Often, I would have one of those excruciatingly painful conversations with one of my offspring when they highlight my failures as a parent. I never cared. I never listened. I never did anything for them. Well, I respond with, “at least there was milk in the fridge.”
Yeah, we had some tough times. Yeah, the kids went without a lot of things. Yeah, we had our share of drama. But I did what I could. I am certainly not perfect, evidently short-sighted and obviously not too good with money or birth control.
It’s funny what my kids remember. Some remember raising all the kids. Some remember never getting attention, some remember getting too much attention, some remember things I would like to forget. Some, though, remember a happy childhood, things weren’t so bad. Any painful memory my kids tell me makes me feel like crap, of course. We try so hard to shield our kids from the reality of pain and hurt in this world, but it’s futile. And it’s worse when that stuff comes from someone who’s supposed to be one of your biggest cheerleaders. And I feel bad when my kids say I wasn’t there for them. I tried, I don’t know where else I was, besides maybe in a nearby corner with a book. At least there was milk in the fridge.
It wasn’t all bad. There were times when we had more than enough. More than enough room, clothes and food. We don’t remember those days so much. It is easier to remember what hurt because it still hurts. Yes, there were bad days, and the worst, only a few, when there was no milk. If I didn’t have milk, there were no bottles, no pancakes, no cereal, no homemade bread. Just beans and tortillas. We always had beans. And Ricky did make delectable butter tortillas. LOL. But I know for a fact there were only about five days when there was no milk, what I mean was there was no money for milk. No milk money. During this hard, hard time, God providentially supplied our milk needs. The pastor’s wife worked for OUSD, and would often bring crates of surplus little milk containers, she kindly gave them to me. That held us over for a while.
Five days in 30 years, not too bad. I also tried to provide a different kind of milk. I tried to be kind. I tried to teach kindness. The milk of human kindness has all sorts of nutrients. I hope they got some of that nourishment.
I’m loving those “humankindness” commercials, the one with the pony and the other with the little fella trying to blow out his first year’s candle. That’s what I wanted to provide in addition to all the things the kids needed physically. Kindness is a quality that only compounds with its usage. Once it is firmly rooted in one’s heart, it only needs exercise to grow.
Kindness is balm for the soul. “A soft answer turns away wrath.” It is powerful. William Wordsworth said, “The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” I guess we don’t remember those times. I need to do better.
I am going to try to underscore those things, the kindnesses given to me. I will always remember the sweet texts my sons have sent me off the cuff. I’ll remember when my girls cleaned up without asking. I’ll remember when my friend gave me and my kids boxes of things we needed. I’ll remember when family paid for my kids’ schooling, housed us, helped in emergencies, all without complaint. When I remember these kindnesses, my heart is soothed. I guess it takes awhile to not only practice kindness, but also to remember those gifts we’ve received.
“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
~William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice (Willie Wonka)