The importance of being current

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About Robin Dance

Married over half her life to her college sweetheart, Robin's guilty pleasure is Reddi Wip from the can. Mom to three, she's as Southern as sugar-shocked tea. Follow her on Twitter. Her beautiful new blog robindance.me is a must-see.

A few years ago I learned an invaluable parenting lesson in the most unexpected of Life Classrooms:  a funeral.

From the time I met her in the hospital, Teresa had always been in poor health.  In the few years I knew her, she visited death’s threshhold multiple times, always fighting back for more time.  She and her family had come to terms with her illnesses likely cutting short a long life, but because she was doing relatively well, the timing of her passing came as a surprise.

Her precious daughter, a classmate of my daughter’s, spoke at Teresa’s memorial service.  I was touched by her eloquence and composure during her affecting eulogy, a beautiful tribute to her mother.

Later, I was talking to my daughter about how impressed I was with Cara’s ability to speak with such confidence and composure at the most grievous and emotional of times, especially since she was only 16 and she and her mom were very close.

Rachel understood why, learning the secret to Cara’s strength when she had visited her the night before:  there was nothing left unsaid between Cara and her mom.

Said another way, Cara and her mom were current in their relationship.

Cara and Teresa’s situation wasn’t typical; Teresa was confined to bed, or on good days, a wheel chair.  Cara was by her side as often as possible, giving opportunity for on-going conversation.

Most parents and children aren’t beholden to one another in such an intimate capacity, but we can learn what they practiced:

  • expressing hopes and dreams
  • reconciling differences
  • quickly forgiving offense
  • encouraging and believing the best for one another….

Due to my husband’s job, I’ve crossed the Atlantic half a dozen times during the past year.  Sometimes physically separated from my children for months, we did our best to plan wisely to minimize time apart.

Never before have I been more aware about remaining current.

My actions and intentions were governed by this awareness, and with every email or Skype conversation I made sure our children knew how I treasured them, the qualities I valued about them, how proud we were to witness their increasing maturity and sense of responsibility while we were away.  To the best of my ability, I didn’t leave anything unsaid, and I never missed an opportunity to tell them I love you.

In my experience, holding a grudge gives root to bitterness; withholding praise, encouragement, or affection can be the seed of passive-aggressiveness.   I believe it is our responsibility and privilege as parents to lead by example and to make right what is wrong, to extend forgiveness, and offer apology…even when we don’t feel like it.

I’m sure the Simple Mom community is divided when it comes to making New Year’s resolutions – I happen to fall into the side of list makers.  But whether you call it a resolution or simply plain ol’ resolve, would you join me in making this an intentional practice?

To speak those things that will make a difference in the lives of our children (and maybe even our spouses, extended family and friends)?

To leave no words unsaid.

Because we can’t predict what tomorrow will hold.

Are you current with your children and the important people in your life?  While reading this, did unfinished conversations come to mind?  What steps will you take to get where you want to be?

Bonus:  my Simple Mom niche is Parenting Teens, but for those of you who are interested, I recently shared a fantastic prayer guide for parents of college students.  It’s a great help as students begin a new semester (and you’re welcome to pass it along to others who might be interested. ~ Robin

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Comments

  1. I loved this post, Robin. My father passed away two years ago last month and during his last years, I helped care for him in our home. Before that, they were missionaries in India and I didn’t see him often. I am so glad I had that time, although it was very hard, to be with him so that when he passed away, we were current. Thank you for this, beautiful advice.

    • Alia Joy,

      What a painfully beautiful opportunity; I know because during my father’s end of life, he was confined to a bed for 14 months and we shared in his care as well. Of course, dementia had altered his mind but that time was intimate and healing.

      Loss is never easy and I’m so glad for YOU that you have solace from having been “caught up.”

  2. I lived on the other side of this story as I grew up with a mother who had an illness confining her to a wheel chair and now to her bed. I was in those intimate physical spaces with her, but we were never able to stay that way emotionally. My mother was rarely current with me… I think she tried to her best ability but didn’t know how. And me, as a young girl did what many young girls do and pushed her away. To this day, it’s difficult to remain current with her unless I step into uncomfortable territory. I try, because I don’t want to end up with regrets. However, I have had to learn to grieve what I expected and hoped for, and accept what is. I love my mom, she has inspired me in so many ways. And yet, I am learning to be intentionally current with my own children in ways she could never be with me. As such, it has given me the ability to also extend grace to my mom and to “us” that wasn’t there before I too became a mother.

    • Suzie,

      So wise…so healthy; you really DO seem to have a good grasp on your relationship’s dynamics. I know I keep alluding to my father, but it’s my best relatable experience–He, too, lacked the ability to become intimate, but I’m sure did the best he could. I wish I knew more of his heartache, his demons, the things he held inside. And, similar to you, I’ve parented differently because of it. Sooo, there is residual “good” that is birthed in our unmet expectation, yes? What a blessing :).

      • Yes, for sure. Years of discipleship, prayer and therapy have helped me come to terms with what can’t be changed and hopeful for the redeeming work of Christ in everything. :)

      • Yes, for sure. Years of discipleship, prayer and therapy have helped me come to terms with what can’t be changed and hopeful for the redeeming work of Christ in everything. :) Thank you Robin. Your words are always life giving.

