When I reflect back on my three decades there is really one constant variable in my life that comes to mind; I have always been the type to anxiously await the next phase of life. I couldn’t wait to be in middle school, then it was high school, then it was college, then it was having a real job, then it was being a wife, and then it was motherhood. A flaw in my personality I would gladly trade, this anticipation of the next thing to come has always kept me from thoroughly enjoying the present moment.
I have two toddlers. So I don’t think anyone would blame me for anxiously awaiting the end of the next few years. On top of that, I’m a military wife and stretches of solo-parenting have become the norm. I get excited thinking about homeschooling. I daydream about my future career goals. I miss sleeping, having a clean house, and working out.
With my inclination to rush life and the hazy, busy one that I’m currently leading, I would expect myself to sign up for a self-induced coma until the crashing wave recedes and I can breathe again. I should be putting myself on autopilot and doing all that I can just to survive the day-to-day. I’ll close my eyes the eve of my 30th and wake up 33.
But I’m not.
Before my first child was born, my father died at the age of fifty-four. That age would have sounded old to me once, but now I know it’s tragically young. Five years ago, as I sat with pen and paper in a guest bedroom that used to be my sister’s, I hastily wrote out my father’s eulogy. My pen moved faster than my mind. I had plenty to say about him, plenty to share with the people who would come to mourn him. I needed to express how proud I was of his life and to have been his daughter. I wasn’t short on adjectives, anecdotes, or superlatives. Because when I say that second only to Jesus my dad was the most selfless man to walk the earth, I’m not speaking figuratively.
I knew I was living moments that would be seared into my memory. Nearing thirty, I was surprised that what I thought about the most was that moment in the guest bedroom and the overwhelming amount I had to say about my father. In two sheets of blank computer paper and shaky handwriting, I expressed what my dad meant to me.
What will my daughter, sitting in her old-bedroom-turned-guest room, pen and paper in hand, have to write about me? Will her hand move back in forth with the same ferocity as mine did? Or will she sit pensive, pen between her teeth, figuring out how to skip around my not-so-great parts. Will she strain to think of favorable adjectives?
As thirty approached, I started living my life in a way I would never have anticipated before having children. If I want my son to say, “my mom was always…,” I will always try to be that something. If I want my daughter to say, “my mom always made me feel…,” then it’s my job even now to always make her feel that way. When my son is tugging at my pants, nearly taking them come off, as I try to peel potatoes, I won’t look down at him in exasperation and a huff, because “my mom was kind,” is something I need him to think when I’m gone. When my daughter hands me the one-thousandth piece of paper with a few drawn lines I’m not going to cast it aside with barely a glance because, “my mom was proud of me,” is something she can never doubt.
No one will be a better judge of how I mothered more than my children. I care deeply how they will think I fared. I will wake up every day with the determination to be what I want them to remember. But the hard truth is that I will fail. Every day I will fail. I will lose patience. I will say the wrong thing. I will make the wrong decisions. But if I don’t wake up thinking about the blank sheets of computer paper waiting for my children’s final judgement, then I may as well go to autopilot and wait for the day that when I wake up in the morning I will actually felt like I slept. If I wished for the end of the throes of toddlerhood, I would just zombie out of life and wait for the next phase where I don’t feel like my brain is slush in my head.
At the age of thirty, with two toddlers, I am living my life for my eulogy. I tinkered with the idea that this is a midlife crisis, but I don’t feel old. I feel determined. I don’t look in the mirror at the grays in my eyebrows (my eyebrows, people) and feel unpretty. I see the face my children see. I put a smile on it. Because “I made my mom happy,” is something that I want them to know, and I may only have 24 years to convey it.
I no longer rush life. I was born to be thirty, to be their mom. And come hell or high water I’m going to rock it, just like my dad.