It takes bravery to be a parent. It takes bravery to be a human. I’m not a brave human at all. For me, one of the worst parts of being a parent is having to be brave.
Six years ago l was waiting for a new person to join my life. I was terrified mostly, somewhat excited, and impatiently curious about what this person would be like and what she would do to my life.
Six years later this person has taken on the role of kindergartener and the same terrifying, excited, and curious emotions surrounded me (probably both of us) as we waited for school to start.
Life is rarely like we plan it. Six years ago, I was picturing myself in a house, settled, decorated, organized, pretending to be a grown up. I pictured my baby being born and being handed to me to hold, wrapped in layers of blankets, my cheery nurse midwife in the room with me.
Instead, I was trying to unpack a pod full of my earthly possessions, finish house projects, and make our new house humanly habitable. Suddenly, a doctor I met five hours previously ripped a 3 lb baby from inside of me, eight weeks early. I saw the baby for 90 seconds before she was whisked away to the NICU. The only thing consistent with my expectations was the layers of blankets. I held her for the first time three days later.
We bungled our way through toddler and preschool years and I made plenty of mistakes. And then it was time to wade thru school options. We packed her Curious George backpack and put a bow in her hair and gave her a hug and she became a kindergartener.
I pictured those cozy scenes of walking my kids to school in a fancy little neighborhood and enjoying quiet productive mornings while they began their prep for Harvard or Yale. (Kidding). Instead, we drive because school is beyond walking distance, because our neighborhood is not fancy enough to have a school I like. And I haven’t found that morning productivity yet. Instead, I am not quite sure what to do with myself. I haven’t quite found a rhythm. I wasn’t prepared for feelings of the unknown and out of control that leave me a little overwhelmed. I wasn’t ready for picking up a kindergartener who suddenly thinks she’s cool and can be snappy and cranky with her family. I wasn’t ready for the sudden loss of small childhood that seems to be wrenched away too quickly. I knew these things would be part of the process because I’m not dumb. But there are a lot of things the articles and magazines don’t show you. Pottery Barn makes the kids look so happy with their matching lunch boxes and backpacks. They don’t show sleepy kids who want their mommys but don’t know how to say it. They don’t show moms and dads fighting to hold the hands of kids who need their hands held but don’t want their hands held.
Life is never quite what we expect. We picture perfection and manage with the flaws that come our way. We muddle through and make the best of whatever situation we encounter. We have to be brave. It takes bravery to parent little people, whether sitting in a hospital with a sick child, or sending a child off to everyday kindergarten. We expect bravery of our kids when we send them out the door without us, even when we aren’t feeling brave about sending them out the door. It takes bravery to be alive.
No one told me that the day I brought my daughter home from the hospital that I would feel scared like an unknown houseguest had just moved in and I had to care for it. No one told me that kindergarteners act big and want their mommys at the same time. No one told me that I would miss that tiny houseguest after she grew up and became a big, chattery kindergartener attempting to be brave. She’s learning the bravery it takes to be alive and I’m learning it right along with her.
We have mere moments in life. That’s all. Be brave in those moments. Do your best. Be kind. They go fast. They are not always the moments we expect. But they are what we are given. And each moment is worthy of our brave gratefulness.