Dear, Kids. I’ve Never Done This Before

This sounds like a letter. But, in essay form. Because it’s weird to start an essay with “Dear, Kids” as an opener.

But just because I didn’t do that, it doesn’t mean that this is any less an actual letter. An important one. Even though I know kids don’t read blogs. But, it’s worth a shot. 

This is my first crack at parenthood. 

Before I go further, it’s worth noting that this is also a letter to other parents. Maybe even more than being a letter to kids. To me, too. A letter to myself, as a parent to three kids I’ve birthed and two bonus babies I get to help raise through marriage. 

So, lemme start again.

This is my first crack at parenthood. 

My 15-year-old has heard me say this already. Verbatim. Not as an excuse, but as a reality. As a moment of grace and understanding. As a peek into my concerned soul as a human who has — since birth — valued justice and equality and what’s right with an ever-present helping of humor and an insatiable need for adventure. 

But, I’ve never done this before. And maybe that’s part of why it sometimes feels so foreign, because as a doer, as someone who gets things done and values getting them done right, parenthood represents some kind of monkey wrench into how I process success and fuel my self esteem.

I’ll explain.

I believe in the universe and I’m open to any number of explanations about the fate of our souls before or after we get to walk the Earth, but absent reincarnation — I’ve never experienced parenthood before this season of my life. 

Even with reincarnation, I’ve never before parented these kids in this place at this time.

Yes, I’ve been doing it now for 15 years. I’ve survived the moments when toddlers fall out of shopping carts, when one decided to drink super glue, when two went for a “swim” in a container’s worth of bread crumbs on the floor, when one fell over and over again trying to go up the “down” escalator, when all three started kindergarten, when beds were wet, when barf covered my entire backseat and when flip flops floated away in monsoon storms. 

I parented through all that. But that was just that — That. One. Season. Everything after that was new. A different chapter in the parenthood book. And there are so many to come…a gift that keeps on giving.

To consider, as a parent, that you ever really know what you’re doing is one of the more ignorant stances a human can take. I say that considering the doozies we’ve seen of late. That’s why, I think — if only for me — it is so helpful to remember that none of us have ever done this before.

We need to give ourselves that grace.

Even if you’ve raised a child to adulthood, and have another coming up, you haven’t experienced parenthood yet through that other child. To compare, consider the difference between riding a bike on a beautiful, flat trail on a warm, sunny day and then riding it over bruising, hilly terrain through blistering sleet and a menacing wind. 

Once you do both, you can say you’ve ridden through both — two completely different experiences. But even then, you can only say you’ve ridden through those scenes. Not all the scenes. 

Sounds like parenthood — a whirlwind of ever-changing, unexpected experiences that teach you to learn as you go while getting used to the taste of humble pie.

I remember when my oldest was born thinking, “Ok. This is how I make girls.” And then her sister came along and threw that hypothesis out the window. And that right there is proof we have no idea what the hell we’re doing as parents, even if we’ve “parented” before. 

And I know the counter-argument here could be asking if that means I have no expectations for myself. That’s not it at all. I do, which is why I sit and wonder (sometimes too much) if I’m doing the right thing by them.

What is the average curfew at this age? Is two scoops of ice cream too much? Do I pay for chores? Was that too harsh? Am I horrible if I let them swear? Why with the midriff? And how come with the butt cheeks? Should I let them stay up, watch that show, tell them the truth? 

What am I doing now that they will make fun of when we’re older and they’re together and my hearing genuinely goes? And worse, what am I doing now that could sting, long term? 

It’s how it goes when I’m learning something. Anything. Questions for days. And since parenthood is open-ended, not finite like an assignment or a simple math problem, questions will always be there. Right? 

They’ll even be there when parenthood turns to grandparenthood. When the kids you’ve raised are asking questions about their own journey, and even then, we can only say how it was when we raised them. Not how it will be for them raising theirs.

Because they aren’t raising themselves. Just like we aren’t raising ourselves. Which must be why the ground feels so uneven some days.