Crafting a Childhood They'll Cherish

To Craft a Childhood: A Parent’s Unrelenting Duty

It's my duty to lead them down the right path. But, which one is that?


I remember clearly the very second my eyes met those of my newborn daughter. The delivery room was dark and my hospital bed was elevated under spotlights. It had been a long and difficult journey to get to this moment. I'd entered the facility about 18 hours beforehand, certain that labor was imminent. After hours of walking around the corridor, contractions that contorted my entire body, and endless tears that poured from my body like a faucet I couldn't turn off, I finally consented to medication that sped the process along. As soon as she entered my arms, I knew something major had shifted inside me.

People talk all the time about knowing for sure when they're ready to have kids. My sister and I had this exact discussion over our monthly siblings dinner last Tuesday. She admitted she didn't feel that "pull." Kids weren't her dream right now, and she was worried they might not ever be. After reassuring her that it's perfectly fine either way, I explained that I never really felt an overwhelming impetus to be a parent. My husband and I simply understood it to be the next step in our decade-long relationship, of which we'd been married for five.

But, that second when she was finally on this side of me, I felt it. I felt a responsibility and a call like none other. I was to be the earthly shepherd to this child, and two years later, to her newborn brother. Now mind you, I'm someone who can't make a decision at a restaurant. I worry I'm going to pick the wrong plate and mess up the entire order. I stress over conversations with loved ones, picking a date night spot with my husband and myriad other miniscule, insignificant choices. The issue isn't that I'm indecisive. Rather, it's the fact that I don't love responsibility. I get nervous when something is entrusted to me. I'm loyal and loving and hard-working to a fault but inevitably, I doubt my own abilities, especially when something else hinges on them.

So now, with two children younger than five under my wing, I've understandably had my fair share of concerns. Who am I, that these perfect, innocent babies are mine to guide along this crazy, uncertain world? How can I be sure I'm making the right decisions and leading them down the right paths? I see two realities in every scenario. There's the reality that exists if I go this way, and then the one that exists if I go that route.

Take our upcoming move, for instance. When we change homes, we change school districts. We change the friends they're going to be in class with. We change our commute times and how long it takes to walk to my parents' house. We change who they go to prom with, who they pal around with, and which teachers instruct them.

There's the reality that exists if we stay where they are. They'll go to the newer school in town, the one that everyone says is more like a private school. Later, they'll attend the same middle and high school that I did. We will remain in our tiny brick cottage by the side of the road. I'll worry every time they go outside about their distance to the street. But, we'll keep our glorious backyard, the one with the blueberries and the muscadines. The one with the swing her papa built, swaying from the pecan tree out back. We'll keep our beloved "neighbor girls" who are only a few years older than my kids. The ones who come over with shovels and ask my daughter if she wants to go digging in the woods.

Then, there's the reality that exists if we go. We'll live with my in-laws for a year and my daughter will start kindergarten at the school where my sister teaches. We'll spend a year fixing up our forever home, and our starter home will be completely erased from their memories. We'll tear the current home down to its studs. We'll install a new HVAC system, new roof, new sheetrock and a new expansion on the right side. Instead of growing up near fruit trees and the road, their childhood will be spent playing in the enormous expanse of woods that fill the back of our property. They'll spend summers running in the fields around our home, flanked by forests and rows of corn. They'll read under the flowering Japanese cherry blossoms and spend hours talking to me at the big kitchen island we're planning to build.

You see the challenge? Both realities sound lovely. Both sound full of charm and possibility. Yet, what unforeseen complications lie dormant just underneath? How can I be certain that the choice I make doesn't negatively affect anyone? The truth is that I can't. To craft a childhood for them simply means doing my best with the knowledge I have. It means making a conscious decision upon waking every morning that I will put joy in their hearts and fill their days with laughter. Someone once told me to create the memories I want them to have. I'm in the privileged position of being able to do that, and that's precisely how I intend to move forward, one faithful step at a time.

