Our Eyes Adjust

 

My 3-year old and I have this deal at bedtime—two stories on my lap, five minutes of cuddle time, and a big ‘double hug’ goodnight. Each time, as I flip the lights off after stories and make my way to his bed, I am stopped in my tracks. It’s always darker than black and I can’t see. Even though it happens every night, I am never any less surprised. Every time, I have to take a minute and let the ambient light filter in before I can navigate through the darkness to his bed, and snuggle in beside him. Once my eyes adjust.

Adjust. Adapt. Move forward. It’s in our DNA; we evolve. Our beds, once warm with same-sized bodies and newspapers strewn about on lazy, Sunday mornings are now filled with miniature, ever-wiggling versions of ourselves, tiny feet in our backs, alarm clocks that never give us enough time to meet the demands of our day-to-day, and exhausted partners desperate for sleep, who don’t kiss us goodnight anymore. We barely even remember where we started. Our eyes adjust.

Our tiny babies, once so miraculous and novel, who filled us with meaning as they smiled for the first time, just for us; become burdensome as we struggle for sleep and  time to ourselves. They grow into bigger, saltier versions of themselves, challenging us at every turn, pushing us away and daring us to love them anyway. Instead of their cribs, we pick them up from school. Barely meeting our gaze—we know not to ask about their day. We hardly recall when they were once perched in bulky carseats, filling the air with non-stop-words. Our eyes adjust.

We get so busy living, we actually forget the moments that once shaped and defined us as parents. I don’t remember the last time I sat in a rocking chair with my shirt pulled up to my neck and sleepily nursed a child. Or the last time I zipped up footie pjs or snapped a onesie. I don’t remember the last time my oldest child held my hand or kissed me goodbye at school drop off. And I can’t remember the very last time I set him down and never picked him up again. Our eyes adjust.

New firsts crowd out the lasts so fast we don’t even have time to notice. Our lives fill up with milestones. Tiny, pudgy hands, are now lean, capable fingers; effortlessly playing piano keys and guitar chords. Clumsy toddler steps become swift and sure, as they steal home plate or kick the winning goal. Our laps, once filled with lift-the-flap bedtime books are instead dinnertime discussions of heroes and wizards who face complex moral dilemmas. Four protective stroller wheels transform into sturdy two-wheel bikes; shiny helmets and independence gleaming in the sunlight as we watch them ride away. As accomplishments pile up, trophies and schoolbooks replace finger-painted pictures and carefully constructed clay figures on bedroom shelves. Our eyes adjust.

If we’re lucky, the mundane takes over and we sail through the middle of life. Because darkness can strike unexpectedly, as my friends and I have seen all too well. Divorce, illness, saying goodbye too soon—to parents, friends, or God forbid, a child. In a blackout, the best you can do is stop, breathe, and wait for the ambient light to come. And it does, eventually. Me too, I’m here, I’ll wait, When you’re ready, I’ll listen. It seems insurmountable, but the darkness will lift. Our eyes will adjust.

We move forward. We move on. Some days we are so shiny and new, the future is bursting with promise. Other days we are caught off guard. Maybe it’s an old photo in the junk drawer, the look on someone’s face, a familiar smell, a memory that catches our breath, or the love-worn item we discover under the seat of our car—now forgotten and obsolete, but once full of context. Or it’s the stranger from Craigslist in our garage, thumbing through our kid’s old sleep sacks and checking the tread on tires of a worn down stroller, miles of memories, asking, “How much?” For a minute we lock eyes with them and envy where they are, looking ahead at what we’ve left behind. We close our eyes and soak it all in.

But when our eyes open, we are right where we belong; buttering the toast, feeding the dog, filling our car with gas, picking up way-too-big-and-sweaty bodies from baseball practice, or loading our old memories into someone else’s trunk in exchange for $60.  We move on from the moments we are caught in the dark; stopped in our tracks. We wait. We breathe. We count. And before we know it, we can see again and move forward in the direction we were heading.

