My kid so desperately needs a haircut. He looks like a yeti, from the ears up. The rest of him is thankfully fur free. But looking at him and his porcupine mop-top this morning, with his array of half-eaten breakfast choices spread before him, I thought, Hey, despite the hair, he’s damn lucky.
His appearance leaves something to be desired at the moment (namely a pair of gardening shears), but he’s got a lot of stuff that so many other kids lack. And I may not be the perfect parent. I may or may not have dropped him when he was 6 weeks old on to a hardwood floor (the ER nurse was incredibly kind at 3 am, “don’t worry, ma’am, it happens all the time”). And I may or may not have whispered to him, at 13 months after he finally fell asleep following 3 straight hours of rocking (physically and lyrically–after exhausting my meager catalog of lullabies I was singing my own renditions of the best rock songs of the 60’s), that he was going to drive me quack-sh*t, ducking crazy someday–only I may or may not have whispered the bald-faced curse words rather than the PG version. I think about this little not-quite Mommy Dearest moment often and hope that his subconscious failed to absorb the exhausted menace in my words.
But the truth is he’s got a mom that would do anything in her power to keep him safe, and happy, and fully stocked in the breakfast pastry category. So, I’ve decided to let go of the kiddie-coiffure failure and my many other parenting transgressions of the past 7 years.
I have another kid who has resorted to keeping her own calendar. I shared this fact with a colleague in the elevator yesterday as we were both scrambling to make the clumsy transition from litigator to super mom at the end of a harried work day.
Last year, I missed a birthday party. Completely missed it. The invitation came, I entered it into my Outlook calendar and then the classmate’s 6th birthday extravaganza came and went one Saturday while the whole brood engaged in a family nap. I didn’t realize we missed it until the next day. My kid was devastated.
“How are we going to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” she asked, in a voice that sounded eerily familiar.
“I’ll be more careful when entering dates on my calendar,” I told her.
She wasn’t satisfied and asked for her own calendar. One that she would keep in her room, so that she could mark–and not miss–the important dates of her very busy 6 year old life. One year later, she’s still at it. Invitations come, promises of future trips to the planetarium are made, and she marks them. She even keeps track of whose turn it is to feed the fish on her calendar and who gets to pick the evening cartoon/30 minute toy commercial with some snippets of animated characters teaching civics lessons spliced in.
At first her calendar felt like proof of my failure, but not any more. This kid is learning important life lessons. She is self-sufficient and organized. She exerts a level of control over her surroundings that is appropriate and, frankly, enviable. [Because someday she’ll likely have a job where other people get to put sh*t on her calendar and she won’t have veto power.] And my one-man hair-band kid, he’s learning something too. The kid’s not even 3 and can sing a half dozen classic rock anthems a capella.
Every day there is a story about a kid who is not loved, or not cared for enough. Every day there is a story about a parent who has behaved so incomprehensibly that I can’t bring myself to read past the headline. You don’t need to read the lurid details to know bad parents exist. You also don’t need to read the stories (largely self-told) of amazing parenting feats to find yourself questioning your aptitude or commitment as a mom or dad. But most of us, I like to believe, fall somewhere above the mid-line on the awful-to-awesome parenting scale. We are doing pretty well with the tools, time and tots with which we’re graced.
And pretty well is good. Pretty well makes for some pretty well-equipped kids, ready to take on life’s challenges whether those challenges are posed by life’s increasing demands on our time or the moments that threaten to erode our self/parenting-esteem, or even those that may someday be posed in the form of a Daily Double square in the “Non-Beatles British Invaders” category. I can picture him now…
I’ll make it a true daily double, Alex.
Okay, here’s the clue: Their No. 1 song was about a house in New Orleans far from their North East England beginnings.
This one’s for you, Mom! [Hair still tragically unkempt.] Who are the Animals?
We give them what we can. Hugs, music, wall calendars, organic pop tarts, opportunities to realize that no one is infallible, and love. Lots of love. Someday, I know, they’ll thank us.