To My Babies… The Hardest Letter I will ever write to you

For My Babies, Love

Out of all the things I’ve wanted to say to you during your little lives, this was a letter I never thought I would write to you, nor would I ever, ever want to. Our family is going through such a hard time now. Your father, who we all loved so deeply, died in a motorcycle accident at the young age of 45. I never, ever wanted you (or anyone, for that matter) to experience such tragedy. Most days I still can’t comprehend the idea that he is no longer living with us. How such a beautiful light could just go out so quickly is beyond my comprehension. And his poor, sweet children. Rowan is 3 (going on 16), Dylan is 6, Sebastian is 12, Sarah is 15, and Justin is 26. He loved you all so much. The love that I shared with your father was passionate, deep, strong, and sometimes crazy. But we were most beautiful when we were all together as a family. We truly made such a beautiful family.

I love him and miss him so much. I cry so many times just at the thought of not ever being able to hold him, talk to him, laugh with him, kiss him, and go through with all the crazy plans we had for life with him. But it is really all of his kids that my heart breaks for most. There are so many things that make the situation so tragic. From the idea of my love being injured and hurt so bad that his life was lost in the blink of an eye, to the fact of someone so charismatic, funny, talented, charming, and hard-working no longer living amongst us. To how many people loved him and are truly devastated by this loss. But the worst is for his beautiful children who lost their beautiful father. My heart breaks the most for all of you.

Dylan and Rowan, I know you both hurt so bad over this, and yet, you are so young that I can’t imagine that you really understand what’s going on. I hate the fact that you only had him in your life for such a short time. Dylan, you have always been a happy child. You are just as playfully mischievous as your father. But I know you are hurting right now. You don’t talk about it much. You talk about Daddy in good ways. You’ll talk about random stories about him, but you don’t talk about your pain or even how much you miss him. I’m pretty sure your strong little heart is just trying to be brave and keep going. Rowan, I know you don’t really understand at 3 years old what has happened. You just know that Daddy’s not here and you miss him. You tell me so many times a day how you want Daddy. It breaks my heart that I can’t give him to you. I found one of his t-shirts the other day that he wore frequently. It hadn’t been washed, and it still smelt like him. I rubbed my face in it and clung to it. A while later that day, you were upset about something, and I remembered the t-shirt. I gave it to you and told you to smell it. You stuck your face in it, and all the sudden you lit up. “Daddy’s shirt!” you exclaimed. It made you feel so good, just to smell his scent and hold that old cotton t-shirt. You carried the shirt around for days. I finally put it up, in the hopes it might hold on to his scent a little while longer so that I could give it to you when you start to get sad and missing him.

We were in the car today; Dylan, Rowan, and I. Rowan, you had just gotten an Elsa doll that sings “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen. As you were sitting in the backseat singing along, I had a sudden memory of your dad singing that song with you. He was really the one that got you singing it in the first place, when you were only like 2 years old. You would start to sing it, and then your dad would start singing along with you, loud and proud. You loved it. He used to sing it with you all the time. We all did. But your dad was the one that really started it. As the memory hit me while we were driving in the car, I started to get a little emotional. I turned and asked you, Dylan, if you remembered Daddy always singing that song with Rowan. You smiled sheepishly and sweetly and said yes, and I could tell you really did remember, too. I asked you how you were doing. “I’m good”, you replied, as is a pretty normal response for you. I asked you if you miss Daddy. You said yes. I was thinking how I don’t ever really see you get visibly upset about losing daddy. I see you get upset, much more frequently than normal. I know you miss daddy, but you just don’t normally say that you miss daddy and it hurts. As I was asking you if you missed him and starting to tear up myself, I think you must have known my thoughts because  you simply said “My heart is crying.” It was the most honest, poetic, adult thing I’ve ever heard you say. I know your heart is crying, baby. And I am so sorry that all of you are having to go through this.

I love you. I love you all so much. And your Daddy does, too. He is watching over us, with a soul that is at peace, loving us, wanting us to be happy. But it still hurts so much. I pray for strength to be a good mama to you throughout all of your lives. I want you to know how many people have loved and supported us through this awful time. I want you to know that there is still so much beauty in the world and that we can still have beautiful lives, no matter the pain we feel from not being able to physically live it and share it with him. I want you to know that his beauty and everything about him still lives on in all of you and in every life that he touched, which was so many. And I pray that I may let him live on through me, all of his quirkiness and love of life, so that you can still grow up with that piece of him in your life.