Across the dark bedroom floor, to the bed with the little, warm, squirmy, not-yet-grown-up body, waiting to wrap themselves around us. Once our eyes adjust.

This post was featured on Mamalode 

Living In The Overlap

img_7171I’ve been thinking about boys lately. Not the way I used to, when I was a boy-crazed teenager. (But that was fun too!) I’ve been thinking about the boys I’m raising, as a mom, as a woman. I want them to be the kind of boys worthy of someone’s love and trust one day. I want them to be the kind of boys who stand up for what is right; who speak up for those who need a voice–even when it is hard. I want them to be the kind of boys who are not afraid of emotion, but find strength in the moments that make them feel. I want them to be the kind of boys who somehow get it that they need to be bigger than the privilege they were born into. I want them to be the kind of people who leave the world a better place than they found it. Not in spite of them being boys, but because they are boys. Truth be told, I think boys are pretty amazing.

Slugs and snails and puppy dog tails, that’s what little boys are made of. As much as the stereotypes about girls made me feel confined and angry growing up, the ones about boys did too. Sugar and spice and everything nice?! I for one, was definitely more slugs and snails than sugar; and knew many a boy far sweeter than I—with just the right balance of spice. I was the only girl in my family, sandwiched between a younger brother and older cousins. I learned how to use a power drill and pitch a tent before I could drive, and I never believed I had to choose between building forts and baking cupcakes. And neither should my boys.

My whole life primed me to be a BoyMom.

It started with my younger brother. I was truly my brother’s keeper during times of family turmoil, and in turn, he was my first best friend. He was all at once quiet, diplomatic, and sensitive. Able to keep things inside that I, in my girly-blurty urgency, could not. He showed love and kindness with a subtlety that somehow meant more because it was coming from him. When he held your hand or hugged you, you paid attention, because it didn’t come easily.

As a teacher, before I had my own kids, I noticed the same thing with my students. The girls love easily, they make cards, give hugs, and stay in after school to sharpen pencils. The boys wait and observe. Will you be funny? Will you understand them? Will you even try to get to know them? Once they come around, they are yours, loyal to the end.

My favorite storybook heroes were boys. I’m sorry Gloria Steinem, I really am a feminist; but if I’m honest, the boys in my childhood stories ignited my imagination the most. I loved a good adventure and other than Pippi Longstocking and Lucy Pevensie, most of the books I read were filled with boys. I wanted to explore caves with Tom Sawyer, never-grow-up with Peter Pan, and trek though the Misty Mountains with Bilbo Baggins. Charlie Bucket was another favorite. Who doesn’t admire a kind-hearted, family oriented kid who earned the trust and love of a zany candy maker like Willy Wonka? Just when I was leaving the world of childhood adventure to gather dust on bookshelves, Harry Potter came along. I was hooked again and wanted nothing more than to visit the world of Hogwarts and head to Hogsmeade for a butter beer.

Everything I experienced in life told me that there was more to boys than noise and dirt.

Now, as the mother of two boys, they are often a blur of messy chaos racing through the house. There are many moments I live in fear of destruction—and muddy floors. I’ve had to strip down my little one in front of the house on rainy days, dumping water and mud from boots and wringing out clothes; only to carry his wet squishy body to the tub to rid him of caked-on dirt.

I have had to wildly search my house for dozens of snails when my first-born decided to “rescue” them from the garden and relocate them to his play fire station…in his bedroom. I have found banana slugs in pockets on drives home from hikes… stowed away as a hopeful new pet. “But Mom, his name is Pizza and he wants to live with me.”

I’ve had to leave campgrounds and tents to frantically race down windy mountain roads in search of ER rooms for X-rays of little, bony arms and legs. I’ve anxiously watched skin be glued and pupils be dilated in search of concussions.

