Friday, September 20, 2013

3 Questions


Yesterday I put on the Facebook Page a post by Single Dad Laughing with 3 questions he asked more than 200 bereaved parents. I thought the responses would be meaningful to all parents.

Oh, you didn't know An Inch of Gray had a Facebook page? Just click on that picture of me over there on the right and "Like" it if you feel so inclined. Thanks!

Anyway, I got a message last night from Lori asking me how I would answer the three questions, and that's what I've been thinking about today. A lot. I have a feeling my answers will be a little longer than the ones on the Single Dad Laughing post.

WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN AS A PARENT:

Hmm. I wish I had understood that while I was trying to make Jack's life "easier" by having him conform to other people's standards, I was most likely just letting my own insecurities and pride keep me from enjoying Jack exactly as God made him.

Truthfully, I was probably just trying to make things easier on ME not him. I knew he was a thoughtful, incredible kid, but I sometimes wished he were more rough and tumble, less sensitive, less shy, and more happy go lucky.

This doesn't mean I regret any of our heart to hearts, even the ones with tears, or the way I helped equip him to learn how to make friends, handle his emotions, and cope with challenges, but I just wish I had realized, far earlier than I did, that God did not give me Jack so I could fix him or change him. He gave me Jack to love and to fight for.

I don't regret being structured, because I know that made him feel safe and loved, so you won't hear me say, "Oh I wish we had had milkshakes and Coke for dinner every night, or not had a bedtime, or just let him watch whatever was on TV" -- knowing now that the days we had together were numbered. 

But I do wish I had a crystal clear vision of what the little things were versus the big things. And I probably would have bought him a couple more Cokes.

I wish I had known not to let others guilt me or intimidate me into distrusting my instincts as a mom.


WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD DONE DIFFERENTLY AS A PARENT:

Well, you KNOW I wish I hadn't encouraged my kids to go out and play in the rain that balmy afternoon. Not that seizing the moment and playing in the rain is a bad thing in itself. In fact, it is moments like those that form some of the most blessed and meaningful memories of our family's past. Moments of beauty, laughter and spontaneity. Running through a sprinkler with your clothes on because you are too lazy to change, chasing after the bell of an ice cream truck as it pulls away from the curb, finding unexpected delight in an otherwise ordinary day.

However, I wish I could have felt the axis of the earth shift ever so slightly, to know this was NOT an ordinary day. I wish I somehow had been able to put together the puzzle pieces of the strange feelings and the sense of foreboding that I had the weeks before the accident to make me just say, "NO. We're staying inside."

I wish I had used our drive home from school that afternoon for a teachable moment about flash floods and the mighty power of water. I thought about it, but I didn't want to scare the kids.

I regret being well-behaved. I think my desire to be a well-behaved people pleaser who doesn't make a scene contributed to my giving up almost immediately the night of the accident and not doing more to find Jack, even though I knew in my soul where he was.

WHAT ARE YOU THANKFUL YOU MADE SURE TO DO AS A PARENT:

Well, I know that Jack knew I loved him. I showed him this in the words I spoke every single day: "I love you. I love the way God made you. I'm so proud to be your mom" and in my actions most days.

I am so glad I took the time to snuggle and talk with him at night. I am thankful that I let the kids climb on the couch, dance on the coffee table, and jump on the bed when they were little.

I am grateful I was able to introduce him to the God who made him and who loves him even more than I do.  I am thankful that I never let the kids think that the most important things in life were things. I am thankful I wasn't too busy. I am thankful I encouraged his passions. And I am thankful I was able to help foster a loving relationship between Jack and his sister Margaret, even though it hurts so much not to have them together now.

So, those are my things.

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

A~ Your words inspire me to be a better mother--every blog rings true. Thank you for your creative insights, for sharing your deepest thoughts. My 15 year old son and i have a "closer" relationship because of your words and suggestions.

Anonymous said...

You are a wonderful mother Anna XXX

OSMA said...

Mercy, this was hard to read while choking back the tears. Too much important insight not to, though. I try to listen to my instinct while shutting out extrinsic factors on a regular basis but there seems no way to get it right 100% of the time. I hope I will have the grace to allow my kids to be themselves while embracing order and tradition, like you are doing; it is an overwhelming balance. What shatters my core is that you don't physically have Jack here right now. What begins to mend it is that your words give me chills in the same way some singers do, few artists can, and a couple dancers might. In those moments, the Italian yell, "Brava, Brava!" not because they wanted more but bc they caught a glimpse of God in the performance. Jack's light shines through you, Anna. That will never end.

