I am both a daughter and a mother, and December is the month of the year when that duality is most deeply felt. My beloved mother died on Christmas day in 2010, and I held her right hand as she peacefully left the world. I miss my mother and my amazing father every single day, and particularly in December. It is an odd thing when you no longer have your parents on your holiday gift list. I know that there are many people in our community who share these sentiments.
My “Mane Idea” message to the Hamlin community this month is very simple: loving parents are the greatest gift in the world, and we need to give our children the gift of our presence. As a daughter without parents, I can tell you that there is nothing more soothing for me than the shared memories of my father reading poetry and reciting song lyrics, spreading thick layers of Jif peanut butter on chocolate chip cookies, delivering Sunday morning sermons in his long black robe, and sitting in our family room watching a game of New York Knicks basketball on television. My father was at the dinner table every night, relishing the taste of my mother’s fabulous cooking and asking his three daughters what we had learned in school that day. He worked every day as a welder and every evening as a minister, yet being a visible and reliable presence in his children’s lives was his priority. More than anything, I remember that he was there.
My mother taught me to soft-scramble an egg perfectly, wash and dry my own clothes, create a budget for my weekly allowance, play a fierce game of Scrabble, and calculate spectacular bargains and discounts at Pathmark (our huge Brooklyn supermarket). My mother was also at the dinner table every night, relishing the sound of my father’s laughter and asking her three daughters if we had remembered to be kind to each other and grateful for that day’s blessings. She worked every day as a registered nurse and took great pride in taking care of patients in the post-surgical recovery room, yet her most important role was being a devoted mother. More than anything, I remember that she was there.
Your children and my children want to see their parents as much as possible. Hamlin girls tell me all the time that they love school—but what they love most of all is the stability and love of their families. They want to cuddle in the morning, hug you before they enter the school doors, kiss you before bedtime. Yes, they still want you to read aloud—even if they have become fluent readers. They want and need us to put away our mobile devices and tablets, stop checking email and text messages when they are in the room, and get on the floor and play. When they walk into a room, they want us to look up, say their names, and smile. They need us to listen carefully and to notice when they are sad or struggling, and though they do not require us to rescue them, they do want to know that we care. Our love for our children is the foundation for their growth and learning; each day they are gathering memories and stories about who we are as parents. These memories and stories will comfort them when they are adults.
As school closes for two weeks, let us consider carefully how we will spend our family time. Be fully present, and have a blast! I am looking forward to another long car ride to San Diego with Robert and the boys; Jonathan and David will say hilarious things to us and to each other, and Robert and I will laugh out loud and think about how blessed we are to parent our rapidly growing children. We will go to LegoLand for the 15th time (not an exaggeration), stay at same hotel in La Jolla, and eat pancakes and eggs for breakfast every morning because it is our family’s holiday ritual. I am so excited about spending quality time with my husband and sons; my favorite red suitcase is already packed. (Again, not an exaggeration.)
From my family to yours, I wish you much love, abundant joy, and peace during this season of light.