Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mothering: If I Had It to Do Again, I'd Add More Adventure!

My three children have been adults for a long time now, and two of them are married and have children of their own—all under the age of nine. Those five grandchildren give me another chance to experience the smiles and hugs and antics of little ones, and I hope I’ll experience their milestones in life, like driver’s licenses, graduations, professions of faith, and weddings.
**In honor of an adventure we did have!
But though it is my privilege and joy to love my grandchildren and support them (and their parents) as they grow, I don’t have the same responsibilities toward them I did as a parent. Which does not stop me from thinking, once in a while, about when I was in full-on, active mothering—the kind that both keeps you awake at nights and provides handmade gifts on Mother’s Day—and wondering what I would do differently. All three of my children—a daughter and two sons—are wonderful people, but could their childhoods have been . . . better?

Yes, I am that person/mother/worrier.

I am not talking about more hugs, more being present, and more listening and sharing, though I wish I could be sure as a mother I provided enough of those. (I’m not sure, but I am also afraid to ask!) No, what I wish I had done differently is this: crafted more adventure.

I didn’t grow up in an adventurous family. In fact, I would say my parents were for the most part risk-averse in many ways. Not completely, of course. My mother, a social worker, once ran the largest Indiana county’s food stamp program when the economy had tanked and so many people were lined around the city block for assistance that she was interviewed several times on TV.  That had risk written all over it. Dad was a pastor and led groups to the Holy Lands more than once, to say nothing of some adventures he had before he became a Christian (think working on a riverboat). In some ways, especially in their early lives with family issues and poverty, survival itself was the adventure.

But both instilled in me a life of caution, and I probably did too much of that with my own children. Not counting the time I let my college-age daughter go on a mission trip to Haiti for two weeks with a group of people she had never met—after the airlines took her off a small plane with a propeller problem and then just put her back on the same plane before she ever left our home city. Not counting when my older son took off alone post-college in his car for a life in California and my younger son at eighteen drove off one morning in an old car with a friend just before college, to simply drive out West and back with no actual itinerary and little money. (All three events were before common cell phone ownershipat least in our family.)

Those times—and probably more “adventures” I have conveniently forgotten—scared me to death, but somehow I let go and let God. My pulse is racing a little now just thinking about those times, and I have to say they did not affect my cautious nature for the better.

No, I am thinking about more adventures we could have had as a family, if only we had prioritized them despite our commitments and busyness and never being even close to independently wealthy: Trips to the beach once we lived less than an hour away from Lake Michigan. Visits to parks and museums. Picnics and hikes and maybe even snow shoeing as long as we lived in the frozen tundra called Wintertime in Michigan. Mission trips as a family.

But we didn't do much of that. We were busy. We had chores and schoolwork and jobs and bills to pay. We were responsible. We, the parents, were the grown-ups, one firstborn and the other one wired that way, who had to make sure IT ALL GOT DONE.

And we were . . . cautious. Yes, we took vacations (and my kids will know the significance of the pictured lizard) and Dad took them fishing and we camped (once) and their childhood was not abysmal and completely bereft of fun. But adventurous? Not so much. And that is what I would change if I could. Not just for the kids, but for us, the parents.

I am thrilled that my grandchildren are having many more adventures than their parents had, because, for one thing, motheringparentingwith more adventure sounds like so much more fun, and more meaningful too.

If you are in the throes of active parenthood, think now about whether you can or should sneak more adventure into your kids' livesand yours! Not when you are, uh, wondering if you have enough energy for adventures with your grandchildren!

Meanwhile, happy Mother’s Day!


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