Message to the future
To my three lovely children:
It’s not hard to see why some people choose not to have kids.
You may think that this is an odd way for your mother to start a letter to her kids, but it’s simply the truth. No other decision will turn your life upside down as much, complicate every other decision as much or scrape your heart as raw and vulnerable.
All your decisions start revolving around having kids – can we afford to fly for our vacation? Do we have to relinquish our sleek sedan with a – sob, sob – minivan? Or, for me in the last few weeks, the biggest question yet – can I leave you kids with a sitter and go back to work?
When the opportunity came up to come back to the St. Paul Journal, part of me was excited about learning a different side of the news business: that part started thinking ahead about what I would do and how much busier life would be. Thank goodness, I thought, I could actually do something with the day instead of worrying about how I am going to entertain you guys for nine hours.
You may remember mommy dragging you from one playgroup to another, to the park, or shopping, or working on some activity or other, whether it was building a Lightning McQueen out of cardboard boxes or making a village of Lego people.
It’s not because I was some enthusiastic super mom, but because I was afraid of slowing down for two seconds and confronting my worst fear - that the one thing in the world I want to do better than anything else, to be a good mother, is the one thing in which I could be a total failure.
But something happened in this past year. I was hyperactive as ever, still dragging you everywhere alternating with neurotically wiping up after you as you toddled around the house. But I had embraced the idea of being at home, of living with a slower pace of life, of being able to just sit in the sun and watch you pour sand into a cup, or to whisper stories to you before you went to sleep. I also learned to laugh when you – my littlest monster – would bludgeon your older brother to tears and then make kissing noises when I started to scold you, or you, my handsome man, would break real eggs in your fake kitchen pans or shave your eyebrows or use the Sharpie to decorate the couch. You, my oldest, kept me on my toes too, and never missed an opportunity to point out our foibles, whether it was complaining that Daddy was hogging all the turns on the Wii game Dora and the Snow Princess, or the fact – in a discussion about how members of our family were good at different things, whether it was sports, music or drawing – to summarize my talents with, “Mommy, you are good at sweeping!”
So the decision to go back to work was huge. I don’t think I’ve ever agonized over a decision as much. I love the St. Paul Journal, the staff and the news business. But I love you more.
Ultimately, I made the decision to go back not just for myself, but for you and your father too. In an ideal world, we’d all lie around on a sun-filled beach while someone fanned us, brought us drinks and fed us grapes. In reality, we all make decisions that are hard, but involve blessings and sacrifices. Each family has to find the right balance and fit for them.
I started off by saying I can see why some people choose not to have kids, but I can tell you that having you three – to me – has meant everything. Few things are as real or meaningful or can reach into the depths of my being as much as seeing you laugh and play or being the one to scoop you up and comfort you when you cry (even if I do seem ticked off when those crying moments happen at 2 a.m.), or when you, my little boy who keeps lots of words to himself – give me those rare spoken words, “I love you.”
In those moments, everything in a chaotic world makes sense. And it means that no matter where we go or what we choose, you should know you always come first in my heart.