I love you all so much. Out of all the amazing and beautiful things your dad did in life, the most precious are the beautiful children that he gave us. I am grateful for you that are mine by birth, and for my stepkids (who already have beautiful mamas that love them). You are all wonderful gifts to us from your father.

I love you always and forever.

To the moon and back. That’s what your dad always said.

Sincerely,

Your Mama

 

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That Moment (to my children)

For My Babies, Poetry

that moment when I see you smile with unbridled joy
and the purity of your soul is so obvious it brings tears to my eyes
when your beauty not only lights up my world,
but also reminds me of the beauty inside myself
that moment when I am filled and overflowing with love for you
and I realize it is love like this that makes life worth living and makes all things possible

meandthekids

To Dylan and Rowan (because if you put it on the internet, it’s there forever)

For My Babies, writing
My sweet, beautiful babies, your mama loves you so much. Dylan, you are such a kind and gorgeous child. Your beautiful blue eyes remind me of both your father and of my father, also. They are the same brilliant, entrancing color and filled with the same characteristics of both of those wonderful men: your father’s playfulness and tender, kind-heartedness, and your grandfather’s trust-worthiness and never-ending love. I see this all in your charming demeanor. You were my first born, and it is mostly because of the love I share with you and your little sister that I have been able to heal at all from the pain of losing my own father. Your obvious unbridled love for me is what puts a smile on my face and in my heart, even during the worst of times.

Rowan, you are so gorgeous and sweet. I love you so much, and you show me everyday how much you love me in return. My baby girl, my precious daughter, your innocence and strength inspire me to be as beautiful and strong as my dreams will allow. Even at your young age, you are independent and courageous. I know that you will love life and understand the importance of seizing every day. Your creativity is already obvious, too. I have never seen a child so moved by music, nature, and beauty. I cannot wait to teach you and show you all the magnificence and wonder that is in the world, but I have a feeling you will end up showing me so much more.

You are both so young right now. Someday, if you ever do come across these letters, you will look back and remember your childhood, and I wonder what it will look like to you. Currently, most of our days are filled with normal things like Daddy going to work and me taking care of the house and all of you kiddos. I am working too, but it is only part-time, which is still atleast 30 hours/week, but this is far less than I am used to. Since Rowan was born, I have tried to work less. It was hard enough to maintain my 40-60 hour work weeks when we only had Dylan and then also Sarah and Bastian part time. Once we had Rowan, though, I knew from the beginning that my career would be mostly put on hold, for a few years atleast. The time I spend with you all is way more important to me than how much money I bring home. I like to spend money, do fun things, and have nice things, but I also know that the more money you make, the more you spend, and that this can become a vicious cycle. A person without money can still be happy. Financial wealth is not a prerequisite for true happiness. However, a person who has sacrificed time away from the things that are most important to them for the sake of money will more than likely find themselves unfulfilled and regretful. I would rather us go without for a while, knowing that I spent these wonderful years of your childhood with you, than have lots of money and a ton of regret to go along with it. I will never regret having spent more time with you.

Sarah and Bastian are currently living with us also. The two of them are a beautiful blessing to have in our home. We do truly have a wonderful, sweet little family.  There is stress at times over normal things: occasional financial difficulties, the expected bickering amongst you kiddos, the stress of taking care of a home and young children. Your daddy and I love you all so much, though, and I hope that is what you see when you do look back on these years. And you babies adore your older siblings so much. I hope to nurture this throughout your life. Even if some of you are “only half” brothers and sisters, you are still a part of each other. Just because you have different mothers does not mean that you don’t greatly effect one another. Just because you don’t always live in the same house, does not mean you can’t have rewarding, lifelong relationships. All of my five brothers and sisters are “only half’ brothers and sisters, technically speaking. None of them have the exact same mother AND father as I do. Still, your aunts and uncles have all made such a difference in my life. I have never seen them as anything less than simply my siblings. They all mean so much to me, and each are special and amazing in their own way.
Hold on to your sibling relationships as best you can. Be there for one another when needed. Be a part of each other’s lives, even if life and circumstance take you other directions and away from one another. Who you are is a part of what lies in one another. You can find strength in each other. You can give strength to one another. Do not forget this, and do not take it for granted. This will not always be easy. It can be hard to make time for the ones you love, especially as your own individual families begin to grow. Just do the best you can to appreciate and preserve those relationships that have helped you grow and shaped who you are. I struggle with this myself. With five brothers and sisters, I’m sure I’m not nearly the sister that I could be. I am trying, though, and I hope that all my siblings know how much I love them and would do anything for them, regardless of the time or space that may stand in between us.
You are so wonderful and precious, my beautiful babies. I have complete faith that you will grow into extraordinary beings, just as you are so magnificent to me now. Find your way. Find your peace. Find your place in life. Be kind and honest along the way. Both of these things will assist you in finding your true path to happiness.
“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
~Albert Pike
Know that I love you so much. I pray that my life reflects every lesson that I hope to teach you, but even as my imperfections may shine through, know that this does not make what I am telling you any less true.

