I write about these things and I think that if the type sets hard enough, if the words are black enough, the sentences ending in period, perhaps I will get it right?
I have not yet got it right.
A road trip, then. It is Saturday, just the girls, and we have two hours of driving ahead of us – an open road, the sun hiding, Bee in an extraordinarily happy mood. We are listening to a childrens’ CD, and Bee wants the song on repeat, but not on repeat, and yes, on repeat again but no, not that one(!) and she is a bundle of energy harnessed in a car seat. I anticipate an explosion.
I am always anticipating. I live in my head and not my body, and I often wonder (gah, the wondering) how many things I have possibly willed to happen simply by thinking them into existence. How many hurricanes have I created by circling the same thoughts over and over again, debris catching each word and spinning out of control?
And this is what I am doing, on this road trip, on this Saturday afternoon. I am hurricane-ing. I am swimming in debris while the clouds roll above.
We arrive together, early and unscathed. We are here to watch a nephew’s baseball game, toys in hand, snacks in tow. We sunscreen ourselves – did I get enough on her nose? – and wait for the players to finish practicing, and we stand for the National Anthem and Bee thinks this is fun, this parkwide sing-a-long. It is. It is fun.
She plays with her toys, watches the game, practices sharing, changes her mind about sharing, hoards the toys for the rest of the game. I decide not to mind. The rain is coming.
I read once that a hurricane can be stopped by pumping huge quantities of cold water into the eye of the storm. Chill it, and the hurricane disappears. I think this is wise.
The game soon finishes and Bee carries her toys to the car. She doesn’t argue, she is feeling compliant today, and I am feeling proud. I have overcome my hurricane. I have been chill. Look at this, I am in Aviators and slowly walking. Look, I am avoiding hunger tantrums with my well-prepared Bento box. Look, plenty of sunscreen on her nose. Do you see us smiling? We are a picture of control.
When I want to, I can trick myself into thinking that good parenting – whatever that means – produces good children. And yet, I don’t know that I’m convinced, and I don’t know what determines a “good” child, and if “good” is even the goal.
I think, instead, good parenting produces good parents. It produces good people, that’s all – resilient mothers and fathers who are stretched beyond capacity and still manage to wake up, feet on floor, and cut up the carrots for lunch.
And this is where I found myself on this cloudy Saturday. I was stretched, – dodging hurricanes – trying to be a “good” parent and trying to remind myself that Bee will be Bee inevitably. My best parenting will not produce the best results. My version of perfect will not guarantee perfection.
But I can wake up, feet on floor, and I can provide guidance, and trust, and I can refill her favorite cup, and I can pack her car seat organizer and I can take her on solo road trips despite the hurricane brewing in my head. I can pour cold water right into the eye and I can take deep breaths and offer grace for us both. I can help her build character, not compliance, and I can love her as much as I can love her.
Bee will be Bee. She has been knit together, a sweater from God, and I mustn’t take credit for each stitch.
Cold water, then. A healthy dose of chill for the messiest of hurricanes – the blue faucet dialed to the left, ready to soak and to steep and to launder with care.