Monday, May 13, 2013

A few Mother's Day thoughts, and a few tears courtesy of Rowan

I have been significantly influenced by two mothers during my life: my mom and Rowan's mom (Aimee). My own mom, who will tell you that going to kindergarten saved my life, was an incredible mentor to me growing up. She was also an example of monumental patience. She knew what kind of adults she wanted her children to grow up to be, and she stayed the course of getting us there through our childhoods (despite some SERIOUS setbacks along the way). And like all good mothers, she is still very much a mom to this day, a point so beautifully illustrated to me after Aimee died. I 'wanted my mommy', but I didn't necessarily want to say so. Turns out I didn't have to, as my mom showed up the morning after we arrived home from Florida, and stayed with me for the next five days.

I could not begin to list all of the things I learned from my mom in one place, but if you know me and think I'm even remotely likable, you can thank my mom for that.

Aimee's influence on me was over a much shorter period of time, but still extremely significant. She had rock-solid ideas about how she wanted to parent (and she expected me to agree with her, whether I did or not!), and she held true to her convictions. She also displayed amazing patience - not as much with Rowan, who was and is a great kid, but with me, who was a slow learner as a father. Just a few of the things Aimee taught me about parenting:
  • How to interpret different behaviors from children.
  • How to effectively redirect undesirable behavior.
  • How to effectively use rewards to modify behavior, without turning it into a system of constant and escalating bribery.
  • Build a solid relationship with her now, so that she'll be far more likely to listen to what I have to say when she's older and trying to find her own way.
  • And perhaps most important in the aftermath of her death, she had shared with me some pointers she learned when she'd gone through a class on helping young children deal with trauma and loss. A couple of times, these tips helped me tremendously with helping Rowan process her feelings, and I still use some of them today.
For many reasons, I owe Aimee a serious debt of gratitude.

The Rowan Effect
Rowan got to me twice today (Mother's Day), once at the beginning, and once at the end.

Normal weekend practice is for me to try and squeeze as much time in bed as possible, so I'm always still in bed when Rowan gets up. As always, she climbed into bed with me this morning to cuddle, then needled at me until I agreed to get up and make breakfast. But just as I started to move, she dropped me with a question out of the blue:

"Daddy, when you're in bed at night, do you get lonely with Mommy gone?"

Immediately I recalled in my mind how I got into this horrible sleep pattern that I have now: staying up til 3-4 am until I simply could not keep my eyes open anymore, because I could not stand going to bed and thinking about Aimee. I missed her terribly all the time, but it was most acute in the still quiet of bedtime. I missed our gentle teasing of each other, the long talks, and the incredible intimacy we shared. It was, in a word, agony.

"I used to miss her a great deal, but it's better now, " I said. "It's like a lot of things in life, sweetheart. It might be hard at first, but after a while-"

"You get used to it," she finished for me, sounding much older than her now five years of age.

"Yes, sweetie, you get used to it."

With that, she turned and went downstairs.

Fast forward to her bedtime. As I was tucking her in, I asked her "Rowan, with all the Mother's Day stuff, have you been thinking about Mommy today?"

"Yeah," she answered. "I've been missing her all day."

"Yeah, me too."

"Hey," she said, handing me one of her laminated photos of Aimee, "Will you make Mommy talk?"



Me, as Aimee: "Hi Rowan!"

"Guess how old I am!"

"Are you still 4?"

"Nope, I'm FIVE!"

"Wow, you're getting bigger all the time."

"And Mommy?" Voice much softer now.

"Yes, sweetie?"

"I miss you. I wish you could come back and visit sometimes."

"Oh, sweetie, I wish I could do that for you."

Rowan, voice now cracking, "It's just that I miss you so much, and I wish you were still here."

Luckily, she chose this moment to hug the photo, because I couldn't speak. I was choked up, and tears were in my eyes. And once again, I battled against hating the people whose collective negligence led us down this road of pain, especially for the sake of my precious and innocent little girl.

Please, value the mothers in your life, be they your own, the mother of your children, or what have you. Don't just appreciate them or thank them, but really pay attention to the strength and wisdom they share, because you never know when you may need to call upon it in your own life for yourself or those around you.


  1. Pat that was heart felt and moving. I thought about my mom alot yesterday, I told her how much I love and miss her. I valued every minute second and day with my mom. And now 16 years later that I am on my own and dating someone wonderful, I tell him every day that I love him before he goes to work, just to let him know how I feel. You just never know when that will be the last time we see each other. Saying I love you never hurts, whether it is a sibling, spouce, or a parent, cherish every minute you have together. Life is to short to take any time together for granted. The person closest to you could very well teach you something valuable and stick with you for the rest of your life.

  2. Pat, this made me cry. So moving. Your daughter Rowan is very special and you are an amazing father.

    When I have kids, I am going to call you up so you can teach me How to interpret different behaviors from children, How to effectively redirect undesirable behavior, How to effectively use rewards to modify behavior, without turning it into a system of constant and escalating bribery, Build a solid relationship with her now, so that she'll be far more likely to listen to what I have to say when she's older and trying to find her own way.


    1. Ha! Depending on how far into the future that is, you can first judge how well all of that worked for me! Who knows - maybe I completely botch it, and we'll see the sad results by then.

      On a more serious note, Rowan is a pretty amazing kid. I am repeatedly surprised by what she picks up, and the level of thinking she does with the information she has. It's actually a little scary. :) But I also know that a lot of parents experience this, so I'm not going to go on and on about how awesome my kid is (even though I'd like to).