I Know I Don’t Know

When they’re little, and you scoop them up into your arms, it’s hard not to say it. Say that you know their pain. The bleeding knee, the bitten lip, the bonked head.

I know. I know.

The two words go so well with a comforting cradle, a light squeeze and a rub on the back. It’s like a recipe for accelerated recovery – getting toddlers or preschoolers or other little humans back in the game they’re missing because of their minor injury.

You can even say, as they get older, about heartache – that you know. You know about the jerks. The self-absorbed. The way boys and girls like each other for a heartbreakingly fleeting three days in junior high before liking someone else.

I can say I know things aren’t fair. I know that. I’ve seen it. I’ve felt it. “I know” works when consoling in that scenario.

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Superhero mask ready, but not always effective.

I just don’t always know. And I’ve had to admit as much. We don’t always know. That realization is a hard one – when your kids are wading their way through a foreign territory you’ve never experienced.

I don’t know some things. I don’t know what it’s like to have divorced parents. I can’t say “I know” there. I have no experience there, as a child. I don’t know what it’s like to live in two places at once. To have two beds. Two pillows. Two toothbrushes.

I don’t know what it’s like, as a child, to know the words “custody” and “probation.”

I don’t know what it’s like to see one of my parents being arrested. A couple times. I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s like to watch my parents date people. Or move in with people. Or get kicked out. Or fall in love with people.

I don’t know what it’s like to have new kids around. A new man in the house, who is way cool and interesting and fun and loving, but also helps me firm up structure and rules. I don’t know what that’s like – and because of that, I don’t know what it feels like to form a special bond with him as a child.

At least, as an adult, I get the privilege of witnessing it.

As an only child, I don’t know what it’s like to have to share, or eat dinner at a speed that allows you a second helping ahead of the other kids in the house. I don’t know what it’s like to get the last shower, when all the hot water runs out.

I don’t know what it’s like to experience lockdown drills. To have terrifying nightmares about school shootings, to understand that such an experience is a real possibility.

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When you wish they had an actual bat signal.

I don’t know what it’s like to get frustrated when playing a game of pool by text. I don’t know what it’s like to be lied to by one parent about the other. I don’t know what it’s like to have braces in elementary school, and I don’t know what it’s like to never really find the exact, perfect fit of pants or shorts because they have to be skin tight.

I don’t know that stuff. The angst. The struggle. I don’t.

I don’t know even though my instinct, when they come to me, is to say “I know.” Those two words are way more soothing than the three alternate, but more honest, ones. At least I know that.