  3. avatar
    meiliana soraya says:

    hi robin…this is a very compact and meaningful articles. Raising in ASian family, we rarely have close time and being open with your family, our parents usually have their own perceptions and couldnt accept if we have differences. But in Cara’s condition, I saw that its not only living in current, but it has to begin with openess and big heart to accept all condition :) I’ll try to embrace this value and aplly it to my children. THank you so much for sharing

    • Meiliana,

      What an interesting aspect to consider: how culture affects the dynamics of relationship. How courageous of you to understand how this is important enough to shape the way you love and parent your own children. And maybe, just maybe, your parents will see this in your relationship with them and become more open to you :).

  4. I love this idea of staying current. My husband is a pastor so we’re often surrounded by the dying. It’s so enlightening (and often sad) to see how different relationships play out at the end. It’s a great reminder to stay current. To not put all our hopes for healing, reconciliation, or even simply maintaining a good relationship on the end stages. To do it now.

    • Oh, Steph…

      Y’all DO have opportunity to see this played out in the lives of others; goodness, what joy…and what burden at times. But it’s “instructional” and a reinforcement not to wait! “Now”…a wonderful word that imparts the urgency of TODAY!

  5. Excellent! I have often observed in our family and others how differently people grieve. One of the biggest factors is that idea of nothing important left unsaid. My mother said after her own mom’s sudden death, “I so wish I could have spoken to her one more time, but I’m so COMFORTED that there is nothing I would have said that I didn’t say to her every time we talked.”

    • Lori,

      I’m sure your mother’s experience will remain in your mind throughout your life :). How wonderful that she’s able to say that with such assurance.

  6. These are great thoughts! My babes are so young right now, but I strive to have them always know how loved they are.

  7. Loved this! My father passed a few years ago. We were very close and even though I was not geographically close we talked almost everyday. When he was taken from us I was the only child out of 4 that was at peace with it. I miss him terribly but realize that we never left anything unsaid! I try to do this with my family as well!

    • Rebecca,

      Two of my three children are drivers; the third will be too soon! I suppose that’s one reason why EVERY time they walk out my door, I tell them “I love you.” It’s kind of morbid (and I really don’t say it for this reason only), but I’d love for those words to be the last I say to anyone. I don’t think of this consciously, but it’s a thought I’ve had on occasion (mostly when we’ve heard of another young friend whose been in an accident…it’s happened too many times :( . )

  8. Such words of wisdom as we cross over into another year. Thank you!

  9. I absolutely love this. “Leave no words unsaid.” I cannot imagine what on earth that would feel like with my own mother, but it gives me a goal to work towards for my own children. This could not have come at a better time for me. Thank you so much.

  10. “To leave no words unsaid. Because we can’t predict what tomorrow will hold.” Sadly, that is yet another lesson we can learn from the tragedy in Newtown. Perfect words for me to ‘hear’ as I think about the New Year and the resolutions I can make. Glad you mentioned it can apply to others in addition to our children/parents, made me think about the surface connections I have with some of my siblings and in-laws. Thanks and happy 2013!

  11. There is a relationship that I am not current with at the moment and I have noticed over the past few days that bitterness is settling in. I don’t want that to be the case! Thanks for the nudge to make things right.

  12. Thank you, Robin, for this post. My mother always told us (almost too much) how we were the best thing she had ever done in her life (besides marry my dad). And I didn’t understand why she did it until she passed away suddenly several years ago and after I became a mom myself four years ago. I never worry for a minute about what my mom thought about me, if she loved me or what she would say to me. Those words, “you are the best thing” live in my heart. I channel her in every delicious moment with my own daughters.

  13. Excellent advice. So good to be reminded of. My family lives overseas, and with 3 young children of my own, I don’t talk to my Mom as often as I used to or would like. But it is good to make sure that the important stuff is always communicated.

  14. I’m so grateful for this post. What I’ve learned from taking interviews with adult children about their perspective on their parents is this: vulnerability and accessibility change everything.

  15. Love this post, thank you. My girls are very little – only 6 weeks and 2 years – but even so young I can see the importance of being current. I’m finding it hard to manage them both at times but I know it will get easier, just trying to find the balance between reassuring myself of that and not wishing these early years away sometimes! This post is a good reminder to stay in the moment x

  16. Really good post.

  17. Thanks for this post on staying current in your relationships….on December 28 my daughter’s father in law died….a beautiful service for him full of love on the 31st; he definitely had a “good death”, something for us all to aspire to, as well as having lived a full “good” life.

  18. avatar
    Tammie Howard says:

    My mother faced colon-cancer about 8 years ago at age 72. After we found out, I remember sitting at her feet and looking at each other. We had always been extremely close and we said those exact words to each other: we’ve left nothing unsaid. And while there was fear of the unknown, there was also a peace. We had always told each other we loved each other and shared many wonderful moments. There was no regret for the past. She is 80 now and as feisty as ever!
    Thanks for sharing this story.

  19. I have yet to experience a close loved one’s dying, and I can’t imagine what that must feel like. Still, I tell myself that every little bit counts, and I’m fortunate in that I’m very close to my family, spending time with them practically every weekend.

  20. My daddy calls this “keeping short accounts” it works across the board whether finance or relationships.
    Thanks for this encouragement – especially ” ti’s our responisbility to offer an apology Even when we don’t feel like it…”
    Blessings as this practice perfects you!

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