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Appreciating the Gift

Dear Kristen,

I need to make a confession. For far too long, I never related to the worn out phrase, "children are a gift." A gift? I had to work pretty hard and just about all of the time for mine. A gift? The only phrase that even came close to children being a gift that I could relate to was one from the military, "the toughest job you�ll ever love." And I wasn�t even sure if I bought that. Yes, Being a parent could be rewarding, important, and sometimes fulfilling. But let�s face it, raising children is hard, messy, frustrating, often thankless work. It was only a few days ago that I was hit with the full force of the meaning, "children are a gift."

You have been on school vacation for the past two weeks, and today is your last day home. I was returning from dropping you off to visit a friend, when it occurred to me that we hadn�t done a single thing I�d planned for us to do together. Not one. I�d been too busy, too distracted, too stressed. You could wait. I�d find the time later, maybe tomorrow or the next day, heck we had two long weeks! Not anymore. All of the sudden, we had one day to be together, and you'd chosen to spend it with a school-mate. I didn�t blame you. I sure hadn�t been any fun to be around lately.

Not so long ago, you went where I went. Your whole world consisted of the places I brought you. I was your primary caretaker, your playmate, your best friend. You went to bed when I put you there, and were always right where I left you in the morning. I would reach down into your crib to pull you out, and look into those big golden eyes as you reached out to hug me. Every morning I was greeted by a tiny smiling face and loving little arms. I had no competition. You were all mine. You belonged to me and with me. You were my gift, only I didn�t exactly know it then.

Oh, I loved you with all of my heart, treasured you even, but still I took you for granted. You were mine - along with the dirty diapers, dirty laundry, dirty kitchen, and broken toys. You needed me, demanded from me, delighted me and tormented me. What I didn�t recognize amidst all the soil and clutter, was that sooner than I could possibly imagine, you'd be leaving me.

When I think of the meaning of a gift, I generally consider it as something given without expectations; I don�t have to pay for it, and it�s mine for good. The air I breathe, wildflowers in a field, sunshine, life itself - all gifts. I didn�t have to earn these, nor do I need to maintain them. But the truth of the matter is that we are given many precious gifts in our lifetime that require our care, our efforts and our commitment, in order to preserve them. And some gifts, (perhaps the most precious of all) are only loaned to us. We won�t enjoy perfect health always, no matter how well we take care of ourselves. We won�t have our children with us forever either, no matter how much we love them. They come into our lives, even take over our lives, only to some day leave their space vacant.

You'll be eleven soon. You aren't as messy as you used to be. I no longer have to change your diapers and you feed yourself. Now, I have to keep after you to clean up your messes, do your homework, turn off the t.v., get off the phone, hurry up, and shut out the lights. You no longer pull the dog's tail, write on the walls, or throw temper tantrums in the grocery store. Now, you do new and different things that make me crazy.

You're too big to rock before you go to sleep, but you still want me to tuck you in. Every night you hold me close and tell me that you love me. Someday, there will be times when I won�t even know where you're sleeping. For now, I still need to wake you up each morning to get ready for school while I make your breakfast. You kiss my cheek faithfully each day before heading out the door. Not so long from now, I�ll be starting each morning without you.

Precious child of mine, there's too little time to be taken for granted. I must savor and appreciate you. You're still my responsibility, still require and demand much from me, but not forever. And while you'll always be my child, you'll never be mine again quite the way you were when you were a baby. And in such a short time, you'll be even less mine than you are now.

I need to appreciate you for your sake. I�ve known since the beginning that I must show you that you're precious, important, and a gift. But I recognize now, that I need to appreciate you for my sake too. My time with you is short, and I owe it to me as much as I do you to treasure my priceless gift.

Love Mom,

p.s. have you cleaned your room?

�Tammie Byram Fowles, LISW, Ph.D. of SagePlace