In this special edition of the Swarm, several of the Bees asked their moms what they would have done differently as a mom.

What would I have done differently:

1. Given my children a religious foundation. Although we established virtues and values in our children without the benefit of any religious upbringing, I wish we had provided a broader perspective on the purpose of life, love and community. Even if they had resisted, as children often do, this spiritual approach to life, the foundation would have been laid. And once a foundation has been laid, it is always there waiting, should one choose to return to it later in life for guidance and strength.

2. Put my husband first. The love of a child is profound, so much so, that it can become all consuming, pushing the love between a husband and wife into the background. I used to think that if I put my husband first my children would be neglected. But when I finally had the foresight to put my husband first, the exact opposite happened. My children were just fine. There was plenty of love left over to meet my children’s needs.

3. Stayed present more when parenting. It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day effort of parenting, working, chores, home improvements, etc. I would have let the dust accumulate, kept the old wallpaper, done away with my decorating magazine subscriptions (it just made me long for what I didn’t have) and played with my children more. I would have been content with what I didn’t have, and instead, been grateful for what I did have.

I would have had a different way of parenting, which was very dependent on your dad and me having a more solid financial status. I would have kept both of you by my side with the help of a babysitter, or tried to do the same as you are doing. I think you are a much greater Mom. I could never have achieved the same. I really feel sorry to you and Jule. I missed a lot and you grew without me. I didn’t potty train either of you or teach you how to talk. You are both like angels to me and went through a lot in my absence.

Of course we still had some good times together, but not enough compared to other families. I had to contribute time to our business while still loving you with all my heart. It was really tough. If I could start one more time, I would follow you to all your activities, like your color guard performances and Jule’s cheerleading activities. I would also be involved in your academic activities. 

There are too many things in my mind that I can’t describe. But loving my family has always been the same and never changed.

Dear Ange — I don’t think I have a second chance to re do or change anything, but I really appreciate God and your dad. They turned both of you into the best reward I could ever have. No other rewards or achievement can replace that.

Mom

Here’s a little background – my mom shipped me to Taiwan when I was 9 months old, and my sister when she was only 2 months old. My aunts and grandparents raised us until we were 4 years old in Taiwan so that my parents could establish themselves more in the States. My mom told me once that at the age of 29, they had less than $100 in their checking account, lived off instant noodles, and really struggled to pay the bills.

So she never really got to raise us and didn’t see us again until we were about to enter kindergarten. I can’t imagine missing out on my children’s early years the way she did. She also worked a TON (and I mean, a ton) when I was growing up, and never came to a single one of my performances whether it was for piano, gymnastics, colorguard, or whatnot.

There was a period in my teenage years where I was really bitter at her, but now we have a really close relationship!

I was intrigued when my daughter asked me to answer two questions for her. Looking back on my life and raising children, she asked me to think about what I would have changed and what I would not have changed. Interestingly, the answer to the second question came to me instantly. I can definitely say that the thing I would NEVER change was the valuable time spent with my children, both together as well as separately. ( I have two wonderful daughters.) I was a working mother by choice and therefore had less time with my children than non-working mothers. I always felt that what I sacrificed was my “alone time.”

When I came home from work, my time was spent with my children and my husband. I truly value the time we spent experiencing life together. As I reflected on this, my first thoughts went to our time with the YMCA Indian Maiden program. To this day…. I still tear up when I think about the time we spent together as a mother and daughter, learning about Indian traditions as well as building life-long relationships with other mothers and daughters. We earned beads for accomplished tasks, talked only when we had the talking stick, camped with our friends and slept in tee-pees, and went to winter camp in the snow. However, the most important part was spending quality time with my daughter.

As she grew up, this valuable time spent changed but was always a part of our relationship. We became the Junior High School youth advisors for our church and our daughters participated in this program. The time spent was different as it was with a group of children, but was extremely valuable. Our mission trips were memorable including trips to a Mexican orphanage, feeding the homeless, working at a day camp for youth in Brooklyn New York, and working at Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, Alaska, to name a few. At our annual camping trips and mission trips, we participated in an individual youth challenge program which challenged the youth to take on successively higher levels of personal commitment and goals. As a parent, I can describe the joy I felt as I watched my daughter grow through these experiences and in Brooklyn New York, totally commit her life to children. She has indeed lived up to that commitment today.

