Losing Kenley affected me in more ways than can be counted. It changed who I am as a mother. While pregnant with Kenley, I imagined the life she'd live and my role in it. Being a teacher and seeing so many different parenting styles and their results, I had created an image of the type of mom I wanted to be. Having a strict bedtime, eating the dinner that is provided, doing homework, making and keeping commitments. I wanted Kenley to be respectful and responsible. I realize now that I was thinking more of a teacher and less of a mom. All those things are important, yes. Schedules and consistency are indeed key to creating stability in a child's life, but there is so much more to a child's life than where they work on homework and whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher. Losing Kenley made me realize just what childhood is because it caused me to think about all the things she's going to miss. She'll never go to the park on a sunny spring day and race down the slide 17 times in a row, screaming with laughter. She'll never splash in mud puddles, squishing slimy brown muck between her tiny toes. She'll never curl up on the couch with her family, a Disney movie, and a huge tub of popcorn. She'll never eat a piece of pizza. There are so many parts of being a kid that she won't get to do....so many parts that have nothing to do with raising a responsible child. There is more to life than setting boundaries and making chore charts. Before Kenley died, I envisioned only the parts of motherhood that involved how I wanted to guide her into being a productive person. Who knows, had she come out of me screaming and breathing, all that rigidity may have melted away when I gazed into her eyes. But, losing her definitely resest my Mother Button. When Piper came along, I had a much greater vision, one that included moments unscheduled and unfettered.
I am on the threshold of Piper's childhood. I can peer into it much like looking out from your doorway into the wide, wide world. Right now, her memories are starting to figure out how to form. Right now, she is on the verge of being able to know and understand what is really going on around her. And, while I do want her to have stability and consistency, while I want her to grow into a responsible person who understands boundaries and expectations, I also want her to feel like her childhood was....Epic.
"Make it Epic" A good friend of mine recently gave me this advice when I remarked to her about the wonderful experiences her high school senior girls have had throughout their childhood. I have known these girls since they were five, and the last 13 years have shown them grow into fabulous young women. I asked my friend how she did it. How did she create a childhood that not only prepared them for their adult lives, but also made them look back into their childhood with wistfulness and joy? She made it Epic.
Now, before you get lost in the current mindset of lavish birthday parties with bounce houses and petting zoos, elves on the shelves creating chaos for an entire month, and family adventures to Disney World complete with costumes and character dining, let me explain what I mean by Epic. The definition of epic is "particularly impressive or remarkable", which for sure is what all of those things are, but those things aren't what make a childhood Epic. I mean...they help....but they don't have the market cornered.
My parents first took me to Disney World when I was 9. We were there for over a week. I am sure we witnessed dozens of shows and magical moments. You know what I remember? I remember eating tacos for dinner with our friends before a miscommunication between our parents resulted in them going to wait by the car and us spending the next five hours looking for them throughout Magic Kingdom. I remember my mom accidentally saying "UV" instead of "RV" when talking about taking a camper across the country and our family laughing hysterically. That's it. Two things. A week and a half in Orlando and I remember two things...neither of which really have anything to do with a magical experience. In my childhood, I remember having a Wizard of Oz birthday party when I was 5 or 6 and playing "Pin the Heart on the Tin Man". No bounce house. No $20 goodie bags for my friends. A woman dressed as Dorothy did not come to my house to "complete my experience". I pinned a red paper heart onto a sketched out tin man, and I thought it was awesome. I remember creating an "apartment" with my best friend in her sunroom, playing with an unplugged phone and pretending to order Chinese food for the dinner party we were about to throw for her cat. I remember my first real bike was purple with a white banana seat, but I learned to ride on a smaller pink Barbie bike with plastic wheels, and the best thing about my new purple bike was the smell of its black, rubber tires. I remember coming home from school a few times a year to a random present laid neatly on my bed. Maybe a new outfit. Maybe a book. Maybe a new box of crayons and a fresh pad of white paper. Just because my mom was thinking of me. Epic doesn't have to mean excessive. It means memorable and impressive - and kids remember, and are impressed by, the darndest things
You know that saying "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans."? That phrase could not contain any more truth. Life is not a grand scheme coming together. Life is a series of little moments that we choose to either participate in or watch happen to us. Childhood is not something that has to be be orchestrated into greatness....because greatness can happen regardless. Is it fun to have an elaborate party or fancy bento box lunch every day? Sure. Is it necessary to have a wonderful childhood? Nope. Childhood can still be wonderful...and yes, Epic....without excessive elaboration.
So, how do I Make it Epic? How do I give my daughter a fabulous childhood without breaking the bank or breaking my back? A childhood she remembers with fondness? Easy. I love her. I think about how any random moment could be the one she chooses to remember. I spend those five extra minutes at the park even though I know I need to go get dinner started. I buy the fanicer hair ties even if they are slightly more expensive because they are sturdier and she feels proud of herself when she can twist them in on her own. I make couch forts with her using the good sheets and bring her a pop tart on a real glass plate. I use our paintbrushes to wipe away the dirt from the tree roots in our back yard with her because she's pretending to be an archaeologist. I bake her cupcakes on her half birthday and put notes in her lunchbox. I don't have to create a monumenous occasion in order to be Epic. I just have to recognize that every moment has the potential for Epicness. It just depends on my willingness to take it there.
Make it Epic. Piper's first birthday is approaching, and her party will be at the park where we planted Kenley's tree. Piper won't remember a darn thing about her first birthday...it's just for me...but it will still be Epic. We won't have anything fancy. Probably just a few sub rings, some cupcakes, and a couple of veggie trays. Piper will get passed around from family member to friend, and might even get a chance to roll in the grass. She'll point excitedly to the balloons we have set up on the picnic tables, and we'll take pictures of her