You ever wonder if you are doing a good job raising your kids? Ever worry that all of your ideas and goals you set out with as you waited for your first child to arrive have been completely lost in the madness of how fast-paced, exhausting, and trying parenting can be? Ever write blogs and have strangers say you’re a terrible mom? Okay, that might just be me!
It’s tough. Parenting. This whole damn process of taking an infant and somehow guiding them through the many changes of growing up with really no idea what you are doing at any given moment is not as instinctual as they try to convince you. It’s more making stuff up as you go along and hope you aren’t completely messing anyone up. In the midst of that, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture… Are they discovering who they are? Are you helping them figure out what’s unique and compelling about them. Are you honoring where they are and who they are? Are you championing their dreams and goals for their futures? Shit, I’m just hoping I survive the day with enough energy to watch TV at night.
But every now and then you are given a glorious glimpse that you are in fact doing a damn good job as a parent. Because it’s not the thousands of meals you make, the endless paperwork you fill out, or the constant shuttling them around that makes you a great parent. What makes you a great parent is when your kid is simply being who they are authentically.
For years, every night at bedtime I would ask my kids why they think I love them. They would say things like, because they brushed their teeth, or got a good grade on a test, or feed our dog, Lucy. All completely, totally wrong! We’d go through this every night, because when they are little they can’t remember crap, and when they get older I think they just pretended not to remember to hear it again. It was our little nighttime ritual. After they exhausted all the possible reasons they could think of, I’d tell them the truth that is so simple it’s almost impossible to comprehend. I’d always say, I love you because you’re you. That’s all you ever have to be for me to love you.
Frickin’ unconditional love. Frickin’ radical acceptance. Who wouldn’t want some of that crack? And we give it to them. We don’t attach stupid things that mean nothing. Sure we want them to brush their teeth. God, their morning breath is horrendous. But that’s life maintenance. What we really want is for them to discover their passions and talents, figure out who they are, and find some way to manifest that in the world. Okay…that’s sort of a lot, but I’ve always seen that as my job as a parent. The big picture of parenting.
Do I get caught up in the other stuff? Sure. All the time. But when the lights go off and the well-worn quilt is tucked in around them, that’s when I’m reminded of what I want for them and why I love them. They are here because I brought them here. When I think about that I’m overwhelmed by the awesome responsibility of that truth and feel determined to never lose sight of it and make good on it. I’ve never once believed my kids belonged to me. Not even close. They belong to themselves and the world and I’m just the lucky bastard who gets to help them discover who they are and what their gifts and how to be a good human to others.
My kids annoy me and delight me constantly, sometimes at the same exact time, and I’d call anyone who didn’t admit that a damn liar! But when I see them embracing who they are, I can’t even stand how much I love it.
So, a long way round to get to the point of this blog. The other day, my fabulous middle child — second daughter and goofy love-bug — dressed up as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle for her high school’s spirit week. I should mention, she’s a freshman. Anyway, during lunch, in the middle of the outdoor cafeteria courtyard, she performed an impromptu nunchuck skills display like the badass wacky wonderful person she is, and, instantly, definitively, I knew I was doing something right.
Here she is doing her thing…10 seconds caught on video that validates my entire parenting philosophy and goals for her to be who she is…My Teenage Mutant Ninja Lily.