Parenting is like finally getting big enough to be the boss of the playground. Only, no one can agree on which game to play, and someone always ends up with a scraped knee or the wind knocked out of them. And when it's time to run home - tired, hungry, cold, at the end of the day - there's no one there to make the hot cocoa. Except you.
So you do it. Because you should. But maybe more because you want be certain the deposits going into those tiny memory banks in our charge - each day, each MOMENT of experiences - are mostly the good kind. Shiny coins. Memories they'll want to revisit years from now.
Because you know - even when it frightens you to think about it - children are ALWAYS WATCHING and ALWAYS LEARNING. No pressure, Mom, Dad. It's only childhood.
Childhood. In running through this redux of childhood we are gifted with as parents, I've made mistakes. I've wrestled endlessly with my own childhood. I've bitten back words nearly said to my kids; words that WERE said to me in childhood, that I've heard so loudly in my brain at essential trying parenting moments I have to pause and look around a moment to be sure I was actually successful in the biting. The sharp echoes of these words said - and unsaid are a reminder. To be aware. Mindful of not clobbering my children with my own childhood. They have the right to their own experience and don't need my hair shirt.
It's one of the most difficult parts of parenting - shedding that rough sweater of negative childhood experience in order that you don't pass that insufferable legacy along to your kids.
That sweater. Most of the time, in spite of my best efforts to remove it, it somehow manages to remain tied to me. Sometimes tight - though I can work at the knot enough to loosen it, yet, I know it's still there… ready to resume scratching should I hit a snag in this parenting gig. An ever-present repugnant irritant. Yet, I don't always mind it. See… it pushes me onwards - to keep working and evolving in an effort to free myself - so that my children don't end up lugging around a sweater of their own.
Again, no pressure.
But in all of my imperfection, misnavigation, and sweater-wrangling, my children still cling to me. Though they push me away stormily, run from me with fierce speed, throw their cruddiest words at me, they also run to me - gushing with love, forgiveness, joy, expectation. They follow me when I lead, believe me when I speak, even if I don't know just where I'm going. They move me on.
And then. They inadvertently demonstrate something I've been trying desperately to teach; they give me confidence that I'm sailing this ship rightly, and the knot around my middle loosens even more. I breathe and hear the clink of another shiny coin. A growing reflection in my child's eye of a good childhood.
When our children can pass on a legacy of content, satisfaction, and joy to their own children - without struggling to find that within themselves - I'll know that I did okay.