Friday, September 21, 2012

Just A Little Something


Jack never went to Disney World, Hawaii, or a professional football game. He didn't have a cell phone or fancy electronics. Many of his clothes were from the thrift store, a "perk" of having a mom who loved bargains.

Thriftiness was part of our family culture and it was easy to take pretty far because Jack really didn't ask for much. Maybe he would have preferred an expensive baseball bat and batting helmet instead of cast-offs. I don't know. But really, he seemed content.

Money did not burn a hole in his pocket. He was a saver and a savorer. He liked to save up for "something big" and make sure it was something he really wanted. In fact, after the accident, we found a lot of unused gift cards in his room, from birthdays and Christmases waiting to be used for the next. big. thing. Tim, Margaret and I ended up using them to buy Christmas gifts for needy kids.

Of course I would have loved for Jack to have traveled more, done more, and to have had a lifetime of experiences instead of a measly 12 years worth! Today I would love to be able to read a trail of texts between the two of us that captures the warm give and take of our relationship, but I can't because he never had a phone! Ugh. But I suppose measly truly is not the word I'm going for today, when thinking of the years he had, because while measly in quantity, the quality was okay with Jack. How he spent his days. What he had or didn't have.

You may be a mom who is wondering whether your kid is missing out on the pricey riding lessons or gymnastics clinics or ski vacations of his or her peers. You may be looking at your neighbor's house and thinking that a great big kitchen island, preferably covered in Carrera marble, would somehow make you a kinder, gentler, more organized mom (or am I the only one who does that?) You may be counting the years until college and realizing there had better be one heck of a financial aid package on your family's horizon, because you will never be able to pay. You may even be wondering, in a very real and scary sense, if you can meet your family's most BASIC needs this month.

You may be wishing you could give your kids more.

Tim and I were fortunate to be able to give our kids more, in a financial sense, but we didn't. We gave them what we gave them. And we don't regret it. Not really.

Because many times, but not all of the time, when the stars were aligned in that sweet spot of parenting, in the midst of blowups and apologies and busy-ness and petty comparisons and our easily bruised parenting egos... we gave them ourselves.

Our eyes.
Our ears.
Our hearts.
Our acceptance.

And that really is something.

It's something we all can give

69 comments:

Momza said...

A a mother to seven children, I can attest to the truths you have shared here. What kids need the most are parents who love them, spend time with them, and teach them how to live happily regardless of the "things" money can buy. Jack and Margaret are blessed to have all of that.

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

How is it that you know what's on my mind. I have been in my creative space all day and I am thinking I wish we would have taken the kids on more great vacations, maybe I should take everyone on one now, we deserve that, it will make everything all better and then I get up and read this. My husband's dad was of a different generation and to say the words "I love you" wasn't something he heard much, but he always knew his dad did. Mike was so different, even as our son grew Mike still told him he loved him, every time he left the house or hung up from the phone. When Mike died Michael said I will never forget how much dad loved me. That's all that really matters, right Anna. Thank you for once again helping me!

The Empress said...

Are you sure??

PLEASE tell me you are sure.

Because I almost cry every night thinking we've never been able to take the kids to Europe, or Hawaii.

Or much of anything other than Six Flags.

Please tell me you're sure.

xo

daughtersheart said...

I randomly thought of you this evening. May the God of peace and comfort shower you, Tim and Margaret with both.

Jules said...

You gave your family so many gifts that you don't even realize. You continue to give gifts. You are inspiring. I am new to your blog but boy have I thought of you & your family when we have had one of our regular game nights or I snuggled my kids for an extra moment. Thank you for sharing your words with us. Enjoy some family time this weekend. It is so much better than anything you can buy.

Geri said...

And your love, you gave him your love.
Which is everything.
@Empress, for what it's worth, I am SURE.
As always, beautiful post Anna.

Anne said...

Anna,
What a blessing you are to your children.You have given so much love and that trumps everything else!
Keeping you all in our hearts,thoughts and prayers!
xx
Anne

Gigi said...

It's easy to regret the things we never did - like not taking our son to Disney when he was younger. But stepping back and looking at the big picture and seeing all that we did give him (in the non-material sense) I can see that we gave him all that he needed. And you did too.

Mexmom said...