Jen T. said...

This? Was amazing.

Thank you.

Melissa Dale said...

You know, these are good questions for those of us who haven't lost children too. I think it is a good exercise to remind us of what is important and to start doing the things we intend to do but never get around to because life gets in the way. Thank you for your transparency and vulnerability as you continue on your healing journey.

Mama Mary said...

Again, you leave with tears, but also warmth in my heart. I love this line: "I wish I had known not to let others guilt me or intimidate me into distrusting my instincts as a mom." This was some of the advice my sister gave me before she died of cancer a few years ago, when I was pregnant with my first daughter. She was 15 years older and had two grown kids by the time she died. She told me to disregard others and stay true to my gut and instincts for my kids. I keep that advice close to me.
And this post just proves to me again, what a wonderful, loving parent you are. xoxo

Andrea Mowery said...

You inspire me to hone my mom-ness and to own the good things I do for my kids instead of feeling that I'm not enough. Your love and experience teaches all of us to be as great a mom as you.

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

Oh Anna, I can't form the words that make the sentences, just heart to heart is all I can say.

Stimey said...

I read that SDL post as well and it gave me a lot to think about. Thank you for giving us your answers. I love what you say in your first one. And I am sure that Jack knew that you loved him just as he was. Much love to you, mama.

Unexpected Delays said...

Thank you for sharing your responses. I read the blog post yesterday when you shared it on Facebook.

You are an amazing mother and writer.

Suburban Correspondent said...

"I probably would have bought him a couple more Cokes." This killed me. Such a simple thing. Even just as an ordinary parent with a child grown and out of the nest, I feel this way sometimes.

I liked your answers, because they were realistic - more realistic, it seemed to me, than a lot of the answers over at Single Dad's blog. The paradox of life is that we have to take it somewhat for granted just to get through the day - we can't be forever hugging our kids every time they leave our sight, we'd seem just loony tunes and start annoying them. And if we gave them treats and "special" days all the time, well then, it wouldn't be special any more. They wouldn't appreciate it.

But still, my grown-up oldest son? I wish I had given him a few more Cokes, that's for sure. Little kids are just so darn appreciative. I guess that explains why people tend to spoil their grandkids a bit.

Leigh Ann said...

I think the most beautiful thing is to focus on the things you are thankful for, the good you did as Jack's mom. I'm so glad you took the time to answer these questions.

Anonymous said...

One gift you and Jack have given me is the reminder that our days together are numbered. No, we don’t load up on junk food nor do we engage on elaborate activities any more than we did before, but I now remember to be present, that life is fleeting.

BTW, Margaret looks a lot like your mom- her facial structure- both beautiful.
Many hugs to you, Anna.

Sybil@PeaceitallTogether said...

This post made me cry. Your answer to the first question, about how you wish you were different with Jack really hit home. It sounded so much like what I do with O. I want to keep loving him and fighting for him instead of worrying about fixing him. I learn so much from you, in every post. And, I feel a little guilt every time, because I know that you had to lose Jack in order to be able to communicate these feelings. XO

Sherri Newman said...

Over the past few months since Josh died, it's funny how the little things have counted. "So glad I got that hug that morning, so glad we just finished redoing his room as he wanted it." So glad we ate at Chikfila that night. Loved that you highlighted the simple things that brought such moments of joy! XOXO

JennG said...

I'm not a Christian but you know...what came to my mind is your first thoughts about respecting that Jack was precisely the person God wished him to be. I think you were the mother for Jack that God wished you to be. Thank you for these answers.

susan said...

Anna, your words have changed the way that I look at my boys, particularly my older son (now 5) who is sensitive, tender-hearted, loves security, and is not rough and tumble. Your words were a gift from God to me and I thank you for sharing them. I have prayed for you and your family many times and I just want you to know how much I look forward to learning from your wisdom. I can't imagine what you have been through but in some way you've been able to turn it into love, encouragement, and wisdom for me and others. xx Susan

Christian said...

Thank-you for sharing your thoughts here, they are so powerful and brave. I held my breath while reading the answer to the first question - it reminds me a lot of my relationship with my son. Your words will help guide me as a mother - thank-you.

Fiona, LilyfieldLife said...

Lessons for life and mothering, thank you Anna for sharing. This is a really special post.
Fiona xx

(ok weird - the word i am asked to type in below on the comment moderator is "losing")

Amanda said...

This is perfect and something I know I will be reflecting on!

GrahamForeverInMyHeart said...