You are everything to me, and I am so blessed to be your mama.

Yours truly and forever,
Your adoring mother,
Sandra Lea Highfill
XXOO

MAMA AND ROWAN

Childhood Alfresco

Happiness, Parenting
My childhood was no where near glamorous. We didn’t live in the lap of luxury. We were poor at times. We were lower middle class during the best of times. But my childhood was nothing if not fun. I thank my mother for much of that fact. Her love for travel and the outdoors kept us exploring most of the United States throughout my whole childhood. Couple this with my love for reading and all things mystical and beautiful, any small expedition sparked my imagination so that it could become a great journey in my mind and in my soul.
With my mother’s blood flowing through my veins and her love for exploring in my heart, I find myself frequently dragging our kids along on some expedition. Clarify: when you have four kids, any little trip is an expedition. Sometimes there’s whining and complaining. There’s pretty much always some form of fighting and/or arguing, in between them all. And there may be times that at some point our adventure seems like more work than it’s worth. But the truth is… THEY LOVE IT. As do I.
It was one of our most recent little adventures that led me to realize the extent of how much our children love exploring and being outdoors. For my step-son’s birthday, we called it a day-off for everyone. We packed up in the minivan and drove out to Red Rock Canyon, Oklahoma. A short trip from our suburban home in Oklahoma City, Red Rock Canyon is a fun place to go. Locally, it is a well known state park, albeit a small one. There are no towering mountains. But there are trails for hiking and rock walls for climbing. There are small playground areas with swings and slides, a small pond for fishing, and a wistful stream that runs through it. There’s a swimming pool open during the summer time along with a concession stand. The canyon walls that surround it are the most unique feature of this country park, with their red sandstone that set apart so brightly from the trees and the sky. As a kid, I can remember coming here with my parents.  Running around, hiking, and collecting rose rocks. There is nothing fancy about this sparse, but nature filled place. It’s beauty is primarily in the rustic nature and pure uniqueness of the surroundings. You have to look to see the beauty here. You have to be willing and interested, otherwise it would be easy to just see a red dirt canyon with not a lot to do other than wander around in the woods.
This is how I realized how open our childrens’ eyes are to the beauty of the outdoors. They were intrigued by every shade of rock. They wanted to follow every path to see where it led. They climbed every canyon wall they could conquer to see what lie atop. And they appreciated every view they beheld during their climbs. They stopped to carve their names in the sandstone, with full belief that it may remain there for an eternity. They found long sticks and used them as staffs and walking sticks. Each of them, regardless of their difference in age (they range from 19 months to 12 years) loved to be under the blue sky exploring this new and unchartered territory.
On a day to day basis our four kids are completely happy to play XBox games, watch movies, laugh at videos on YouTube, and play on our iphones. But after seeing that natural excitement come out in them all so easily, that inborn want to explore the world and be one with nature, I can’t help but think that I am doing them a disservice if I don’t actively support for them a childhood filled with nature and the outdoors.
When I was a child, a small Oklahoma red dirt ditch was a mountainous ravine in which my Barbies and my brother’s GI Joes fought along side one another to defend the universe. Every unturned board in the pasture had the potential to be hiding a snake or a gold mine underneath. The country was mine to explore and imagine. There are so many ways to find a connection to the world, but is there any so natural as discovering, exploring, and enjoying all that Mother Nature has to offer?
There are many things that we need to provide for our children: food, shelter, material needs, emotional support, healthcare, love, education, compassion. The list may have no end. But there is another important fundamental element that we need to provide our children access to in order to help them grow and learn in the world: the chance to commune with nature, to live a childhood natural and unbridled, to feel that innocent and inborn desire to explore, if only for moments at a time.
Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.  ~Kahlil Gibran

To Dylan and Rowan

For My Babies, writing

Someday, maybe you will both read this.  If and when you do, I hope this letter finds you both happy and healthy.  There are no words that can completely explain what it is that I feel for the two of you, everything you mean to me, and all the ways you have changed my life and me as a person.  But I shall try.