And the potty talk is Over-The-Top. I would be rich if I had just a penny for every time my boys bring up topics like farting, burping, or target-peeing on some unsuspecting object (that I am usually left to clean and scrub). And if I could collect a dime for all the times a squealing, naked body has streaked across my living room, I’d be on a boat to Fiji with a fruity drink in my hand—never to return.

They fight. A Lot. Even though they are six years apart, one is not more mature than the other, at least not consistently. There are enough dirty looks, flying fists, and insults in my house to fill up an episode of Game of Thrones. Every. Single. Day.

But, they make me laugh.

My youngest one will often rub my back filled with empathy and say, “I’m sooo sorry Mommy, that you don’t have a wiener.”  He is genuinely so concerned, I just don’t have the heart to tell him that I am not sorry one bit, and he can take worrying about my lack of a wiener off of his to-do list.

And here is an actual conversation we had about bodily functions (loudly…in the middle of a store!):

Him (exuberantly): I farted!

Me: You can just say, excuse me.

Him: No, I dooon’t waaaant to say eck-cuze me.

Me: Why?

Him: Because then you won’t know that I farted!

And they are tender.

My nine-year old takes everything in and sits with his feelings. He’s a thinker. He is the type of kid to root for the underdog and notice injustice. He cried when he read Where the Red Fern Grows, and when I took him to see The Phantom of the Opera he was deeply moved by the story and the music. He still likes to be tucked in at night and can’t sleep without his dog curled up beside him. (If it were up to him we’d have hundreds more–all rescues.)

My three-year old climbs into bed with me every morning and pushes our tummies together under the covers. He is always ready with hugs and kisses upon departures or arrivals and calls me “Fweety-Pie” more often than Mommy. When I lay with him at night before bedtime, he rubs my cheeks and says, “Wook at that toot wittle face!” with so much love in his eyes it’s palpable.

As the mother of two boys, I bear witness daily to what I’ve always known is true— Boys are as complex as girls; and just like girls, cannot be boiled down to bumper sticker slogans and generalizations. Boys and girls are not predisposition to be one way, to choose sides. We share so much just being human. I live in the overlap of boys and girls and it is a beautiful, silly, and sometimes loud and dirty, place to be.

My boys may be made of slugs and snails and puppy dog tails. But if you look closely, you’ll find that they have bathed and named the slugs, rescued the snails, and snuggled the puppy dog tails lovingly with muddy hands.

Dear Boss, Sorry, Not Sorry…I’m Taking A Sick Day

Dear Boss (AKA The Me Who Doesn’t Really Lounge Much and Forgets to Play With Her Kids):

I took a sick day today. In addition to the migraine that is trying to infiltrate my body—I just needed a day. If you want the truth, I think you did too. You can be really rigid with those to-do lists and schedules. Always rush. rush. rushing. You really did used to be a lot more fun before those tiny humans came along. Speaking of tiny people, you know who might have needed this day the most? Your youngest kid. (Sorry oldest kid, but you missed out, since you were off at school taking your responsibilities seriously. Clearly not a trait you get from me, as evident by the day your brother and I had.)

I got to spend a lot of time with Little-man today, just being. I didn’t feel 100%, but it wasn’t quite a sick-in-bed-and-can’t-move day, more like sick-enough-to-ignore-responsibilities-day, so we had some quality time to kick it together, completely guilt-free.

I didn’t want to do anything. The weather was gray and windy, perfect for shunting responsibility. There is A LOT I should have done today. I know you’ll get all anxious and edgy just thinking about this, but sometimes it’s best to face things head on; so here goes…

There are two full baskets of laundry that need folding, and another one in the dryer that may or may not be fully dry. (In fact, it’s quite possible that the whole load will need to be re-washed to avoid smelling like a car full of spilt milk on a hot day.)

I’ve also left you a sink-load of dishes that remain untouched…as in Not.Even.Rinsed.Off.

And you have a half-dozen emails and phone calls that need to be returned (some are actually time sensitive and important).