I think the most important lesson I could share with any parent is to trust your instincts. If you feel something isn't right, even if you don't have evidence, trust your gut. I never knew that children could hurt other children and that the long term consequences can be devastating.
I believe that parents must trust their feelings about situations and friends and not be afraid to do what's right.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I miss you! Like everything else you write about Jack - this took my breath away with its poignant honesty. Love you.

IrishRN07 said...

Oh Anna, this is such a wonderful and heart-breaking post. Profound. Beautiful. Loving. Thank you so much for sharing so bravely.

The Empress said...

You make me cry so hard and not in a bad, awful way but in a way that i feel your love for Jack in my own heart. You have that power to do that. To make me live with you, be with you, walk with you as much as I can through all this.

Oh, I don't know how to explain, but I am blessed to know you.

anymommy said...

Beautiful. I'm crying. And I'll probably buy all of my kids a coke this weekend. I do know how trite that is and I don't care. I'll have Jack in my heart as I do it.

macmac524 said...

Utterly raw and real and wonderful words as usual. Your readers (commenters) are gifted writers too. I agree w/other's sentiments...your words are inspiration for better, more thoughtful, parenting. How I wish this "3 Questions" parental insight did not come from a place of such sadness.

BTW...I felt a significance in your craft project post. I pray the hurt is lessening for all of you.

Thanks for keeping on keeping on and helping us all do the same.

Rach said...

Beautiful reflections, Anna. I'm going to give them some thought as well.

Today would be my girl's 12th birthday. We're off to do something fun and sparkly.

hugs

NotesFromAbroad said...

What would you do to be a better parent ... I was 22 when I had my second child. I didn't know anything but how to change diapers and that I loved them. I muddled along and was gifted with a superb husband/father for those children. Now that I am all grown up and old ...lol ... I look back and see all the things I did wrong and my heart aches to go back and do it again right, but then I look at my two children and Thank God that I did something right because they still love me and they are perfect, kind humans who will be perfect parents.
Well, perfect in the eyes of their mother.

I don't believe in looking back and wishing I had done something better ... What if's are painful and do no good.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for the pain you were in as you waited for Jack to be found. Frankly, I wouldn't call that "giving up" or being "well-behaved."

Maybe it looked like being well-behaved, but it must have taken all your strength not to be out searching, and potentially endangering yourself in the process. It doesn't matter if it appeared well-behaved. It doesn't matter if sometimes, as all women occasionally do, you engage in people-pleasing.

In that moment, it was much harder to sit and wait quietly at home. You showed incredible strength.

Jamie Reese said...

<3 I've struggled with silly, small regrets. But like you, I know that he knew I loved him. This hit me right in the heart!

Kristin said...

Anna, you make me want to be a better mom. Always.

Hugs.

Stumbling Towards Perfect said...

I read that post and thought about how I would have answered those questions... and it hit me that so often when I thought I was making life "easier" for Avery, I was actually attempting to undo all the amazing, beautiful, wonderful things God gave her: her sensitivity, her shyness, her incredible faith, her quiet introspection -- I wanted her to be "more": giggling over clothes and planning shopping days and experimenting with her hair. I wanted her to fit in more on the normal side. Not because I was ashamed of who she was, but I knew the world would make it harder for her uniqueness. It's this same uniqueness that brings me so. much. comfort. I know EXACTLY where she is and what she's doing. I just wish my eyes would have seen it clearer while she was here. I wish I hadn't tried to "undo" what God had done.

Oh, you will never know how much your blog has affected me.

Ellen said...

Thank you for writing that.

dusty earth mother said...

Incredibly honest, beautiful and so helpful to me as a parent who loves God and wants her kids to be whom he made them to be. Thank you, Anna.

Noah's Mom said...

Oh, Anna...the 'what-ifs' are WAY too hard on us. You did everything any loving Mother would have or could have done. You are a most loving and nurturing Mother and it is obvious that your children knew it and felt it. You could have never in a million years known about what fate 'playing in the rain' would bring. We did it as kids and they were some of our best memories. Please know that you did everything right...Jack had a wonderful, happy life and THAT was apparent in his sweet, loving nature.
Thank-you for sharing. Sending prayers & hugs.

Anonymous said...

I know you've addressed this to some degree already but I'd also love to hear more about what ARE the big things versus the little things. It may seem crystal clear to you now but not to us. That's a lesson only some of us are equipped to teach and the rest of us, with more clouded vision, have to wait for someone to let us know. thank you Anna!

A Speckled Trout said...