When I first found out I was pregnant with Dylan, I was in shock. I literally took four, maybe five, pregnancy tests.  They all came up positive, and I was still in disbelief.  At one point, your dad and I went to the drug store and I took one test (the third, I believe) in the bathroom at the store.  Back in the car, I read the results to your dad.  It was positive, of course.  I tossed the stick in the backseat and told your dad to go get me another one.  My shock remained through most of my pregnancy.  I remember at one point my mother telling me I was the most in denial pregnant girl she’d ever met.  I was about 6 months prego at the time.  It’s really not crazy, though, that I was so surprised. Your dad had already had a vasectomy… that apparently didn’t take.  I was 29 years old, had been previously married for a short time, had not been on birth control in years, and had still never gotten pregnant.  With all the “Fertile Myrtles” in our family, I was beginning to think I couldn’t have kids.  But, no, I was just destined to have you beautiful babies with your beautiful father.

The time when which Dylan was conceived and born was also the hardest time of my life to date.  My father had died of a sudden heart attack less than six months prior to me finding out I was pregnant.  Your grandpa was a kind, dependable, strong, trustworthy, honest, hard working man who loved his children and grandchildren very much.  Probably the biggest heart ache of my life thus far is knowing that my sweet babies were deprived of having such a wonderful person in your lives.

Someday, you will hopefully know the joy and sacrifice of having children.  It’s not easy.  It  is constant work to take care of someone else to the best of your ability, worried always that you’re doing something wrong and are somehow going to decrease the chances of the ones you love growing up to lead healthy, happy, and functioning lives.  These are the things I worry about, at least.

You both changed me in so many ways. Because of you, I want to live a healthier and more fulfilling life.  I want to be a role model and example for you, and I want to take better care of myself so that I can take better care of you.  I mean this in every aspect: physically, spiritually, financially, and so on.  I want to make sure you know that you can follow your dreams and make your life whatever you want.  And I want to be the living example of this that you can look to and be proud of.  In all these ways, your sweet, innocent beauty inspires me to be the best that I can be.  You have given me a worthy reason to love and live life to the fullest: my love for you and my want for YOUR LIVES to be full of love and fulfillment.

This is my endeavor, but I am far from perfect, as you know better than anyone.  I apologize now for any way that I have or will fail you. I can promise you to do my best, and that is really all that I am capable of. I will try to be creative in the ways that I show you that you can live this life and find much joy and happiness.  I will do my best to exemplify for you healthy habits and healthy living so that it may be an integral part of who you are. But I am not perfect. And I do not expect you to be, either.  What I do hope for is that you take responsibility for yourself someday, both for your achievements and your mistakes. No one is perfect.  It does not matter how many mistakes you make in life, I promise you that I will always love you.  So will God, so will the Universe, so will many others around you.  Everyone makes bad decisions. Everyone messes up. Know that I believe in you, no matter what.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 3:23

The key to making mistakes is to admit it, learn from it, make it right as best you can, ask for forgiveness if this is appropriate, FORGIVE YOURSELF, and then move on.  If you can do these things, no mistake is in vain for it was, if nothing else, a learning experience. I hope to raise you well enough to make you strong in character so that you will know to avoid making those kinds of  bad choices that are hard to come back from.  But, even if you do make some awful mistake or if the world seems to fall apart, keep trying, believing in yourself, do not give up on yourself or the world around you, and you will succeed.  I promise. You can be happy. You are loved.

  “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”― Paulo CoelhoAlchemist

I love you. I want you to know how much love there is in the world. Even if you ever get to a point when it feels like you have nothing, you have lost everything, or the ones you love have all forsaken you, I want you to know that this is not true. There is always someone who is willing to show you kindness and love. There are always people who are worthy of your trust. There is beauty all around you, though there may be times in your life when you have to look hard to find it. But do look for it. For this is what will help save your soul and bring you happiness: believing in and having the ability to see the love and beauty around you

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

                                      ~Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata

 

 

I get to see your beautiful smiles everyday.  They are infectious and bring joy to many.  I see the beauty in your hearts.  I see the brightness of your souls.  Even as children, you are smart, sweet, kind, and strong. I am so grateful for you.

