"Mommy, how do you know how to bake cookies? Did your mom teach you?" Bella asked me one afternoon, as she and her brothers helped me prepare a batch of sugar cookies.
I smiled at my inquisitive daughter, "Not exactly. I taught myself how to bake."
"Why?" Cole asked. "She didn't like you being in the kitchen with her."
Because she didn't like me being with her period...the gruff words danced on my tongue.
"Uh, well, Nanny didn't really like to bake," I explained in kid-friendly terms.
Landon sat at the counter, his eyes shining brightly while watching the mixer magically whir the ingredients together.
He spoke up. "That's sad you had to teach yourself, Mommy."
"It's okay. I'm not sad about it," I lied. "Baking just wasn't her thing."
Kids weren't her thing either...I kept that to myself, as well.
Cole inquired, "So you taught yourself how to bake so you could bake with us, like we're doing now?"
"Exactly," I confirmed. "This is how I always imagined what it would be like when I had kids. We'd be in the kitchen, baking cookies and listening to holiday music, just having a great time together."
They each beamed at me, their smiles radiant enough to brighten even the darkest of rooms. But certainly not the darkest of hearts.
Why didn't my mother want to create such warm memories with me, I wondered. I had spent a majority of my life convincing myself that it was because we simply didn't have the same interests or because she worked full time and was just too exhausted.
Ultimately, I speculated that she just didn't like...well, me. Plain and simple.
It seemed natural to want my children to have a different upbringing, even if it meant pushing myself to the brink of insanity.
There are times where I feel like I have nothing left to give them. But then they'll come up with an amusing game of Cops and Robbers, begging me to play with them.
My brain screams, "Woman, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself. Tell them you'll play another time."
But my heart cries out, "Don't let this moment pass because you will regret it. You can rest once they're in bed. Drop the dishtowel and go play with them."
My children giggle with such bliss and delight the entire time we play, as I chase them down shouting, "Who stole all my cookies?! I'm going to get you little cookie robbers!!"
Once I grab a hold of the mischievous robbers, we engage in a tickle fight until I'm laughing so hard I practically pee in my pants. And then we're all cackling hysterically at the thought of Mommy peeing in her pants.
Why didn't she ever play with me like this? Did I ever share delightful moments with her that perhaps I just don't remember? Though I highly doubt it, I can't be completely certain.
So as Christmas is thrust upon us, I find myself baking more often with them and enjoying our annual tradition of building gingerbread houses together.
It's not relaxing nor peacefully quiet, like perhaps reading them a book might be. And let's be honest, sometimes even reading books with them isn't exactly like being on a sandy beach all by lonesome, basking in the warm sunshine and taking in all the calming sounds of nature.
Sure, the last of my brain cells are begging for relief from the chaos and disorganization, as this kid wants the green gumdrops just as that kid grabs them from the bowl. Sure, I could be doing a million other things instead of picking out all the red M&M's for one child and helping another child drizzle icicles onto his house.
And, sure, there have been a few moments where I've had to leave the room and shriek into my pillow, absolutely positive that I will never survive the next 30 minutes.
But I'm creating memories with them.
Even though my kitchen looks like a blizzard hit it and I'm itching to get in there and clean it up...
I sit at the table, delighting in sharing this tradition with them once again and finding joy in the sounds of their merriment.
Later, when I ask the kids, "Tell me what the best part of your day was", a question I try to ask them on a daily basis, they each grin and remark, "Making the gingerbread houses and eating candy for lunch!"
In that instant, I feel no more sadness, no more regret, no more bitterness over what I lost out on as a child. I've moved forward.
Now, I feel nothing but happiness and peace, knowing my kids will have happy childhood memories, even if it kills me (which it probably will).