As so often happens, a semi-long ride in the car prompted lots of talk amongst my little people and I. I’m learning these windows of opportunity to really talk to them and more importantly, to listen, are fleeting and few. I try to be present for the moments and conversations as they happen. (Keyword is TRY. Sometimes I miss it.)
As you all know, our feed store adventure came to an end and now I’m home with the kids – which has been fantastic so far. We’ve been doing just as I hoped – getting our school grove back, making a little progress on the house, and working on lots of outside farm projects. The end of the feed store sparked a lot of conversations. The one I’m going to tell you about was probably the hardest one for me.
I’ve learned that my kids have to see me vulnerable, not getting it all right, not having all of the answers. Or more importantly, they see those things and they need to hear that I see it too, that I accept it, and that I’m not pretending to be more than I am. If I can be real, and real with them, maybe I can impart the courage to be real to them. Maybe.
As he usual, Isaiah asks the hardest questions. He started out with, “Mom…Mom… Do you think the new owners will do better with the feed store than us?”
You mean than me, right son? The words I thought but didn’t dare say, they took a lot of ownership in the feed store. But at the end of the day, it was up to me to run it “right”.
“Yes, I do.” I replied. Eyes on the road ahead, don’t look in the rear view mirror. Don’t encourage wherever this is leading.
“What do you think they’ll do better?”
It boils down to consistency, and I wish that had been my answer, but I said, “Everything,” with a shrug, “probably everything, kiddo. They’ll keep the store stocked and they won’t let someone work there that doesn’t show up on time. The store will be open, clean, stocked. And rightfully so, they should do better than I did.” And quieter. A lot quieter. No baby crying in the high chair, kids running with show sticks and screaming, and 12-year-old sales pitches.
The car fell silent, and I’ll be honest, my thoughts were starting to get to me. The failures. The things I could have done better. The things I should have done better. Could have. Should have. Would have. Somewhere in that mess of thoughts, I heard the sweet voice of my boy again, “Mom?”
“Hmm?” I finally glanced in the mirror, meeting big, inquisitive eyes.
“Is it hard for you?”
“What?” I asked.
“Is it hard for you, knowing they will do better than us?”
Why doesn’t the team that helps you give birth to a child also hand you a book or pamphlet that prepares you for the fact that your kids will kind of gut you, while expecting your honest, vulnerable answers, but needing you to shoulder your trials with grown up strength – especially when you most want to curl up and let someone else make the decisions and take on the responsibilities? Why, in this moment, when everything is still raw, fresh, and I’m still kind of crossing my fingers that I did the right thing, does my son need to know if it’s hard to know they’ll do better? Is he asking me if I know that I failed?
“So hard, Isaiah. It is so hard knowing they’ll do better. And good. I want them to do better, because getting the feed store was an honor to me. I felt like the torch of something historical and long-standing had been passed to me, to our family. I wanted to carry it well, but the truth is, I didn’t. I tried. But too many things out of our control happened after we got the store and I just never could quite get my act together. I wanted to run it as wonderfully as the new family is going to, as wonderfully as the family before us did. But I can’t honestly say that I did as well as I hoped. And all of this is hard. Except for the part that I know I’ll be home with you guys, and we’ll have great adventures and we will build things and grow things and learn things.”
His voice sounded weepy, and his big blue eyes had tears welled in them, “It’s hard for me too, Mom. I wanted the feed store to go right, too. I liked owning a feed store.”
I didn’t realize how much ownership my kids, especially my two boys, took in the feed store endeavor until we let it go. I wanted that – in fact, when we first took over, I did very specific things to make them feel like it was theirs too. This was their adventure, too. They were part of making it what it was.
It wasn’t until after everyone was in bed, and I was left alone to my thoughts, that I could pick out that truth. I definitely felt the sense of loss and the things that didn’t go well were at the forefront of my mind. I may not have done well in all the things I wanted to, but my kids learned a lot. They took part in the adventure, they took part in the dreaming, and they are also learning that sometimes we let go of something good, to make room for something better.
Being home with them is definitely something better in my book. So yes, it was hard to let go, it was hard to let go to someone who is going to make the store everything I couldn’t, and I think these kinds of things are always hard in life. But when we do a hard thing for the right reasons, it makes the hard thing bearable.
If you’re facing a hard decision, make sure you choose the best, not just the good option. And look for the right reasons that make the hard thing bearable.
Until next time,