Instead of any of that, I did a lot of stuff I should probably do more of; that you should probably do more of.

Sorry, not sorry.

The day started with an extra long cuddle in bed after Little-man climbed in delighted that I wasn’t in a hurry to be anywhere else. He wasted no time getting in some “tummy touches”. (When he presses his belly into mine as much as he can while saying, Mommy, your belly is just. so. squooooshhhy! as though I’ve finally reached a long sought after and hard to achieve flabby-belly-status.)There were fuzzy covers and dogs everywhere. At one point there was a cat, but he took one look at us, flipped his tail and got on with his day; leaving us to our sloth-ing.

When we were ready, we moved our cuddle-fest to the couch. At this point your child was treated to a breakfast of champions: two cereal bars and a packet of fruit gummies. Hey, it’s not like I didn’t do anything. I had to retrieve a new box of bars from the pantry and open the d – – – things! Sometime during the “breakfast portion” of our day, I even heated up milk and put it in a “special cup” for your little cherub. And before you go all Judgy McJudgerson on me, he did not seem any worse for the wear.

Next, we parked ourselves on the couch for a good 90 minutes and watched a movie…yep, that’s right, an actual movie. Sure, it was animated, but it was also 90 minutes of nothing-doing. I know your almost-four-year-old is almost-never-still and has never actually watched a movie. (God knows you’ve tried.) Maybe his developmental readiness for cinema finally peaked, or…it could be that he was waiting for you to do what I did today:

Lie still (for more than 5 minutes), let him wrap his little legs around you under a cozy blanket (both of you in jammies) and watch…actually watch, the movie with him.

And that is what you did—no phone, no laptop, no getting up a million times to wash dishes, organize toys, or “check something”. Thanks to no caffeine and a dull headache that persuaded you to stay put, you just curled up on the couch with him, for the whole movie.

Today you were utterly free from distractions, and full of hugs.

After the movie, it was upstairs for a super-warm, extra-full bubble bath. (And I don’t mean to brag, but I was told it felt Juuust like a Hot Tub!) Instead of folding laundry, reading on your phone, or cleaning the toilet during said bath, like you usually do, I provided entertainment. There were intense submarine voyages where little knees and tiny toes were spotted underwater and tickled by “passengers” on the vessel. Giant whales in need of teeth brushing beached themselves on the edge of the tub and we both got to work scrubbing and singing along to Raffi…did I mention there was music? Yep, I pulled out all the stops on this one. And for the grand finale, not one…but two, hoodie towels were used, to keep in the warm.

Once he was in his coziest sweats, I read him his favorite book (the one he always wants you to read, that you have read a zillion times and usually hide under a pile of stuffed animals so you don’t have to ever read it again). Then, for old times’ sake, but mostly because I was too lazy to make the trek downstairs, I let him fall asleep on me in the rocking chair; all snug under a blanket. Since I had proclaimed myself task-free, I watched him for a while before laying him in his bed. I studied his little face as he breathed and watched his eyes twitch as he dreamed. I soaked him in and let the moments of our day sit with me, instead of rushing off to be somewhere else, do do something else…that can almost always wait.

Today I noticed that Little-man is not so little anymore. Did you know that in the bathtub, his long body stretches from end to end? And when he is wrapped in his superhero towel (the one that used to drag on the floor when he had the hood on), it barely hangs below his knees? And where the soft, pudgy, baby fat used to be, there are bony arms and legs everywhere? Did you know that his eyelashes are out of control? While we were drawing today, I noticed that when he looks down, they practically touch his cheek. Seriously, where did they come from, and can I have some?!

And since we are on the subject of faces; I discovered that lying nose to nose with a 3-year-old who is giggling is as restorative as soul-food, good music, and yoga combined.

