Cold Water & A Road Trip

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.

This is an essay for Munchkin, who rids the world of the mundane by developing clever, innovative solutions that make family life more fun. We’re using (and loving) the iHide Car Seat Organizer, Click Lock Bento Set and Cupcake Fun Cup. Thanks for reading!
  • Its like God gives you the exact words I need to hear each day! Thank you for your honest example of motherhood – in all of its messy beauty. We seem to have very similar girls and very similar hurricanes…

    So thankful for your courage in sharing bits of your life with the internet!

    xo

  • Character, not compliance. Amen! This has been on my mind a lot lately as I daydream about how I would raise my hypothetical children. I’m just finished re-reading “Playing Big” where she talks a lot about how women have trouble playing big in adulthood because we’re so used to being good girls, following the rules and staying compliant. We get rewarded for that, not for character. Thanks, as always for sharing your heart.

  • Gah, the truth and beauty you put into words, Erin. Every day I try to inject a bit of cold into my hurricane so I can support all that is Forrest and not squash a single bit of him to meet my own needs. It’s hard. You’re doing so much good, momma. xoxo

  • Yes! I find that attempting to parent well is smoothing rough edges… mostly mine. And ones I didn’t even realize I had before children at that. Love this post.

  • Perfection can be tricky, for both parents and kids. I have learned to stay away from it, not to chase it as a mirage while growing my kids – and while I learn and grow with them. It has become just a word, among others, and it feels great to be able to put things into perspective again. Cold water. Yes.

    • I would love love to hear how you eliminated the word from the emotion, lady! Please tell your ways! :)

  • Before I had children I read the “Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls. It’s a beautiful told story about terrible parents. My take-away: as long as you truly love your kids, there’s a lot you can get away with and still raise healthy/happy/functioning humans.I like to remind myself of this all the times I feel like a bad parent. So, like at least once a day…

  • once again you have become my most favorite author. This post explains parenting perfectly.. at least to me. You get it and you express it so beautifully. I love everything about this so so much. Thank you!

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