Two years ago, I wrote, "I do all that I do from love; my doing is an outward manifestation of that love. However, once I put it out there, it is no longer just mine. It will be viewed from a different angle and perspective, and might be missed, or misinterpreted. At the end of the day, I always hope that I get the benefit of the doubt or suspension of disbelief and all that I do is understood as being done from love.
With kids, though, you don't always know. Lately, my daughter has been convinced I am so mean and out to ruin her day. Perhaps she thinks I lie awake at night plotting. It's okay to laugh. I have to, but I admit, a little piece of my heart breaks every time."
We have entered this stage again.
Yesterday, as we left a birthday party at which the girls had delightedly run, played, laughed and enjoyed, Patience's souvenir balloon popped.
What a metaphor.
Patience is troubled with endings, anyway, but the endings and transitions, I've found, can be eased by carrying something away with us---something that represents the good time.
Although eventually I hope it will be something less tangible, such as an experience, right now what we carry away with us is a concrete, solid object, such as a balloon. But as we got on our bikes to ride home, her balloon touched an edge and popped.
"Oh no!" Patience cried, distraught.
"Oh no," I echoed.
"Tissy's balloon popped!" Persistence cried, sympathetically.
"That's too bad," Patience's father said.
"I want another one!" Patience immediately said.
"Honey, the other balloons are for the other children, I'm very sorry yours popped," I told her.
We rode on, her happy demeanor altered utterly into sulky despair. I couldn't stand it. I know we ought to accept our children as they come, and I do, but there are some angles to my daughter that I wish to smooth and shape, to suit her life better. I know how it is to live life with those angles sharp and rough, and I wish to spare my daughter that.
She lost the balloon, but I did not want that to mean the entire good time deflated. And I could see it happening, so I tested the waters.
"That was a pretty fun party, I thought. The obstacle course was neat, and the cake was really cool with the pet shop pets on it. What did you like there?" I asked her.
"Nothing!" she said.
Conventional wisdom will tell you to let it go. Let her have her sulk and get over it. I disagree. I know she will cement in her mind that this party was a bad time, and while she will get past it, it will remain a bad time in her memory.
I tried, by coaxing and cajoling, to get her to remember and admit that she'd had fun. But she refused. I felt a sense of urgency rush through my body, so I stopped, and asked her to stop too.
I stood in front of her, and looked at her face: bottom lip out, mouth downturned, eyes mopey. She was a small figure on a little pink and purple bike---no training wheels---her once white basket painted pink with sidewalk paint, her wheels striped with the same paint in green, blue, and pink. The bike was a vibrantly cheerful contrast to the sad girl who rode it.
"You had fun," I told her firmly, "You did. You told me during the party it was fun and you thought it was a great party. You enjoyed the passing game, liked the confetti cake, and had a ball with the scooters. You loved the take home gift bag. Don't lose that," I admonished, "Don't. I know your balloon popped and I'm sorry, that's sad. I understand if you want to talk about that, say you're sad about it. But don't lose the rest, don't let that be the only thing that happened. Because it wasn't. Don't let it be the thing you keep and remember from this party, don't let it overshadow the good."
She stared at me, all sulking gone from her face, replaced by a sort of stunned contemplation.
"Keep the good," I practically begged, "Remember the good, too. Remember sitting in a circle with your friends, comparing charm bracelets and giggling. Remember your friend's dad playing songs on the guitar. Acknowledge the bad, but keep the good, and focus on it, okay?"
She continued to stare silently at me.
I asked for far more than to remember the giggles and good times. I asked her to change how she remembers things, how she thinks...asked her to be different.
Parenting is work. It is the toughest job you'll ever love. It will break your heart more than you ever thought possible, and you'll learn your heart is more resilient than you ever thought possible. You'll look at these little faces and feel a love that surpasses words...it's the sort of thing that drives people to song and poetry. You will also feel a frustration (to say the least) that causes every other annoyance to fade into a whiter shade of pale. You'll face the best and worst of yourself and see it reflected in your children.
If work is love made visible, then each act of parenting I complete---rightly or wrongly done---is evidence of the depth of my love for my girls.
I hope they grow up to know it.
Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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