It's hard being a parent sometimes. There are moments that are incredibly beautiful and amazing and quite perfect in every way imaginable, but there are other moments that are taxing and chaotic and completely heart-wrenching. One of the hardest things for me as a parent is coming to the realization that I can't spare them from the inevitable: Heartache. Mean friends. Not being picked for the track team. Being told your eyeglasses are funny. That your dimples look weird. That you're too shy. That you're not cool. Or pretty. Or enough. And you know all of that isn't true but their teeny tiny hearts just can't see it yet.
They just don't know.
You tell them stories about when you were "that age," and how you felt when kids were just as mean and just as harsh but what you really want to say is " The world sucks sometimes. People say mean things and do mean things and sometimes, people are mean just because." And then you want to hold their perfect little face and wipe their tears and tell them that they need to still keep going despite the mean people. Despite ill-intentions. Despite feeling defeated and deflated and just plain beat.
You are enough. Even though you don't know it.
You are beautiful. Even though you don't see it.
You are smart and funny and amazing. Even though you don't feel it.
The biggest irony in life is that we are oblivious to all of life’s lessons while we are in the best position to receive them. When we are in the midst of chaos and frantic studying and sleepless nights lying awake nursing our babies. When we find ourselves smack in the middle of elementary school drama or when we are hormonal teenagers fretting over never-ending boy troubles. New moms trying to get it right. Little girls trying hard to fit in. Procrastinating students pulling an all-nighter. We know there are things to be learned with every obstacle and yet we aren’t privy to any of them. It’s only after those times have passed that we are able to reflect and see those fleeting moments for what they really were. Lessons. Honest-to-goodness life lessons.
I’ll never forget when my father looked me straight in the eye when I received my acceptance letter from McGill University. I thought the world was at my finger tips. That I had it all figured out. He placed his hands on my shoulders and said; “Nic, the older you get, the smarter I get.” For so many years I thought he meant that he became wiser as his children became more independent. That he grew as a parent as we got older because he was able to learn from his mistakes. But it wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized I had it all wrong.
The older I get, the more my father’s words ring true.
The more his advice and love and guidance make sense to me.
The more I understand what he meant when he said: Be careful. Drive safely. I love you. I love you. I love you.
His unwillingness to budge on things that he absolutely needed to stand his ground on. The way he worried when I was late coming home. The way he hugged me extra tight when I left home for the very first time. The way he watched me drive away when I got my license- staying put until I was completely out of sight.
But how could I have known? How could I have possibly known how grueling and yet miraculous parenthood would be? How could I have known how deeply I could love someone until I had children of my own. How profoundly I could miss somenone until I lost the most important man in my life. The truth is, you just don't know any of it while you're in the midst of it.
But here’s the thing guys. We’re still in it. We might not be abe to solve all of their problems or make all the hurt and anguish go away. And there will be so many times that we are going to wish we had said something different or done something different. That we had hugged a little tighter or listened a little longer. And we’ll play it all back over and over in our heads and beat ourselves up for not being good enough or for not knowing enough or for not doing enough. But when that happens I hope we have enough sense to remind ourselves that we’re not supposed to understand the lesson just yet. The time will come when we’ll reflect and reminisce and we’ll know that we did the best we could. That we said the right thing and did the right thing. We listened intently and loved them profusely and gave them every bit of ourselves. And we would do it all over again because life without them wouldn't really mean anything at all. At the end of the day, they're going to know that. And feel that.
And that's all that matters.