Laura K. Roland considers the importance of sharing our own stories of life and faith with our kids.
The older I get, the more I truly believe there really are only two kinds of women in the world – those who put their family photos into photo albums and those who, like me, throw them in a box to enjoy in a random order at a later date. Our picture boxes, although seemingly un-organized, are a treasure trove of memories that our kids love to unpack when they are home.
Some days I look at those boxes and I think about organizing them, at least giving each kid their own box. Other days I glance their way, consider organizing them, get overwhelmed and I move on. Most days, to be honest, I don’t notice the boxes. They are the kids’ boxes – they don’t contain many pictures of me – and from what they’ve told me, they prefer them un-organized.
“It’s more fun to look at them this way, Mom. You never know which memory lane you’re going to go down.”
Suffice it to say, I don’t think I’ve raised any photo album makers. We are box people.
As their mom, I carry the memories those boxes contain deep in my soul. They are carved on my heart in ways I can’t explain. I have the intimate background story and the insider information on those moments. On those rare occasions when my kids are home these days, and they invite me to sit with them as they grab those boxes, I realize I am the keeper of all those memories, that when woven together, create the tapestry that is their life before adulthood. The story of them.
These boxes, then. Lately, their presence on the shelves has been a bit disruptive, pesky even, making me think about the difference between the stories we carry for others and the stories we tell about ourselves. And by we, I mean me. I can’t remember the last time I shared a story about my childhood or teenage years, with anyone. As most of the pictures of my childhood have been made digital, the boxes contain few pictures of me from that time in my life. When we pull out pictures from those boxes, my children only see me as an adult, their parent, the one in the picture with them. There are none of me. They don’t have a reference point for me as someone who was once their age. Someone who, like themselves, was angsty and emotional, loving, and loyal, independent, and yet connected to my siblings and parents in a very deep way. Someone with a past they’d like to let go and with a future they thought they wanted but got something way better.
The older I get and the emptier our nest remains, I am realizing more and more that it is important that my kids know my story. Of course, some parts are my own and I am entitled to keep those to myself; however, what about those other parts? Suddenly it matters that there are no pictures of me in those boxes to spark a memory or prompt the sharing of a story about who I was before I had children.
These, then, are the stories I need to tell my kids.
The stories of how as a young girl, I preferred books over toys and so when they came along, I was more comfortable reading to them than getting on the floor and playing pretend. The stories of how I loved going to Mass as a teenager; it was my place for solace and comfort on those days when the world was too much to handle. I wanted them to love it too. It’s why we raised them Catholic.
The stories of how I met their dad and how we fell in love; what our hopes and dreams were for us, for them as they grew. The stories of how I prayed for each of them before I was married – I always wanted to be a mom. And more still, as I carried them in my womb, then in my arms. How I pray for them still as I walk with them down the aisles and through the airports, carrying them now in my heart because that’s what mommas do when her kids live so far away.
The stories that will help them make sense of my quirks and my strengths, my weaknesses and my joys.
The stories of Laura, the person.
Why this sudden desire for them to know me? Is it because I’m feeling old and vulnerable? Maybe. Is it because I’m afraid they’ll forget me once I’m gone? Maybe. But the truth is – and it’s what those dusty old boxes have been telling me - I need to tell them my stories, so they can understand their own.
My life, who I am as a woman and their mother, in all its imperfect perfection, is the backdrop to the beginning of their stories. Pictures, no matter where they are kept, capture only a moment; stories are the memories of those moments. It’s the memories they need.
I’m at a place in my life where I finally understand that our stories as mothers with a life before children have value – with or without the pictures. So, then, mommas, whether your pictures of you are in a box, an album, or digitized playing on a loop as your screen saver, share them with your children. Often. With grace. And with love for the woman whose story you are sharing.
Your story is their story too. Tell your story.
Copyright 2021 Laura K. Roland
Images (from top): copyright 2021 Laura K. Roland, all rights reserved; Canva Pro
About the Author
Laura K. Roland is a cradle Catholic. She and her husband of 31+ years have 3 children and have recently added a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law to their ever-growing family. A former Catholic educator, she co-founded the women’s ministry Encounter Grace in 2018 and is a speaker, writer, mentor, and host of the new podcast, Short Story Longer.