I wonder all the time if I give my son enough, but now I can put all in perspective and think that what I do give him is enough

Life is good! said...

and that I believe is how we live with no regrets. Had your son left this life with the best material "stuff" the world has to offer but not having his parents love and attention and time, that would have been a sad life for all of you. I so admire you and how you are dealing with the loss of this precious son. What an amazing family you are!

Stimey said...

You gave him the important things. You really did.

Christy said...

Oh Anna. Buy Margaret that big gulp, pronto sister! Love you. Love this post. Wishing so hard Jack was still here. Hugs and prayers, friend. HUGS and PRAYERS. xoxox

Debbie said...

I'm pretty sure those last things you listed were the only things he could have possibly taken with him. (The greastest of these is love). I think love reaches out through eternity.

ella said...

What a great picture of a mama and her boy. Love you all so much.

Courtney {a thoughtful place} said...

That is all that matters. Giving them ourselves. For whatever time we are blessed with. What a beautiful way of looking at it. And haven't we all learned that when we do buy the "it" thing that we forget about it in two days. Love and attention. Priceless.

Anonymous said...

He looks so much like his dad in that picture.

Is there a story about the Big Gulp?

Meredith Self said...

unconditional love.
way better than hawaii on conditions. :)

Our eyes.
Our ears.
Our hearts.
Our acceptance.

Beautiful.

Donna McMorrow said...

Oh, my. What special parents for a special young man. You are in my prayers this evening.

luv2run said...

Going STRAIGHT to 7 11 tomorrow with my boys to get a big gulf in honor of Jack. I might even get all wild and whacky and let them get coke to JACK (pun intended)them all up on caffeine. All in the name of your lovely boy!!!!

Luv2run

Anonymous said...

We get caught up in what we cannot do but a reminder is sent. Here was mine: K(23yrold) daughter - can we take one of those long rides like we used to ? Mom you want to drive to West Virginia? K we did it every Sunday and when granny was still alive she went.

So when you think some small little thing you do might not be good enough let that thought go.
V

Jill said...

A-FREAKIN-MEN.

I agree 100%!

A Speckled Trout said...

We have always had to watch our money and it seemed like my kids were the last to get anything cool. Now that they are grown and mostly on their own, their conversations about growing up in this house make my heart sing for they get the real stuff.

However............

They begged to go to Disneyworld as "they were the only kids in America" who had never been. I told them to talk to their dad. He sat them down and said, "Kids, this family doesn't vacation on asphalt."

They never asked again.......that made perfect sense to them.

Jaaks Mommy said...

It's the great lie of our generation, one too many of us have bought. Convincing ourselves that what our kids need is all the stuff...clothes, shoes, phones, games, and the list could go on. When what they need is you. I gladly have given up things for myself, but consequently also for my kids by staying home with them and having only one income. I wouldn't have it any other way. There's no better use of my time than my kids, there's nothing I can buy them that they need more than my time and presence. This has been on my heart a lot lately as well.

Ellen aka Ellie said...

My son is 26, and he lives here on Earth, but we share the same perspective, you and I.

It's not about the money, it's about the love. It's about the awareness that everything being precious.

One time, when Mac was in HS, he was going to a wealthy friend's house for dinner, and I said I wanted him to bring flowers to the mom so she knew he came from a good home. He told me, "Mom, I talk about you all the time. I tell people you're a teacher." I wondered out loud if that meant he was proud of me, and he said he was.

We're long divorced, and his dad makes a great living, but we opted to not spoil him.

Amazing to see the things he values now because of it.

I believe that's why I have always felt a kindredness with you.

claire said...

Anna,

You just don't know how much I needed to read this today, very early in the morning, after spending a night spent not sleeping, racked with anxiety over my and my kids' future. I am in the middle of a divorce, things are uncertain, and I am scared as hell. I worry so much about money and everything else. Intellectually, I know that worrying about things that have not even happened is a waste of the beautiful gift of my existence, a waste of the present moment, but sometimes the irrational emotions win out. This was such a blessing and I am so grateful. Thank you.

Focusing on gratitude and all my blessings helps, but at times I am still so scared.

Again, thank you for giving so much. You are a blessing to this world - an understatement!

Love,
Claire

PeachPrenni said...

Wow Anna. Wow. You really hit the spot. What a deeply profound message that ALL of us mothers can relate to. And it's SO true because what our kids want from us more than anything else is our time and our attention. You have inspired me. Mark is gone all day today and I'm home with 3 kids, no plans. I'm going to give them each a window of mommy time one on one to do whatever they want--without spending money. Maybe some Uno or Clue? Maybe bike riding? Definitely Barbies with Laine. :) Thank you. Love you.

