Dear Younger Me,
Hey friend, how are you? I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately because it’s that time – the time we always knew was coming. I think about you, walking home from work twenty-seven years ago, knowing something was different about you. I remember the conversation you had with David, that God needed this baby to join us right now, and all of our plans could wait. We vowed to enjoy the experience of being parents and do our best. One day, we would see the other side of parenting and do everything we planned to do before. And here we are, with that time upon us.
Younger Me, Now Me wants to tell you what I notice which might sound like advice. You know what I say about advice: take what you need and leave the rest.
- Parenting is scary and we don’t have to be afraid. You are everything you need. I’m glad you believed it when you needed to and surrounded yourself with people who could remind you when you forgot. And honey, sometimes you really forgot.
- But you didn’t forget to surround yourself with loving friends, elder sisters, aunties, and grandmamas. That’s how I know you were listening to me. Yes, Now Me was there then because Now Me includes Us and all the Rest of Us. That’s how the God in us works. Lots of people had advice, remember? We took some, left the rest, got stuff right, and messed up a lot. But we have three girls who love us and want to be around us. So trust yourself.
- Thanks for listening to our elders and ancestors about time being more precious than money. You took time with the girls and with yourself. I know, there were a lot of days that money seemed more critical. It wasn’t. You remembered Mom saying, “every time we needed something, someone would send us a piece of money.” You asked for help when you needed it, and you had faith in God’s promises of abundant life.
- You realized you should not rush time. As people said, “I can’t wait for this” or “Where did the time go for that,” you heard “slow down.” And, after a while, you did. I’m so glad you started taking the long way to school and work so that we could look at flowers, trees, and people instead of getting angry at how slow or fast cars moved on the highway. Yeah, that one took you a good while to figure out and took losing your job to discover.
- Girl, you sure were brave about quitting jobs. I mean, you had some profound faith and belief in the divine order of things to walk away from some of the jobs you had. But I remember what you always used to say: “I’ll never have another chance to parent my children. I need to give them as much as I can.” You trusted God, listened to the Spirit, and followed Jesus on a new path.
- God blessed you with the gift of discernment. You listened to the Spirit while Satan whispered in your ear. I’m not giving you a pass on the times you did not heed the Spirit’s call; God already handled that. I’m saying even when you made mistakes, you returned to your true self. You hated yourself, and you spread that hate to those who loved you, including the girls. But you always believed in God’s grace. That’s good.
- You also dared to break some toxic parenting patterns, like ignoring the girls’ feelings. When you yelled at them, you apologized. You showed the girls that you are a person, not superhuman, and not better than them. You allowed them to wonder and worked hard not to say “because I said so!”
- Don’t worry about what other parents are doing; follow your own path. Remember those short shorts? Remember when a certain daughter begged and begged because “even Carolyn gets to wear them?” It was okay to hold the line on that. It’s still okay, even though you’ll soon have three adult daughters, to maintain the line. Just like following Jesus isn’t always easy, neither is tough love.
- God wants you to love yourself. For twenty-six years, you’ll accompany three of God’s beloved children through their childhoods. Lead with love. Follow with respect. Talk to them, and get to know them as people, not just your children.
- The faraway day will come when your youngest will become an adult and move on. You’ll reflect on what you wish you’d done and what you did that you regret regardless of what you do. Trust yourself and trust God. Prepare for your heart to break in the name of love. It’s okay. God can hold it all, including you.
Miriam, thanks for sharing this reflection on the fabulous path of parenting: many lovely twists, some gut-wrenching drops and moving forward in a very general direction. With our kids entering their 30’s I continue to find that our relationships are developmental: we’re growing new pathways in our lives as they seek their individual truths. Love endures and uplifts.
Miriam McKenney says
Amen, Miriam! The journey continues, for which I’m thankful.
Miriam McKenney says
Thank you for this! <3
LInnae Peterson says
LOVE this reflection. As I am in the same spot. I too am reflection on my parenting over the last 28 years. Parenting never stops.
Miriam McKenney says
Thank goodness!!! I’ll miss having them here.