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Deadlines Are Not Important

The Deadlines Of Life Do Not Mean As Much As You Think


Deadlines are not important; the deadlines for work, school, and things related to that, those are important. Life's deadlines are not important. Society tells us that we must be married, have the perfect job, and have children by a certain age. A lot of the times we end up believing that if we do not do certain things by a certain time, we have failed or we are not doing as good as everyone else. The truth is, society's and life's deadlines are crap. There is no specific time to be married by, no specific time to have your perfect job by, and no specific time to have children by. These things should not be accomplished until you are ready and capable to accomplish them; this means that if you are not 50 until you have your perfect job, you are not 30 until you are married and you are not 40 until you have children, that is okay. There is nothing wrong with waiting, experiencing life, growing in who you are, and doing what you need to do first. A lot of people do not have their perfect job until later in life because if we are all honest here, that is one of the hardest things to figure out and hardest decisions to make. People stress so much because they have not met these certain deadlines of life that they have been told their entire lives they need to meet by a certain time. So often, the important things like a job, a marriage, and children are rushed and people end up miserable. There is no sense in rushing if you are not ready for it yet. When it comes to finding the perfect job for you, look around, find your interests, and figure out what you can spend years of your life doing; take your time and be patient. When it comes to marriage and having children, do not rush it, it is one of the worst things to rush; do it in the time frame you want to and make sure it is what you want. Take a deep breathe and stop freaking out; you have plenty of time. Instead of going by society's and life's deadlines, go by your own and base that off of your capabilities and your wants.


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Different But The Same: Navigating My Life as One of Three Siblings

I couldn't be more different than my two siblings, but on some levels we're more alike than I thought.


I am the oldest of three lively, loving and faithful siblings. My sister is seven years younger than me and my brother is nine. Two of us shared a room growing up, and the other lived just down the hall. In a lineup, we're unmistakably related. We share the same nose from our grandfather, the thin hair of our great-grandmother and the thick Italian eyebrows of our mother.

Deep down, we're all cut from the same cloth. Our moral compass, foundation and background are the same. We'd answer alike if you were to ask us our favorite childhood memory, how an elder should be treated, what to say and do at the dinner table and what is essentially right and wrong. All three of us are driven academically, hunger professionally and seek to mine the most good out of every day. Yet, on paper, we couldn't be more different.

Take my sister, for instance. She's the librarian at our local elementary school. We can't go to the local diner, the swimming pool or even walking down the road without scores of children recognizing her, running up to her and giving her a bear hug. There are entire circles of people who only know me for who I am in relation to her. I'll admit, when she first got that position, I went the entire summer long feeling as though I were walking in her shadow, though I eclipse her by half a decade of experience. There's a reason she's so well-known and loved, though. My sister is unfailingly kind, generous with her time and attention and genuinely invested in the young people she serves. She devours books, classic television shows and the family homeplace she shares with her high school sweetheart turned husband.

Then, there's my brother. He was in middle school when I got married, so our time together as adolescents was shorter, but we're more alike than it may seem. It's from him that I got my love of folk music, thrifting and antiques. He's an avid environmentalist and programs coordinator for our local arts council. In a world obsessed with smartphones and tiny screens, he takes walks with his fiance with a dictionary in hand, discovering new words and worlds as they travel. They hike every weekend, hole up and work on crosswords at their tiny cottage in the woods and spend all the time they can in their favorite mountains. In fact, they will likely relocate there or to the west coast when they tie the knot this September. He's outdoorsy, worldly and hyper-aware of how every decision he makes affects the world.

That bring us to me. Though I'm older than both of them in age, I feel as though I fall right in the middle of my brother and sister in terms of our interests and ideals. Like my brother, I love being outside and spend as much time in nature as possible. Yet, as the mother of two, I depend on disposable diapers and eat off paper plates to save time and money. Like my sister, I love nothing more than curling up with a great book, but as a technical writer and proposal manager, my life has me behind a screen more often than not. I read on my laptop into the wee hours of the morning, though like her, I spend many hours reading board books to children myself, though it's in the comfort of my home and not the local library.

At our core, we're wildly unique but I love the common thread woven between all of us. I love that our parents treated us all the same and made sure that what they did for one, they did for another. We all grew up feeling cherished, protected and loved beyond measure and for that, I'm eternally grateful. As we grow older together, we're learning from each other, exploring each other's interests and cultivating our own personalities in the process. It's a beautiful thing, doing life with these two. Thankfully, we all live within three miles of each other, so we get to unfold daily mysteries together on a regular basis. I couldn't imagine a better way or place to live.

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