I’ll just wrap up by saying, good for you, for giving me (us) this day to chill. You didn’t actually put up much of a fight, which makes me think there will likely be a lot more “sick days” in our future. I know it set us back a bit and we might all be wearing dirty clothes (or at least smelly) for a few days. But even if we are eating off of paper plates and playing catch up tomorrow, it was worth it. Little-man and I thank you for the time to reconnect and remember how lucky we are to be here, in this house, in this life…together; piles of laundry and all.

Oh, and tomorrow, when Little-man asks you to sit down and do a puzzle, or draw a picture, or hide under a blanket…from the dogs—do it. Not in a little bit, or later, or after you finish… Whatever it is; it can wait. (It waited today, and as far as I can tell, the world is still on its axis.) He is growing and changing so much, and you’ve already been missing it. When he asks you to play, say yes, enjoy him, be still with him. You’ll thank me later.

Sincerely,

Your On-the-Mend and Grateful Self

P.S. A few other things…Pajamas can totally double as day wear if you go with neutral tones; proving that “getting dressed” is both overrated and unnecessary. As proof, Little-man told me on more than one occasion (referring to my robe) that he loooved my beauuuutiful dress! Oh, and the dogs are pretty restless and in need of a walk. And don’t bother turning on the front porch lights tonight, the bulbs still need replacing. And if it rains before I get around to reprogramming the drip system, the neighbors…and the environment—are your problem.

Thoughts on Phantom, Snape, and Sad Endings

dreamstime_s_20542150I took my 9 year-old to see The Phantom of the Opera, and I’m still recovering…in the good way. It was my 3rd time seeing it. Once, through the eyes of a teenager full of angst. Once as a young adult falling in love with her future husband. And now, as a mother, watching her child experience something for the first time. Each time, I am moved by the story, affected by the music, and saddened by the ending. I wasn’t sure my son would understand it enough to love it, or even like it, but I figured the experience couldn’t hurt. Besides, fancy drinks and concession stand goodies, late on a school night, are the stuff memories are made of.

He was engaged from the start, never taking his eyes off the stage. I’d done some pre-loading to prepare him for the jarring sounds and visuals, which he got through emotionally intact. No surprise, he connected with the music. His love for all things instrumental has been present pretty much since birth. (This is the same kid who asked for a harp from Santa on his 3rd Christmas!)  At intermission, he was full of words. He could barely get them out fast enough. And OMG the fire! The gunshots! The chandelier!!  As soon as the lights flickered telling us to take our seats, he was off. Down the corridor, warm chocolate chip cookie in hand, C’mon Mom!

From the first verse of Masquerade, he was transfixed. As the second half of the story unfolded, I realized I had not remembered the intensity. He seemed ok, but whispered a few questions to me as we saw the Phantom’s backstory explained through shadowy images, projected on a wall. The shadows revealed that some characters had met their demise at the hands of the Phantom’s anger. In the last scenes, the Phantom’s face is revealed to be disfigured— a startling visual for a 9 year-old. I could see my son’s expression turn to concern. I wasn’t sure if he was reacting to the stage make-up, the change in mood when Christine Daae is being held captive, the intensity of the music, or just the overall tension that filled the auditorium.

As the curtain came down for the last time, he clapped enthusiastically, glancing sideways to check it was really the end (I think hopeful, that maybe it wasn’t). As soon as the applause ended and we could talk, he said, I didn’t like the ending. Not expecting this, I wanted to know why. I don’t like that the Phantom couldn’t be happy. Out of the mouths of babes. I understood wholeheartedly how he felt. We are conditioned to want a happy ending.

Our discussion continued in the car… and as he was getting his pajamas on…long after bedtime. Why couldn’t they make it so he was at least a little bit happy? Why did he have to be so alone?  And the clincher, with tears in his eyes, Are there really people who have that sad of a life?  Boy, this parenting stuff sure can deliver a sucker punch. My motto is to be honest if I can, and yes, people do have that sad of a life. But, maybe we don’t need to go there, at 10:30 on a school night?