I write you this letter for many reasons.  One being because tomorrow is never guaranteed and God forbid it happen that I am not around to tell you all this someday when you are old enough to understand it. I will do my best to take care of myself to help ensure that I am here for you for a long, long time. The main reason I write you this, though, is merely because I love you so much. You make my heart want to sing. You inspire poetry in my soul.  And I want you to have these words to read whenever you may need them.  They are true.  I want you to know how beautiful you are, how beautiful the world around you can be, and that you can be happy. That is what I want for you more than anything; for you to be happy, and I hope that you will try to spread that love and joy to those around you.  I will love you forever. I will be with you always.

There is so much more that I have to say to you, but I will save it for another letter. Hugs and kisses to you, my luvs.

Your Mama and Biggest Fan,

Sandra Lea Highfill

God Bless A Good Dad

writing

Both of my parents made such an influence in my life, though they really had quite different personalities. Dad was very kind, dependable, and responsible.  Mom was fun loving and spontaneous. Their different personalities caused marital problems, and they divorced when I was only a year old.  While their contrasting characteristics made their own personal relationship difficult, I always felt that these differences were a blessing to me.  They were two pieces to the puzzle that completed me. I believe that having two people so different love me so dearly and be  such a large part of my life helped to give me a dynamic character and an open mind, able to see things from many different point of views. I cannot imagine that I would have had nearly as much happiness in my life had one of them not been in it.  This is not to say that my parents were perfect.  They made plenty of mistakes, same as everyone else.  But they did their best, and I know they loved me unconditionally.

Historically, mothers have been considered the most important parental figure.  The old school view of the woman being the homemaker and rearing the children while the man works has reinforced this in our culture and in many others.  I would like to bring to light, though, the importance of a father in a child’s life.  This is a personal topic for everyone.   Everyone has some feeling or view on it because we all have a father.  We are all affected by the relationship with this person, be it for good or for bad.

Fathers have an important role in developing a child’s social and psychological development. According to a study conducted by University of Maryland researchers in 2000 and reported on the Medical Center website, children with supportive and nurturing fathers or father-figures in their lives are more assertive, enjoy more social acceptance, have higher self-esteem and are less likely to exhibit signs of depression.  These findings were constant for both boys and girls, and with both black and white children.

Dr. Kyle D. Pruett reports other interesting research findings in his book Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is As Essential As Mother Care for Your Child.  For example, a father’s involvement in a child’s life is the strongest parent-related predictor of empathy. It is also associated with the development of problem-solving behavior and reduced sibling conflict and aggression.  Children of involved fathers are much more successful academically and are more likely to go to college.  Even if the father does not live with the child, if they are actively involved in their lives, a child will tend to have less behavioral problems.

Some dads may worry that by giving high priority to their family, they will lose their edge in the workplace and not be considered for higher positions as much as those who lack family ties or neglect them. Research does not support this fear.  It is beneficial to both the man’s health and happiness and also to his children’s well being to put his family first. It is okay to plan your work around your family.  It is a good thing to consider father-child time more important than work time.

In the sad situation that a child is unable to have their own father there to connect with and share a nurturing relationship with, studies show that having other positive male figures in a child’s life can help decrease the risk of this having negative affects on them.  With this in mind, every positive interaction between a child and a man can help to ensure a child’s healthy development.  This fact in itself speaks of how important a father’s role is.  If a man can make a difference to the well being of ANY child, imagine the difference they can make in the lives of their own children.

As a mother, I know it is important for my kids to have a good relationship with their dad, but I also tend to view my relationship with them as more important. While I believe there’s nothing wrong with being a little possessive of your children, the truth is their relationship with their dad is one that Imageeffects them greatly.  I would love to believe that I can give them everything they need on my own.  If ever that sad situation occurred, I know I would try my best to do so, and they would still be much loved and well cared for children.  I wish love and support unto every parent who is forced to do it alone.  As stated by Dr. Pruett, those children with TWO loving, involved parents benefit from the wealth of each parent’s life experiences, different parenting styles, and approaches to dealing with life.  Though my parents divorced long ago, they both remained a large part of my life.  I know that this fact had many positive affects on my own happiness.

My hope for this writing is to inspire us all to respect and embrace the importance of fathers in our children’s lives so as to help ensure the happiness and overall positive development of those children.  I know that I am extremely grateful for having a father that loved and cared for me.  I hope that all of you fathers and mothers realize how important you are to your own children.