Japolina said...

I've been thinking about this subject a lot lately. I truly believe that a loving, happy home makes children better. Thanks for articulating it.

vawriter said...

You honor your son by teaching us to honor ours.

I love that you left off the final period in this blog, as if you wanted us (subconsciously?) to insert the name of our child.

I did.

xx
Linda

Kara said...

This was just the drink of water I needed. We live on one income and with four kids it often does not feel like enough. Thanks for reminding me of all of the things that we can/do provide for them, the stuff that's the most important.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! This is just what I needed to read after comparing myself and my house to others just last night. You're so right about what's most important and I do give my kids that.

Anonymous said...

The "Big Gulp" got me. So sweet.
Stacy in Birmingham

Anonymous said...

This is exactly how I think as a parent, but it feels so good to hear someone I respect so highly say the same thing. Our kids buy their own IPods and Kindles - not because we can't, but because I don't think we should. I almost deleted the texts sent between my 13 year old and me, but I decided I wanted to save them after reading this. Thank you! You truly are amazing.

mgh said...

beautiful. There are so many things we could give that it is so easy to get distracted from sharing what we should give.

anjuli said...

This. speaks.
And even though I'm not a parent, it spoke to my teacher heart.
So, thank you for sharing.. it was what I needed to read today.

Anonymous said...

It's so true. And you must be reading my mind. Just LOVING my children and loving on them is very much on my mind this morning. I feel like amongst all the parenting strategies that you employ for various childhood issues and developmental stages, the one consistent strategy just has to be communicate your love. Show, tell, reveal how much you just love, love, love your kiddos. The rest will follow.

jbhat

Barbara said...

I recently had verification from my 16-year-old that this is, indeed, true. My husband and I keep everyone comfortable, provide some nice things and some nice vacations. But there are no Kate Spade cell phone covers, no trips to Europe, no queen-size beds (for one child!) with headboards with built-in iPod speakers... these are all things that some of their peers have. But we did send our daughter to a rather expensive (for us) college-campus-based summer camp for gifted kids. She benefitted greatly from what she affectionately calls "nerd camp." And yet, she just told me the other day that sometimes she wishes she didn't know about the lives of some of the wealthy kids who were there. "Their parents don't love them. They don't love their parents. All they can talk about is the stuff that they have. But they're nasty, miserable people. They go off to their houses in the Hamptons and hate every minute of it. I love my life. And I love my family. I'm glad for the life we have." Amen!

Laura said...

You and Tim gave Jack a 'big gulp' of everything that is truly important in life ~ which explains why so many are drawn to him . . . and inspired by you.

Cottage Blue Designs said...

Amen! Thank YOU for sharing from yoru heart. I love reading your blog and truly appreciate your honestly and sincerity. Blessings to you-
Megan

Kathy at kissing the frog said...

This was lovely, Anna. Truly beautiful. Thank you for the reminder.

Rene Foran said...

What you gave and continue give can't be captured on photographs or pressed in to memory books. Nor can it be measured by ticket stubs and bank balances. It only be measured by the heart.

Sue @ Laundry for Six said...

I do agree that Carrera countertops would make me a more organized person (and I think just a nicer person overall!). I still sometimes find myself struggling with this. It was so good to read this tonight, especially after hearing a friend discuss her family's upcoming trip to the Caribbean.

I tucked Jack's picture in a spot in my dining room this week. The dining room can be the scene of much drama and angst and that's where I do a lot of my deep breathing to remember to carpe those 15 or 20 minutes. I thought a little Jack in there would help us all.

Anonymous said...

I am going to print this and put on my fridge so we have that daily reminder - "our eyes, our ears, our hearts, our acceptance". Thank you. Love and hugs.

Caryl said...

You give your kids what they need, every day. The easy thing is the big stuff (Disneyland, or that fancy electronic device); the hard stuff is the day-to-day grind of being a good person, and doing the right thing.

Best,
Caryl

Debby@Just Breathe said...

So true Anna and it is obvious that Jack was rich through the love of his parents.

anymommy said...

That's more than a little something. That's everything. And I know you do. I love you too.

Dollops of Diane said...

Loved your post. Thank you for always helping to put things in prospective.

Arnebya said...

