My attempts at “parenting” have taken many forms. My first hint of what parenting looked like was at a distance with my two nieces. I lived out of state. I always made sure birthday gifts were received on time and was always available by phone but unlike the real thing, their parents did the heavy lifting. As the girls grew older, I had the wonderful experience of being a confidante and a mentor. I enjoyed this relationship with all my heart and still do. I do understand that this was not “real” parenting.My next opportunity for “sort of” parenting came with my beautiful step daughter. Kiley was two and a half when her Dad and I were married. She spent every other weekend with us. This was a delicate learning experience for me. Kiley was amazing and I loved her from the start. However, as a step parent, there were boundaries. I wasn’t her Dad or her Mom. I was Judy. Kiley knew that her Dad and I had a very special relationship. I was cautious to not over step my boundaries while still letting her know that I cared deeply.
It was Kiley at around age three that decided I should have a baby. As she explained it to me, Dad had her and she wanted me to have someone to care for and to be a true parent to. Her instructions worked. Against many odds, her half brother Matthew was born a few months after Kiley’s fourth birthday.
The baby “stuff” was a miracle and a true joy. As our son grew, I realized that this parenting thing is not for the weak of heart. Some of my happy moments were quick and easy. First haircut, first care giver (a lovely Irish woman who had raised her own 9 sons and assured me that Matt was not a “crepe suzette” and wouldn’t break doing kid stuff.) Matt’s decision making was continually amazing to me . He knew how he felt and what he wanted. I admired that strength and continue to admire it to this day.
Harder moments included helping him deal with “mean kids”, standing by him when his heart was broken and convincing him that when I told him he could trust me, he could trust me no matter what. I always said that if he told me the truth, no matter how difficult, we would work it out together.
Matt was about six years old when my happiest parenting moment came.
I was dead tired after a long several days at work. We owned a retail store in those days and the hours were long. As the garage door opened, I saw him standing at the top of the stairs waiting for me. Immediately, my mood changed. As I got out of the car, he ran to me to welcome me home. I hugged him and told him how much I loved him and how much I had missed being with him. He said “Mom, that is what I love about you most of all. No matter how tired you are or how late it is you are always so glad to be home and to be with me. You always have a smile for me. You make me feel special. I wanted you to know that.”
I swear on a stack of Bibles, those were his words. Later, I found out that this wonderful experience was aided by a school assignment where each child was asked to identify a special trait about their parents and to share it with them. I loved that assignment and thank the teacher for understanding how important it was. The memory of those words over thirty years ago has stayed with me to this day.