Parenting, from start to finish, is one big leap of faith. All we do – from the moment someone places a baby in our eager arms to the moment we watch our grown children walk away from us under their own power – is gather the information we have at any given moment and make the best decision we can with that information. There are always a million unknowns, a million what-ifs, a million possibilities at play, but in the end, we have to trust ourselves and make a decision.
It’s the most frightening part of parenting: at some point, we are forced to understand that no matter how many rules we follow and no matter how much research we do, we can never know or control everything. There are no guarantees. We might make the wrong decision. We might make the right one. We can’t see that far ahead, but we have to move forward anyway. And we do the best we can knowing our kids aren’t always going to appreciate or like our decisions. Chances are, they will hate most of our decisions and us along with them.
So, when my six year old daughter screeches “You’re the meanest Mommy everrrrrrrr! I don’t love you! I don’t even like you! I quickly recite the whole parenthood is full of unknowns- I am adult, she is a child-I’ve got this, or wait, do I?- this too, shall pass mantra in my head. My daughter, meanwhile, trudges on the floor, arms down by her side, hands balled into diminutive fists, and makes her quintessential stomp out of the room exit. Into her room she goes, catapults herself onto her bed, yanks her blanket over her head, and grunts octaves higher than necessary, assuring I get the memo she’s pissed.
I follow Irelynd into her room, kneel down next to her bed and gently lay my hand on her back. She jerks, (dramatically) pulls away and grunts overtly again. “I still love you, Sweetie,” I say softly. It’s the first thing I say every time she says I’m mean or that she hates me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I’m overly joyful in the moment. Inside I’m fuming because I know that I bust my mommy-butt to raise her, so getting told I’m mean while setting a basic rule really pisses me off. If I’m honest, there are plenty of times I’ve considered sticking out my foot to trip her when she stomps off full of attitude to her room. But regardless of my intermittent, unhealthy desire to trip my six-year-old when she’s acting like a twit, I’m always mindful of saying, “I still love you.” It’s important to me that she always knows that she can be real with me. That I can take it. I ask her if she wants me to stay. She murmurs, “Yes,” in a tone of voice that communicates, “I need you, but I don’t want you.” Like parenthood, childhood doesn’t come with guarantees either.
I sit on her bed, start to rub her back and feel her petite body relax underneath my loving touch. Most times, after I sit with her for a minute she regains confidence that my love is unconditional, and I’m cool with her spazzing out on me; she’s ready to be alone. She quietly whispers, “Space, please.” She knows she needs alone time to wind down. Parenthood is frightening. Childhood is frightening. And whether my parental choices are right or wrong, which there will be many of both along the way; they are made out of great love and one giant leap of faith.