It is genuinely difficult to not compare houses and cars and clothes and gadgets. It is hard to tell my children no when they ask for certain things, especially things they need, not just want. I wonder all the time if they are happy, satisfied, aware of why we can't just go to Claire's on a whim anymore. Sure, we talk about it, but oh, how I covet the shoe boots my sister-in-law is able to buy. We have never left the U.S.

I believe you gave Jack what he needed and you taught him to appreciate it. That's where I feel like I'm failing. I feel like I'm tryin to show them they don't need brand new everything and some things not at all but then there is actual sadness and it is just hard.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing these words today. My husband was laid off last December and has been trying to start his own business since then. I'm well employed thankfully and though we are broker than we have ever been, this job loss has been a blessing in disguise for many reasons.
BUT, the hard has been feeling like we can't do everything we want for the kids all of the time. You've helped me put it in perspective today and I thank you for that.
We do give them our time and our love and we absolutely adore them and at the end of the day I hope my son remembers that I read to him every single night since he has dyslexia and can't read the books that all of his friends are reading and I hope my daughter knows that when I make her stay home on Saturday for family night it's because our family is SO important that I don't want her to miss it.
Hugs and love,
Julie

AmyMcC said...

One of the things I love about your blog, Anna, is how well you KNOW your children! I'm guessing that wouldn't be the case if you had given them too many "things" and not your time, attention, and love. (As a side note, this reminds me that I love our decision that my boys have no clue that beaches like Mrytle beach exist, and prefer the quiet ones we go to as a family that include bike rides, game nights, searching for sea animals, and late night swims in their underwear.) So special, and a great reminder for me. Thanks!

Janderon said...

I really need to read this. You're blog has touched me in so many ways, thank you.

Esther said...

Your words spoke truth to my heart. I have been lamenting over whether I should sign my iris up for gymnastics, even though my husband is changing jobs and will have a pay cut. You last lines cut to my soul, because, well, it was like getting a pep talk from myself. You see, my husband's name is Tim. You wrote exactly what I needed to tell myself. Thank you. You are amazing and wise.

Jean Ireland said...

First; no, you are not the only that does that. A lot of times I feel if we had a newer, nicer AND cleaner home, my boys would be more confident, happier, etc. And we have a beautiful and historic home.
Second; I first read of you and your family on Momastery. And now I check in most days and I have been so touched and moved with your story. I have told many friends about Jack. And you. And from a person who has endured a lot of loss, some tragic, and who is a widow trying to raise two sons by myself, I so admire you and your strength and your words.
Lastly; again, I love today's post and yes, sometimes I panic about how I will pay for college, or if we will get through the month, but I do know I'm a good parent, a good mom and I have two wonderful sons, good boys, and the three of us make a nice, tight and strong unit. Our days are not perfect; we, too make mistakes and have to regroup and try something else but we keep on trying to get it right. Thanks for reminding me that this is what's important. Not that we don't have granite and still have formica, not that my home doesn't look perfect 24 hours a day, not that we haven't had a cool vacation in about 5 years. Your words and posts make a difference.

Meg McCormick said...

I have granite envy, too! And fear of not being able to pay for college. Ugh. It's crushing sometimes. BUT: We are happy and healthy and we have each other, and that is enough. It is plenty.

I love that you bought gifts for others with Jack's saved-up gift cards.

ALI said...

Anna - I want you to know - God really put words into your heart today that I needed to read. I needed to hear. I needed to own.

Thank you. Thank you for following his lead & writing these words today. And Thank you God for providing Anna with these words and me the time to read them.

Jennifer said...

I think it's human for us to question if we did the right things. I question a lot since my husband died- did I love him enough, did I tell him I was proud of him,ect.. I really feel that its Satan trying to get in my head and cause doubt. I refuse to let it stay there but deep inside.....I know. I know I did those things and that he knew it too. Just like Jack knew you loved him. Thank you for the sweet reminder that our childen love us and want US, not just material things.

Lady Jennie said...

Amazing writing and incredible sentiment.

I've been praying more for you lately because we've passed into year 2 and it's supposed to be harder.

How are you?

theresa o said...

Love every word u wrote. As a single mom I always worry I can't give Zach enough.....but when it comes down to it, all he needs is love and my dedication and support as his mom. And there is no doubt in my mind how much love u gave Jack. All of u make up the most beautiful family.....something to be so proud of.

Anonymous said...

