What I’ve learned from my children

My daughter turned 60 early this month, which has had me thinking for all of February about what I’ve learned from my children.
First: I thought back to my wedding day, when an old (in both senses!) family friend told me during the reception that I was a beautiful bride, but I would be even more beautiful at 40. What? I was barely 20! I couldn’t even imagine ever being so old! And yet, here I am, more than twice that projected age, with my own children far past 40 themselves…
Devra is my second child, born on Feb. 2 — Groundhog Day! Her “due date” was Valentine’s Day, but you know how unreliable babies’ arrivals are: During the delivery, my doctor apologized, but reminded me that her birthday was still a holiday of a kind. Because of her, I learned about Phil seeing his shadow to forecast the future’s spring weather, and also how to spell the name of his hometown: Punxsutawney.
My son had arrived on an “ordinary” January date, almost exactly four years earlier. When he was stroller-sitting age, we’d go for long walks to the supermarket, and my learning moment was when we came back home with the groceries. We lived on the first floor of a three-apartment building, one called in Chicago a “high first,” with a few stairs up to our front door. I couldn’t manage stroller and groceries together, so I’d let Sol sit outside while I ran quickly up those stairs to open the front door and put the bags inside. But when I came outside, I’d see the anxious look on his little face, and how it turned into a big smile when I returned to his line of vision; then I realized how very important a mother is to her very young child.
I was reminded of this again by my daughter when she entered kindergarten. Soon after the first school day, there was a kind of “open house” for parents (which of course in that day and age meant “mothers”): The little ones lined up at the front of the auditorium stage to sing a song of welcome. The entrance door was at the back, facing the stage, and when I opened it, I could see that a good number of women were already seated inside. And I could also see my “baby,” with the same anxious look on her face that I had first seen when her brother was in his stroller. She was scanning the “audience,” and when she spotted me, her little face also turned into a big smile.
I’ve learned much from my children in the many years that have passed since those baby days. I learned from my son, who would climb trees and slide down them, ripping his new blue jeans in the process, never to charge ANYTHING that might be gone before the bill came in. I learned from my daughter that a small child with a retinal birth defect had to be watched carefully when she went into the bathroom, even after she had learned what to do there by herself, because she just might decide to throw her glasses into the toilet. I learned about sibling rivalry when my son, four years older than his sister, called me from the kitchen into the living room one day, shouting, “Come look at the baby! She’s crawling!! AND SHE’S AFTER MY TOYS!!!”
Mostly I‘ve learned about all kinds of love. My son is the father of three girls, including twins. My daughter is the mother of two boys whose healthy births were miracles after three miscarriages and a tubal pregnancy. But both my children love their children the same way, despite those initial differences. He doesn’t treasure his daughters any less because their births were easy; she doesn’t love her sons extra because theirs were so difficult.
My children have taught me what’s most important in life: a parent’s love.

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