This was the gentlest reflection of parenting Jack's short life, and I can look back and identify mistakes and shortcomings of my own that are painful to acknowledge, including the raising of the boy that marched to his own tune when I fervently wished he marched to a more typical boy tune. But despite our faults and mistakes as Anne Lamott says, "Love bats last." I would add forgiveness to that and breathe into that paper bag every day.

Chris said...

Hi Anna, just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris
http://chelencarter-retiredandlovingit.blogspot.ca/

Megan said...

So brutiful! My favorite part, and one I can so much relate to with my boy is that God didn't give you Jack to fix him or change him, but to love him and fight for him. You are a beautiful writer and a beautiful mother. Bless You@

Anonymous said...

two comments on one post! good God, I must be going through a crisis of my own (this is true... not as earth shattering as yours, but pretty bad)...

anyway, I was wasting my life away on reddit earlier today and came across a link titled: "Shy male birds have fewer 'friends' but build stronger bonds than bolder birds, researchers have found." I thought about your bird-behind-the-veil, and I thought you might love it.

Here's the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/24126083

And here's the excerpt that gets right to the point: "Shyer birds tend to have much more stable associations that are stronger and persist over a long period of time but there are less of them," she explained.

In comparison, bold birds opted for quantity rather than quality: foraging with several different groups and having more short-term associations with a greater number of birds."

E. in VT.

ella said...

Thanks for sharing, Anna. I wish I could give you a big hug.

Lady Jennie said...

When I read things like this, it doubles the feeling that you're doing the right thing by giving your writing the space it deserves!

Arnebya said...

You make me pay attention, Anna. You make me stop and listen and look at my kids. You help me to accept what is. Your answers show how in tune you and Jack were, how in tune you are with Margaret and motherhood even though you slip in "most" days. I thank you for this because it makes me pause, makes me think of how I'd answer, even given my not being bereaved.

Anonymous said...

Jack was loved whole-heartedly and he knew it. Your blog has helped me be more present. I am sure to make the last thing I say before they depart for school (no matter how frazzled, how crazy it is) is 'I love you and have a great day'. I am working on not sweating the little things and trusting my instincts more regarding my kids--even if it might make me uncomfortable or create waves. I have you and Jack to thank for that. Take care, NoVa Mom Jen

Kat Biggie said...

Oh my heart hurts. Anna... I don't even know Jack and I miss him for you. You are an amazing mother, and thank you for teaching me these lessons and reminding me to be PRESENT with my children while they are still so young. Life is too short. Hugs! Alexa

Anonymous said...

@E in VT, without wanting to pry, I'm truly sorry that you're in a crisis and wish you strength; I sure do hope you have some support to get you through what must be so hard.

Anonymous said...

thank you. thank you so much. i wept when i saw the generous comment. thank you. e. vt.

Anonymous said...

Thanks again, Anna, for your insight and perspective. Nice reminder to savor the special moments, embrace the indulgences, and love unconditionally.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome, E in VT.

May God (if you're more spiritual than religious, you could substitute "Spirit" or "Light")bless you and hold you in his heart.

You've been generous in your support of Anna, who in turn is generous with all of us.

AmyMak said...

Your words always make me cry and yet I keep coming back here. I'm trying to live this with my son, to remember I don't have to fix him, I just have to love him. Thank you.

Candice Kirkpatrick said...

Cute blog, I just started following. My GRAY roots, are now highlights! I've been fighting them since I was 13. I would love for you to visit http://www.yellowrosefairytales.blogspot.com

Princess Kate said...

You know of ALL the "things" mommies are supposed to teach their children, LOVE is No. 1. Such great love you taught and showed in such a tremendously short time. Stay away from the "what ifs" if you can. They only detract from the abundant love part. Prayers and I hope the new home is comforting you.

Heidi Cave said...

This is so powerful and this, in particular, really spoke to me: "This doesn't mean I regret any of our heart to hearts, even the ones with tears, or the way I helped equip him to learn how to make friends, handle his emotions, and cope with challenges, but I just wish I had realized, far earlier than I did, that God did not give me Jack so I could fix him or change him. He gave me Jack to love and to fight for." There is such wisdom here and it's an important reminder and lesson for me.
Thank you for your heart and insight, for sharing. I'm always in awe of your willingness to open your heart to us. You make my world a brighter place, Anna, and I love you to bits.

Kristen said...

Anna~~~~You rock. Don't stop writing. And don't ever start editing. (Your words--your truth, that is.)

Stephanie said...

You inspire me. Thank you for your courage.

Ann Imig said...

You continue to be so brave and generous with your honesty. Thank you for this.