My son is a major reader, so I grasped for characters to use as examples for explanation; hoping to insert a fictional buffer into our conversation. Real life hardships faced by kids all over the world: abuse, neglect, poverty, bullying, would have to wait for an earlier time of day, preferably on a weekend, or when my husband wasn’t out of town.

He’s obsessed with all things Harry Potter, so I tried Voldemort.

No Mom, Voldemort had a hard childhood, but he was bad from the beginning, he didn’t even try to be good. The Phantom was born with a different face and was put in a circus and put in a cage…anyone would have turned bad who was treated like that! 

Ok, good point. And man this kid really paid attention to the plot!

Are people really treated like that in real life?

(Ok, hello 11:00 PM, we are having this conversation now, school night or not.) 

Enter brutal truth. Yes. There are children who never get a fair start; who are born into much different environments than you and your brother. There are kids who are bullied their whole lives, and it changes them, and sometimes they make really bad choices out of anger or fear. And we can’t do much about it. The only thing we can control is how we treat others. We have to remember that everyone has a backstory, even those who act in ways we don’t understand.

Yes, mom, like Snape! Everyone thought he was bad, but he was so good.

Ok, we’re back to fiction, phew! Yes, like Snape.

He is actually the hero. He loved Lilly the most. And James isn’t what Harry thought, I bet Harry is ashamed of James. 

Oh boy, we are digging deep here, and it’s not getting any earlier. Well, yes, in some ways. But people aren’t perfect, even those we love the most. But we have to accept all of them, even the parts we don’t like. And yes, even the ‘good guys’ can be complicated.

Mom, James is a bully! And Snape loves Lilly so much that he protects Harry, even though he reminds him of James, who bullied him. And when his patronus is a doe, it’s sooo saaad!

And Mom, The Phantom was bullied too and treated terribly and the only way he could escape was to fight and to hurt the people hurting him. And no one ever loved him. It’s just. sooo. saaad. 

Why couldn’t I have just taken him to see Storks?! I had to get us out of this somehow.  He hates mushy stuff and kissing, but we had to go there. Because school. We needed to put a period on this conversation and go to bed! It was time to talk about the ending that started this conversation…so.long.ago. So we talked about the kissingewww!

Our discussion in a nutshell: Christine Daae kisses the Phantom at the end to show him he was worth loving, he was worth something, and not a monster. And in turn, he lets her go, because he loved her. To my surprise, there was no cringing. No, Gross, Mom! Just a question.

Mom, Do you think he ever found a friend or anyone who was nice to him, or was he alone forever?

Continuing with the truth telling thing we had going I said, I don’t know.

And finally…quiet. That was enough, for now.

He climbed into bed (taking a dog with him to cuddle) and said more to himself than to me— But it was just a story

Yes, a sad story. And he will learn as he goes, what I already know.

The sad ones stick. The sad ones move you. The sad ones are often the stories of the underdog. Sometimes they are the most important to tell because they are the voice for those who were never going to get a happy ending; but who’s story is still worth telling.

I’m glad my kid is sensitive. (But we never use the S word since I have heard it enough for both of us.) I tell him he feels things deeply. He does, he always has, which makes him complicated. I know how he feels, because he gets it from me. It’s a blessing and a curse. And just like James Potter, and Snape, and The Phantom, it’s what makes us imperfect and vulnerable, and sometimes taxing on the ones who love us. But it’s part of our story, and it’s the only one we know how to tell.

I Never Knew About The Worry

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There are a million things I didn’t know about motherhood; probably more. Above all else, looming atop the pile of all things parent I did not expect: worry.

For me it started before I technically even became a mother. During my first pregnancy there was cause for concern. At 20 weeks, our scan revealed some rare, never-heard-of condition– which may or may not be a big deal.

We’d have to wait and see.  

And that is what we did, every four weeks, between ultrasounds. Other mothers in my Birth-Prep class eagerly awaited any opportunity for ultrasounds; comparing experiences, euphoric and giddy. Sharing 3-D images they actually paid out of pocket to get.