I've never met you, but I dreamed about Jack recently. In my dream, I was introducing him to my son (though I don't even have a child of my own yet!). Nonetheless, in my dream I introduced Jack to my son as the person who saved his life. I have no idea what that means.

Loukia said...

It is the only thing that matters. You gave Jack (and he, to you) more in twelve years than other parent-child relationships give in a lifetime, in a hundred years. The love you had for your son... and he for you... that's a lifetime, and eternity of love, you know. And it's never going to go away. I worry about not giving enough too. Not a big enough back yard. No pool. No massive house. Not 5 vacations a years. Etc. But... I love them with all my heart and soul and tell them a hundred times a day. That has to be enough... xoxo

Leah C said...

Little somethings, are often the things that count. And that's a BIG something. Hugs & prayers...

Mandy said...

The perfect post for me. Thank you for reminding me that my kids don't need stuff, they just need me. Thank you, thank you.You are often in my thoughts and prayers, Anna. Thank you for writing and for sharing yourself with us. love from NYC.

darcie said...

I too, pine for the counters ~ more space would make our lives easier wouldn't it? Because then, my crap would be spread out and wouldn't look so...um, hoarder-ish?

Your words really touched my heart today - it's not about the 'stuff' - the bigger, the better...it's about being together - and that right there, makes us rich.

Leslie said...

Anna, thank you. Brett and I don't have the money to do things with our kids. They've never seen the beach (I went every year since I was born, I had all of those memories), they've never been on a vacation AT ALL. And no, we don't have the money to pay the bills this month, not even close. I tell myself all the time that this is OK, they'll see us working really hard and loving each other and that's enough. I tell myself seeing the beach isn't that big of a deal. I see my blog friend's summer posts filled with camping trips and mini vacations and tiny toes in the sand, and I can't even wrap my head around how much it cost, how they got off work, how long they had to save to afford feeding a family three meals a day while away from home, and then of course, how many memories they stored up for their kids. No I do NOT sit around pitying my kids, but I do wonder, I do doubt and I do wish for them to see the ocean before they're too grown up to let me help them build their first sand castle. So thank you for this post. This is a driveling comment and I want to delete it because it sounds pitiful - whatever, I just want to thank you for saying it's OK that they've not been on a vacation or owned a hand-held video game console. Because though I spend a ton of my day being humbly grateful for my family and blessings, I'm still an idiot who sometimes thinks we're doing them a disservice by not being able to give them much.

Praying, ALWAYS, for each of you.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I are able to give our kids lots of adventures and experiences, but not a lot of material things, just by choice. We live in a small brick Cape Cod. Every day on our way to daycare, we pass through a neighborhood of very large beautiful homes, with acres of yardage, ponds and bridges, just very beautiful homes. My daughter ALWAYS says, "Mom, these houses are nice, but OUR house is my favorite. Because that is where my family lives. And I LOVE my family". Sigh. That is all I need to hear. And it sounds like that is what your philosphy is, too. Thank you for posting this today, as I needed to hear it.

Salvimom said...

In the midst of your grief Anna, you always seem to be able to be a blessing to others through your words. You constantly give me peace of mind and are able to constructively say how I feel. Being a single mommy of four, I try my best, but somehow I always feel I fall short of doing everything I would like to for my kiddos. This post just reminded me that they are in the best position possible through LOVE. I enjoy that you remind us that the small stuff really matters to them. My babies are lucky enough to attend a really lovely school, where their mommy gets to work as well, and so their time with me is wonderful, and mine with them. And in the end, that's all that really counts, isn't it. Love prayers and hugs as always.


Ury
Seattle, WA

Thrift Store Mama said...

I know that my kids don't have fancy things or lots of activities. I know that. But it is still so nice to be reminded.

Thank you.

Mama Mary said...

Love this post, Anna! I think about this a lot, with my kids, because we don't have a big house or a big back yard with fancy play areas and lots of stuff. We are cramped in a small townhome, but sometimes I think it's such a blessing because we spend a lot of time together and we are a really close family, figuratively and literally. : ) Once again, I am touched by your words. xoxo

Anonymous said...

You also gave/give them a community of people who love and look out for them. That also is HUGE.

Really love this topic. Hope you write more about it because the pressure to give kids whatever their friends have is enormous and very hard to resist.

Heidi said...

This is beautiful and something that was meant for me to see today. Thank you, Anna. I needed this gentle reminder.