Stuck to the corkboard next to my desk at home is a stack of coupons. They’re not regular store coupons that I have tacked up there so I don’t forget to use them before they expire. No, they are coupons on scrap pieces of paper with writing in bright colored marker and crayon. They are ones that my kids have made for me over the years. Some were for Mother’s Day, others for my birthday. My favorites, though, are the ones I got “just because.” One coupon is for a hug; another is for a head and back massage. Their expiration date is labeled as “whenever.”
I’m pretty sure I have more of those coupons tucked away in drawers and special places all over, put there just so I didn’t lose them. But then life happened, and I forgot about them. What I do know is that I never took the time to redeem them. And I’m really sad about that.
I’m sad because now my kids have entered the phase of their lives where I know that those coupons have expired, despite their redeem-by date of “whenever.” These days, a hug is met with hesitancy, straight arms, and an expression that says they’d rather be anywhere else in the world.
“I’m not a hugger,” they say.
I get it. They are no longer the little kids for whom things like coupons were easy and freely given. To be honest, when I look at them now, the thought of a teenager or young adult giving me a head massage makes me laugh. Yet I still keep the coupons there, tacked up within my sight.
Why? Honestly, I’m not really sure. Maybe it’s to remind me of when my kids were younger, snugglier, and freer with their love. Or maybe I leave them there to remind myself not to miss out on other opportunities I have with my kids—even now that they’re older and those times look different.
Things Change, But Not Really
Or maybe I leave them there to remind myself that, as my kids grow older and step away from me and into their own lives, I still matter. And just because our relationships may not look the same as when they wrote those coupons, they’re still those same kids and I still love them the same. Too often, we moms can lose our sense of purpose and importance as our kids grow up. We need to know they still love us as much as they did back then. Thus the reason we hold on to as many memories as we can, like unredeemed coupons.
So, yes, the days of my kids excitedly distributing coupons for affection are gone. And I wonder, Why didn’t I cash in those coupons when I had the chance? But then I remember that there are still precious moments to take advantage of. Hugs and massages have been replaced by promises of FaceTime calls and text messages from my out-of-town kids. Time spent together watching a movie, shopping, or just talking—when they’re in the mood—is my blessing from the ones still at home.
Maybe those coupons hanging by my desk will continue to remind me to take advantage of every one of those opportunities.