Today my daughter-in-law, Missy, asked me to write a letter to myself - the self I was when I was raising small children. Here goes;
Dear Frazzled Me, (1982)
I realize that you haven't been out of the house (and that you HATE this house...three bitty bedrooms, one bath for a family of five, teensy narrow galley kitchen, single living area swallowed up by the sofa, no garage...creepy chilly dungeon basement)...in 10 days.
The snow is up to the hubcaps on the one car you share with Winston, the absentee car which is with him at work, as always. Walker is 9 and at school which is directly behind this shrinky dink house. Laurel is 4 and an incessant talker with a lot of whine thrown in, Sean is 2 and has developed a compulsion for swallowing coins, and neither of them is fond of outings in the snow. Laurel doesn't like to have a cold face and Sean looks like the Michelin Tire Man in his gray snowsuit and cannot walk in his boots, so he stands with snow up to his thighs, rooted in place and screaming, "Mamma!" Snot looks pretty strange when it freezes.
I don't like my one available friend very much so I would rather not invite her and her children over or even walk to their house for a change of place.
We have the tiniest, crummiest house of anyone I have met here and with three rambunctious kids we are cramped beyond tolerance. There is not a spot in the entire house in which we don't have to walk single file. The previous owners glued red flannel to the wood floor in the hallway for some reason. I have been chipping away at the flannel all week.
I have the awful idea that we are sinking lower year by year rather than progressing UPward. Our first home purchased 5 years ago was a delightful Florida ranch - brand new! I'd give anything to roll back the clock as far as that goes...I don't look forward to anything now, so I do a lot of reminiscing.
We've left the most exciting and marvelous experience of our lives - two years in Japan! -and I deeply miss the exhilaration of life in a foreign country, the Japanese housemaid, the amusing next door neighbor I loved so much. I miss...I miss...I miss...
WAIT. Who did I say was a whiner?
Penny, wake up! You are a blessed woman! You have a great husband (as husbands go...ha!), terrific children (as children go...) and yet you are unwilling to do anything but sulk. You think that you are in a rut, that nothing is ever going to change.
Haven't you observed by now, at the age of 32, that life evolves?
Sure, Florida was a sunny time when 4 previous lost pregnancies was wonderfully resolved with the birth of a daughter and a new baby due as we embarked for a tour in Japan. Japan was delightful, as you welcomed the arrival of a second son and enjoyed the novelty of so many unique and fascinating experiences. All that was wonderful. Granted.
Now it's bleak times in "Bleak House". Life has gone sour and you wanted a picnic year-round. Didn't you?
Well, guess what? Right this minute as I write to you from age 58, I would gladly spend 10 days cooped up with those precious children again. You'll miss being able to walk with them and look down on the tops of all their blond heads. You'll miss bathing them and touching those pudgy baby limbs. You'll miss being Mommy Everything to them, before they have friends they enjoy better, spouses they love more and pudgy little children of their own.
Nothing lasts forever.
If I could, I would read to my little children. A lot. Instead of scrapping red flannel off the hallway floor.
I would pay more attention to teaching them table manners (I found out it's hard to catch up on that when they are twelve).
I would concentrate more on making the best of a bad situation than brooding about it. I would want them to learn something about the benefits of good cheer when times are tough. They, too, will have tough times. Alas.
I would have hidden the scissors so Laurel couldn't have cut her bangs.
I would have made the most of the time with my father I had left. I would have engaged him in conversations with me alone and asked him about his childhood, his heritage, so that at 58 I wouldn't be digging for names and dates on ancestry.com filling the gaps I helped create. I would have thanked him for having been such a steadfast, dependable father to me.
I would have greeted Winston when he came home with funny kiddo stories rather than gripe about how much I hated that house.
I wouldn't have made such a big deal about the wheat bread in the toilet...Sean...was it you? Laurel...fess up?
Maybe I would have trusted God more, knowing that I was not exempt from the frustrating episodes in life - I wasn't God's special "pet". I would have exhibited a lot more grace in times of stress and I think I would have baked cookies more often.
And let me tell you one thing, Penny...you are going to LOVE being a grandmother! Trust me - the best is yet to come!