“Parenting is hard as hell.”
They come into this world with something to prove. At least, mine did. Both decided to make early, dramatic entrances that seriously showed me that what I expected was not in their plan. All those birthing classes, those books, the lectures from well-meaning friends and grandparents who definitely have done this before – I listened and thought I had it all figured out. I thought they would arrive on schedule, eat on schedule, and certainly sleep through the night. I thought my parenting would fit nicely into a lesson plan, with strategically placed instruction, some practice time, a bit of review, and that then they would pass the test with ease. Little did I know who was testing whom.
“Sometimes we don’t owe anybody answers, sometimes we don’t have answers, and sometimes we lie like celebrities.”
I thought my girl was going to be a boy, and my boy would be a girl. I thought that I could handle working full time and mothering, and that my husband and I were invincible, that nothing would rock our parenting. We were clear on how we would raise our children and what they would turn out to be. I was positive my girl would play with any toys she preferred, except Barbie – she was banned around our house. I knew that my kids would try every enrichment class, every sport, every opportunity that they were curious about, and I would let them choose which they liked best. I knew for sure that my son would never hold a toy gun, pretend to hold a toy gun, or do anything remotely related to guns.
“The joke is on me. Just when I think I know my child, he surprises me.”
As those experienced mothers, grandparents, aunts, grocery store clerks and just about anybody who ever told me anything about child rearing knew, children are anything but predictable. They sleep on their own schedule, they eat, play, dream and imagine life on their own terms. They frustrate us with their choices, and astound us with their ability to tackle life in ways we never thought we could. They play with Barbie when their six-year-old friends bring her to birthday parties, then push her under the bed when they’re done. They read book after book about wars and guns and create amazing paper replicas, even when we say they shouldn’t. They follow their dreams, they make new friends, they try and fail and try again. They join teams and take classes and go places and test out who they want to be and what feels right to them. They choose their outfits, cut their own hair, and live life on their own terms.
“It was like watching somebody come alive, watching a flower bloom, watching a rainbow cross the sky.”
And then suddenly, somehow, that magical moment happens when it all clicks. When the new friend becomes the best friend, and afternoons stretch into evenings and they never want to leave each other’s side. When they discover the magic of a piece of clay and some glaze, and transform it into something only their mind can see. When they get their first ski helmet and goggles, and sleep with them on all night long. When the Christmas list transforms from paper to reality. When their library card has their very own name on it, and their report card actually echoes their efforts. In those moments, those small seconds of time when the world pauses and it suddenly makes sense, those are the moments when grabbing my camera just isn’t enough. Those are the moments when I realize that no matter what I do, no matter what I thought was the plan, their joy transcends all that and becomes their own.
“We are mindful every day to teach our sons that hate should not breed hate, fear should not breed fear, and prejudice should not breed prejudice.”
But it is also in those moments when I realize exactly what it’s all about – that my children are living as they were born to be. My children are living life as they think they should be. It is in these small moments that I realize that what we have taught them doesn’t always manifest in the ways we think or expect it should. Sometimes parenting is hard as hell. Sometimes it feels like we’re walking the path without a GPS to guide us, and the handbook has been left at home. Often times parenting feels like trusting in something you cannot see, but feel deeply in your soul. But like those experienced grandparents, friends, aunts and well meaning strangers, one thing I know about parenting is that if we’re mindful, if we love our children unconditionally, and if our eyes light up each moment they walk into a room, we’re on the right track to raising a human who believes in themselves and the power to be whoever they want to be.
This post was inspired by the memoir Raising My Rainbow by Lori Duron as she shares her journey raising a gender creative son. Join From Left to Write on September 5 as we discuss Raising My Rainbow. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.