Yesterday was the last day of classes for the university where I teach. I often find the final class to be bittersweet, especially when a class is a good one. My final class of the day happened to be a remarkable one. I set the bar high, and they rose to the challenge and impressed me. I'm grateful to have shared a small part of their academic careers -- a small part of their lives -- with them.
Typically, I'm the last person out of the classroom, but on the final day of class I leave early. The students remain and complete evaluations of the course.
Still buttoning my jacket, I exited the building and began walking back to my car in the first legitimate snow fall of the winter. Somehow it seemed appropriate to be moving forward into the fresh snow and leaving a trail of my footprints behind. Back in the classroom, students were still processing their final impressions of the course, noting the strengths to commend and weaknesses to improve.
They were identifying the residual message of the course. This is one of the concepts we discuss, and it boils down to this: after a speech is delivered, a residual message is the message that sticks with you. It's the essential point you retain after you've forgotten everything else. My job is to encourage students to make their ideas sticky. Give the audience a reason to remember you.
I think that this concept can be translate into motherhood. Clearly, my children will not remember every detail of their childhoods. (I'm grateful for this!) My oldest won't remember when I trimmed her hair, snipping from side to side in an attempt to even things out, and left her with bangs that were a centimeter long. They won't recall that I served chicken nuggets and frozen corn for dinner more often than I would have liked on busy days. They won't recollect the many times that I so cruelly said no in the grocery store check-out aisles as they pleaded for candy.
They likely won't remember that I repetitively scrubbed their yogurt off the kitchen table, or consider the nights that we changed sheets when they were sick and held them when they were feverish. When they're grown, they won't have a tally of how many diapers we changed for them, how many homework assignments we eventually assisted them with, or how often we drove them to their friends' houses before they got their licenses. They'll never know how often Joel and I tiptoed back into their rooms at night just to marvel at their slow and steady breaths, to soak up their beautiful slumber.
These specific moments make up the day-to-day workings of our household, but chances are, our girls won't remember many of them. Certain ones will stick in their collective recollections of childhood, but not all.
What they will remember is the central message of our parenting. They'll know on even those days when they're making us crazy, we're still absolutely crazy about them. They'll remember that we love them. We always have. We always will.
That's what I want to stick.