizabeth Edwards breaks our hearts”, when we hear of another mother dying, it’s hard not to think about our own mortality.
Specifically, as mothers, we think about leaving our children. Conversations I’ve had with other moms have revealed that my fears about dying when my children are young are pretty universal: we worry that they’ll need us, that they won’t know how much they were loved by us. It seems that fear is even greater than the idea of us missing out on the experiences of raising our children.
We want are children to be OK. We want them to know that they are loved, in a way that only a mother can tell them.
Hearing the news about Elizabeth Edwards and reading subsequent posts has brought that fear to the forefront for me and many other mothers. Please, we think, please don’t let that be us. But the truth is, as Elizabeth herself pointed out in her last statement on Facebook, all of us know that our days are numbered. We will, someday, leave behind the people we love most in this world.
The question is not if we’ll die, or even when, but what will we leave behind when that time comes?
I’m asking myself this question today. What do I want my children to know?
- They are loved. Completely and unconditionally, regardless of what they accomplish or decide or become over the years. They are, already, enough.
- They are beautiful. They will never not be beautiful, no matter what the current standards of commercial beauty are.
- It’s OK to be afraid. Fear is natural and normal and not weakness. You can listen to your fears and decide to act despite them.
- They will be OK. There is always, always a way to make things OK. There are people in this world who will love you and help you and hold you up. There are resources inside of you that you can’t even imagine. In the end, everything turns out OK. If things aren’t OK, it’s not the end.
I’m sure there’s more. Little things, like how to make people feel comfortable at a party, and big things, like how to apologize. It’s hard not to feel like, even if I live forever, I’ll never be able to give them all of the tools they need to navigate this great big world. There’s just so much they need to know if they are going to be safe and happy.
I’m thinking long and hard about what I want my children to know, and whether I’m actively showing and telling them those crucial things already.
What do you want your kids to know?