More Bacon Less Broccoli

So it turns out they were telling the truth: parenting does get a bit less exhausting as they get older. 

I no longer need to bring snacks wherever we go.

I no longer need to weigh out the pros and cons of eating out vs dealing-with-potential-poor-behavior-while-eating-out.

I no longer need to button every button, zip every zipper, cut every meal into bite size pieces.

“I know Mom, it’s hot, you don’t have to tell me that,”  I close my gaping mouth and allow them to determine if and when their food is cool enough to eat.  

They can entertain themselves.  And fight.  And entertain themselves some more.

I can now give a sympathetic look to a family with young kids, who are handling it marvelously and the in the best way they can, “It’ll get easier” is the meaning behind the smile I offer.  

I’m a believer now, so I can pay it forward.

Don’t get me wrong though: we had another horrendous bath time last night.  If they had 2 hours to get ready for bed, they would take all 3.  Add to it a parent’s need for some quiet, and it just seems to be a part of the day we can’t improve much on.  

And then entered into our lives a little bit of elementary school drama.  The details aren’t too important, except that it left my daughter with a quivering lip over breakfast one day before school, and a heart I’m pretty sure I heard breaking from across the kitchen counter.  She was left out when she thought she was in, and her pain was palpable.  She cried and cried, and I felt the intensity of the moment, of needing simply to be there, to hold her, and of needing to help her understand her big feelings. 

What I really wanted was to make the hurt stop.  To make the situation go away.  But this is the next phase of parenthood.  Real life situations, real life drama, real life disappointments, real life expectations.  Though being experienced by a 6 year old, the situations are no different than the ones we face in a adulthood. 

When asked about her feelings she said Sad was one, Mad was the other.  

I wanted her to know that being sad was okay, but I didn’t want her classmates to see her crying all day at school.  

I wanted to be the shoulder she could cry on and and at the same time I wanted to be the voice of encouragement that she could still choose to be happy.  

I wanted to honor her anger and her hurt feelings because to have those feelings and be able to name them is a huge deal, but I didn’t want to feed her anger.

I wanted her to be angry enough that she could stick up for herself at school when she needs to, but I didn’t want her to act from a place of anger when handling the fragile relationships of youth.  

I wanted to go to school with her, is what I really wanted.  Not to shield her, or stick up for her, but to be that someone she could come to when she was struggling.  To be the fairy on her shoulder, with power to pause live motion to give advice and talk things over before reentry into reality.  

We discussed strategies for the day, ways she could handle her big emotions.  It sure helped me, and with every fiber of my being I hoped that it was helping her too.  

We talked after school.  Her usual tired state didn’t lend itself to much conversation … at least not as much as I wanted.  And when she was ready to talk I heard her anger speak in the disguise of sadness over little issues that occurred at school.  When asked how she handled it she said she sat down, "criss-cross-applesauce and just focused on my breathing”.  If this surprises you, it surprised me too.  We had talked about breathing but the sitting down was beyond what I had envisioned when we had our chat that morning.  I feared for a brief moment that it might have given her classmates a reason to tease her, but I quickly fought that worry off and gave her the credit she deserved for being brave enough with - and conscious enough of - her own emotions to do something about them.

And it seemed obvious to me that it was a night for Bacon, Broccoli and Chicken Pasta.  May had been asking for it for about a week.    

While we sat down to eat I listened to the hum of my family’s dinnertime commotion, I felt an overwhelming understanding of what FAMILY means.  Of what FAMILIARITY means. I could talk until I am blue in the face in effort to arm my daughters with every possible scenario that could occur in their day.  But in that moment, at dinner, it seemed as though nothing else mattered as much as having each other to come home to, to eat dinner with, to smile and get that predictable smile back, to pass the parmesan to because you know they’ll want more, to say please and thank you to, to give the same answer to the same request for more bacon and less broccoli.

So perhaps next time when I find myself in another new place, where I feel the pressure to say the right thing or give the right advice, I can remember that, 

what is most important 

is what we already have.  

 © Houseman 2013