When I was little, whenever my mother and I would exchange "I love you's," I would say, "I love you," and she would respond, "I love you more." I always wondered what she mean, and how she could possibly presume to know how I felt in order to know what she felt was bigger somehow. The realization slowly creeped on me as I became a stepmom, and hit me like a ton of bricks once I gave birth to my son. Some things you only learn about your parents after parenthood, and the full depth of their love for you is one of them.
As a kid, you think you understand what your parents are doing, and that you know what's going on. If you're a smart kid, you might even assume you know better than they do what should be happening sometimes. But while grown-ups don't always have it all together, and could often stand to be a lot more humble and upfront about their own limitations, it's impossible for us to truly understand all the things our parents were up against, until we're actually in their shoes.
Being a parent is the toughest thing most of us will ever have to do. Parenting means being constantly vulnerable, constantly trying to make impossible choices in order to balance all the ridiculous competing demands in our lives, and constantly reassuring the young ones in our care that we've got this and they have nothing to worry about. If I'd known that when I was younger, I probably would've given my parents more of a break. However, I couldn't have known that, or any of the following, until I had my own kids 'cause, well, that's just the way it goes. On the plus side, at least they now get the opportunity to watch me figure it out with my own kids (and spoil their grandbabies in the process).
They Were Scared A Lot
When we're little it can seem like grown-ups are fearless and invulnerable. Now that I've stared panicked and terrified at my own child, I now realize they must have been just as scared of all the things that could have happened to me or our family, as I am.
They Were Bluffing
As a kid, hearing, “...or else!” sounds like a threat (or promise) of all the worst things you can imagine, so you shape up. As a grownup with a child of my own whom I’d never want to see in any pain or distress, I know that on the few occasions I heard that line, my non-physically abusive parents were not prepared to actually follow it up. Nor were they ever going to cancel Christmas, or any of a number of other things.
They Were Winging It
All adults are making things up as we go along, to a certain extent. I thought my parents had it all together and all planned out in advance. Now that I've improvised all sorts of things to avoid disappointing or otherwise messing up my kids, I realize that they totally didn’t have everything figured out. Not even close, actually.
They Weren’t Trying To Be Mean…
Could my parents have done a much better job dealing with their anger and frustration? Hell yeah. However, I realize now that they were never trying to be mean to me.
...Your Behavior Just Really Freaked Them Out
I now know that their anger and frustration was a result of their fear and anxiety over the possibility that I could do something to hurt myself (or worse).
They Put On A Brave Face For You
As parents, we know our reactions color how our kids respond to the situations they're in, so we try to project calm to keep them from freaking out. Even when internally, we are freaking. out.
You Frustrated Them At Least As Much As They Frustrated You
I used to think being a grown up, or being a parent, must be so great because you're in charge and can tell your kids what to do, no matter how frustrating that is for them. Now I realize that it often feels more like kids are running the show (or at least, that the show revolves around them). As frustrating as it is to be a kid, it's also frustrating to have to be in charge of someone who doesn't get the bigger picture of what's going on in the world, and is constantly trying to do things that would harm or kill themselves.
They Were Relieved When You Started Growing Up…
The more mature a child gets, the less labor intensive it is to parent them. Sure, there will always be worrying to do; the world they're increasingly an active part of is a pretty scary place at times. But there's less constant scanning for dangers at their height, fewer strollers and accessories and other stuff to lug around (unless they're in marching band, sorry mom and dad!), and less time spent lugging them around.
...But Really Sad About It Too
I already get teary-eyed scrolling through baby pictures of my toddler, and those pictures are barely a year old. I now have way more perspective on their tears at our graduations, weddings, and the like.
When They Call You Their Baby, They Mean It
Where the world sees a big-ass toddler, I still see my baby. It's dawning on me now that I will always see him as my baby, and that every time my mom yelled, “That's my baby!” whether at my second grade spelling bee or my college graduation, she meant that quite literally.
They Were Doing The Best They Could
At any given time, our best will vary based on our resources, our energy, and so many other factors. But at all times, when you love someone more than anything else, you always do your best for them. Even when their best sucked, my parents were doing their best for me. I know that because I know that even when my best sucks, I'm doing my best for my kids.
They Really Do Love You More
I used to wonder how my mom could possibly say that to me. But now that I have felt the love I have for my kids, I know she was telling the 100% truth.