Friday, April 18, 2014

Mission Statements and Magic

What seems like a very long time ago, I attended a three day training course in leadership. Our first task was to write our mission statement, something that had never occurred to me before, but it was sitting in the back of my mind waiting to be written down, it took me no time at all to do so, and still it holds true today:
To live life with courage and curiosity
To be honest in all my dealings
and to hurt no one intentionally
to leave my children and grandchildren
a legacy of love, pride and happiness,
so that they will not mourn my passing
but celebrate my life


Thinking about this reminded me of something else I wrote a long time ago, not expecting any response, but definitely not expecting the response I got from my son Ben.

I was overcome by the love I felt for my children, being so far away from them I wanted to let them know how very important they were to me and how much I had enjoyed every moment of their existence and appreciated every second of their presence in my life. I wanted to try to be sure they missed nothing of their own children's lives.



So I wrote this:
To my children:
As I made a collage of photos of the three of you,
As toddlers and through the years
It made me miss not just you as you are now
But as you were when you were babies
Toddlers, children, and adolescents.
Don't miss one second of your time with your babies.
The time flashes past so fast and yes,
I can hug the grown up men and woman,
And do every chance I get,
I am very lucky to have such a good relationship with you;
But I can never hug those babies, toddlers, or children again.
I am very proud of you, but then, I always was.
Remember, in the middle of the night during a colic attack
Or during the teething stage,
Or missing a big event or occasion for lack of a babysitter;
Remember - that time is precious and will never come back.
I know it is not necessary to tell you this -
You will all be terrific parents
... remember each tiny stage is precious.
When I wrote this my daughter was the only one of the three to be a parent, she had two sons and was a proving to be a wonderful mother. Now, with my eighth grandchild about to arrive, I was right! They are all terrific parents.

What I was totally unprepared for was my son Ben's response:
Things my mother taught me
All I want is to be half the parent to my child
that you were to me
I want to teach it all the things you taught me.
Always say thank you
don't spit,
eat the chocolates I don't like,
Put rubbish in your pocket (not on the ground).
Be good to people but don't let them push you around.
Respect women.
Never let anyone hurt the people who are close to you.
It is good to be early.
Listen.
Try not to sulk,
Let people make their own mistakes, be ready to pick them up.
Be big enough to admit you are wrong.
Enjoy every day.
You have taught me this and much more,
I love you mum,
you will always be 'My Pal'
There are a number things I feel obliged to expand on here.  'eat the chocolates I don't like'.  OK, I don't think it was child abuse, but .. I used to absolutely love Black Magic chocolates, except for the orange cream, strawberry cup and coffee cream. So, as soon as my children were old enough to eat chocolates, when I got a box of Black Magic, I taught each one in turn to like one of these unpopular flavors. They still do much to the hilarity of  family and friends. On the other hand, perhaps I did them a favor. Very few people like these particular flavors and therefore their favorite is always available. But, for some reason I do feel a little guilty about it.


'Put rubbish in your pocket ...' I have always been obsessed with littering, how dare anyone just throw their rubbish (trash) on the ground. Growing up I always put my trash in my pocket to dispose of properly when the opportunity arose, and I taught my children to do the same. They always had pockets filled with candy wrappers, gum, popsicle sticks and many other items. I think the rest of the points are self explanatory, except for the last one.  That brings tears to my eyes even today.

When Ben was 18 months old he had a severe ear infection and gastroenteritis, I couldn't get his temperature down. The doctor finally decided we should bring him to the fever hospital. At 2 a.m. on a freezing December morning I held him in my arms as we drove to the hospital (long before seat belts and child seats) and in a brief moment of rest in his deliriously high fever he looked at me and said 'My Pal'.