The thing I would change was more difficult to determine. Would I have chosen to be a stay-at-home mom? I can’t really say that it would have been a good choice for me. However, after much thought I think the thing I would have changed would have been to encourage and model a more active lifestyle for my family. It seems like all of my family members are challenged with weight and building strong habits early in life may have prevented or at least decreased the issues we all face today. It is hard to make regular exercise a part of your lifestyle when it was not encouraged as a part of your daily routine as a child. I see my daughter doing this today with her family, including modeling it for her children. This is important for building life-long habits.

Someone gave me some sage advice: Raise your children so they can be your best friends when they are grown. With that as my “guide” I tried to let slide what I could live with and be more diligent with what was important to me. That seems to have worked pretty well as they’ve all become the kind of people who make good friends.

Things I think we did okay with…I spent a lot of time with our children – I let a lot of other things slide to do it, and I’ve never regretted a minute of those times. I loved holding them and watching them. Maybe because I was older when I had children, I was more aware of how short childhood is and how I’d better catch all the time I could with them because they would soon be gone. We read a lot together from the time they were very small, and they all learned to love reading. The most important thing I could teach them was about God. I tried to apply the various “tell your children” passages from the Bible. Thankfully their dad liked to talk about God and what He was doing in our lives as well. Our children were responsible for planning, cooking and cleaning up one meal a week with me (though when they were older, they sometimes came through and helped with things they especially liked to make even if it wasn’t “their” meal). The result was that they could all read a recipe and know how to follow it, or be creative in their cooking; and they have all become good at cooking – though I don’t know that any of them love to wash dishes afterward.  I believe that all of life is a story and when the day, or moment, is gone, all you have left is the story. I think all of our children love a good story.

Things I blew…I did not put a very good “homing instinct” in our children. (My explanation of what she is talking about: I live closest to my parents at 4 hours away and my middle brother lives the farthest: in Asia. Also, I think my parents would have loved one of us to want to come back and ranch since it has been a multi-generational way of life on both sides of our family, and none of us have done so.). Though I wanted them to follow their dreams, I always hoped they would love our way of life even if they didn’t want to live it. I’m not really sure what I should have done to make that a reality, but whatever it was, I didn’t do it. Another thing was that while we were struggling to get out of debt ourselves, I really didn’t teach them good financial practices, though in the meantime, they seem to have picked up at least some of them from others. Thank you Dave Ramsey and several others! I wish I would have worked harder to have a good garden and teach our children the delights of working with the soil and enjoying the results. While I’m very introverted, my daughter is an extrovert. I wish I would have found a strong Christian extroverted woman to mentor her in areas I was not able.

The real truth is, however, God is able to overcome my mistakes; and I am so thankful for the children He lent me to raise, and so thankful they were the kind of children they were, and have grown into the kind of adults and parents they are.

Love my mama! She is seriously my hero!

I asked my mom this question over the phone just before I was going to publish this post, and she said that one of her biggest regrets was leaving my brother and me behind in Korea to establish a better life for all of us in the States. My parents couldn’t afford to bring us with them, so we lived with my aunt and then my grandparents for a year. I was 2 1/2 years old and my brother was 1 1/2 at the time. I can only imagine what a difficult decision this was because my brother was extremely attached to my mom, and I can’t fathom being apart from Charlie and Olive for a month, let alone a year! When we finally joined my parents in the States 13 months later, my brother didn’t even recognize my mom.

Despite her regrets about having to leave us behind, she does think that there was one benefit. My brother and I became extremely close, and I became like a second mom to him. We always held hands everywhere we went and we were inseparable. To this day we remain extremely close, and because of our relationship, I could never imagine not having two children.

I do have clear memories of living apart from my parents, but I was young enough that it didn’t have any long-term effects. I think what it did teach me though is that a parent is willing to sacrifice anything for their child… and that’s something that I couldn’t fully realize until I had children of my own.

My mom also generally wanted to provide a better life for us. She didn’t grow up with much and wanted a different life for me and my brother. One of her biggest wishes was to have been able to send us to private school. While there are definitely merits of public school, we didn’t live in good school districts growing up, they didn’t know much about schools, and we couldn’t afford private school. Luckily we were able to supplement our education with tutors in elementary school, which we were able to afford because my parents ran a school. She feels very fortunate that we had access to tutors, which is one of the things that she wouldn’t have changed.

I know my mom is reading this post, so I’ll say that the one thing I wouldn’t change that she may not realize was all the time that we spent together on family trips. I went on more family trips than anyone I knew! Many of my friends thought I was so lucky because they never went on family trips, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was so lucky. We usually went on road trips to places that cost very little, but my best childhood memories are from all those family trips camping, fishing, sledding, and spending hours in our trusty station wagon driving to some unknown destination. I can’t wait to recreate that with my own children.