Since I got married twenty-eight years ago, I have moved at least fourteen times. The first move was mostly personal belongings and hand-me-down furnishings. The most recent move came complete with years of accumulated stuff courtesy of the husband, the kids, and me. We also owned the things bequeathed to us by folks who wanted a good home for their discarded stuff.
This move demonstrated that stuff multiplies like the two fish and five loaves of bread in the Bible days. This modern day miracle ought never be documented or repeated. As I stood and surveyed the accumulated wealth of stuff, I wondered how we had so much stuff after the countless donations, gifting, and re-gifting of things that came with every move. To our credit, by the time I closed out this move, there was less of everything. We owned fewer books, less clothing, fewer supplies for school and crafts, and less furniture. Sifting through the stuff reminded me of the challenges of being a woman of color living in the dryness of Reno. Based on the number of hair care items in our inventory, I must have bought one of each brand of hair care crème, shampoo, and conditioner I could find in this city. Additionally, I learned that I devoted a lot of time and money exposing my kids to experiences that promoted artistic and analytical development. I discovered varied sizes of tap shoes, a clarinet, an oboe, handmade crafts, puzzles, books, a percussion practice kit and a stick bag, and a large stack of piano books. I found keepsakes from road trips, travels abroad, sports camps, YoungLife camps, and team memorabilia saved from little league, middle school, high school, and club sports teams the kids played on over the years. I tossed a ring of ribbons from one club volleyball season and the collection of ankle, knee, and wrist braces we have collected and stored in the event we needed them. I kept jerseys, yearbooks, and special projects completed by the kids like poetry books they wrote, photographs from the photography class one of them took, and the artwork they created. I also kept a host of children’s books and board games that brought back fun memories of our time together every night reading books and the competitive board game trash talking (and cheating by one who shall remain unnamed).
Although these experiences bring back some great parenting moments, I was reminded that it was easy, at times, to engage in negative self-talk as a parent. My parenting journey has taken me through wicked turns in my self-evaluation of my strategies and skill sets. The process of purging the stuff successfully restored my faith in me as a parent and as a villager. Affirmation felt good to me in the midst of the emotions that came with sorting through my life in boxes and plastic totes.
The process itself sucked because I continually dealt with the difficulties associated with my first move without my kids. I faced the reality that I have spent almost half of my life devoted to their development and harboring concern for the well-being of the benefactors of all of those games and much of the stuff. The other very real finding confirmed by the purge was that I benefited immensely from the investment I made in parenting my kids. The gift of parenting my kids made me better. The desire to raise self-aware, balanced, global thinkers forced me to be conscious of those traits myself. The goal of securing a loving, trusting, lifelong relationship with them taught me to remind them that perfection was never the goal and that there was a difference between judgment and constructive criticism.
The purge left me happy that I had given as much of my time and resources to them as I believed I had given them. I was satisfied that the sacrifice of some of my personal goals was a good thing because I was more available to them when they were younger. I reflected on the time that Mama visited us in Florida and commented to me about how many hours I worked and how many hours my kids needed the care of sitters, day care, and after school care. She spoke some wisdom into my spirit and encouraged me to consider other options that designated me their primary caregiver. The decision to stay home with them and forego my career was a tough one, but as I have worked through the boxes and plastic containers I felt proud of my decision and I was proud of my kids. They are certainly my most grand and excellent work product. The only regrets that I had were the following: 1. That I didn’t log all of the time I spent sitting and waiting for them to finish whatever they were doing while I sat and waited for so many years and 2. That I didn’t count the number of times I drove to school taking stuff they forgot or just needed. That data would have supported my amazing parenting and likely deemed me a master parent. It would have also given me something to hold over their heads for the rest of their lives.