My heart began to race just listening to them. Our monthly trips to the hospital were anxiety provoking and tense. Every time we arrived, we’d be greeted by our doctor and several more trailing in behind– who tried, but really couldn’t contain their excitement to marvel at our rare condition. Delighted with my defunct umbilical cord, they watched closely as a technician measured limbs and inspected organs.

Meanwhile, we waited in a state of panic to hear the words we found comfort in time and time again, until at last my son was born without incident or impairment 20 weeks later.

Everything is OK.

And it was, Ok. Elated, we brought our new baby home. My husband began the life lessons immediately, pointing out the “dos and don’ts” of future decisions on the drive home. Do go to Stanford (it was on the way, might as well plug it early). Do get coffee at Starbucks instead of Peet’s (this one was to bug me since I hardily feel the opposite). Don’t get a job waving a sign* not for real estate (like the guy waving an arrow on the corner to our left) or pizza (like the eight foot tall foam guy in ancient roman garb to the right). *Referring to the aforementioned Do go to Stanford will prevent this as a necessary career choice. 

We drove home worry-free, even laughing—until the middle of the night…that night…a mere 7 hours later.

Our baby made noises.

Noises we had not heard before. No one, no book, no DVD had told us about these noises. Really? Do all babies sound like this? We lie awake, wondering if something was wrong as we likened our new, precious infant to a Gremlin; who during daylight hours had been Gizmo, the fluffy, cute Mogwai. Now grunting and snarling in his co-sleeper, we feared the worst: would he stop breathing? We looked at each other and realized we had no idea what we were doing.

It was at that very moment that our timeline split in two: the us before children, and the us after.

Along with the noises that no one warned us about, the worry and the unknown became a present and familiar part of our day to day. As much as we love the family we’ve built, we both remember a time more carefree, more spontaneous, with much less responsibility.

Isn’t that really what sets apart now from then?  Now, we are indelibly on duty. We have taken on the insurmountable task of caring for something that by definition is impermanent.

Just when we have one thing down: swaddling, diapers, folding up the stroller in 27 steps or less…the dreaded car-seat install, just when we have it down, it changes again. 

Determined, we persist, with no instruction manual and no prior experience. Enter:worry. Are we doing this right? Are we providing our child with all we are supposed to? Nutrition, social skills, art, language, music, academics, the list goes on and on.

We are all at once teachers, students and parents. Meanwhile, the parts of us that existed prior to parenthood: careers, interests, hobbies, are feebly hanging on by a limb-trying to survive.

It is no wonder that everywhere we go, there are parents in all modes of themselves at once. They can be heard quizzing kids for beginning sounds of words in the back seat of Danny the Dragon at Happy Hollow-when all their kid wants to do is admire the simulated castle with Rapunzel and Snow White smiling at them from the window. One dreaming of Princeton, one dreaming of princesses; the juxtaposition of parent and child has begun. 

Others point out the dangers of the climbing structure and shout out warnings at every turn. Some are finding historical and mathematical significance in all the sandbox has to offer; gently explaining the physics behind every falling grain of sand before their child gleefully stomps down the castle. 

I have been all of the above. We are always multi-tasking. And it comes from a place of love. We worry about what we are teaching our children and what we are not; how to protect them, and how to prepare them. At the crux of our duplicity might be that we have lost something we were not prepared to lose: the ability to make decisions free of fear. 

In parenthood, nothing is black and white. We read everything we can get our hands on and concur with scientific reason, only to turn our back on it in a whim of emotion. Because as parents, we are often overcome with the weight of our love for our children. In trying to do the best for our kids, we often live in the grey area wondering if we are doing it right.

As parents, we are always waiting for the green light, the thumbs up. Then it sneaks up on us— a small body wrapped around our leg, a no-occasion handcrafted card, a proud Look-At-Me! glance from atop the climbing structure, a tiny, perfect hand in ours…telling us Everything is OK.