Paradise and Parenting: Surprised Pride

The other day, my son got on stage with one of his buddies and sang “Creep” for the high school talent show. He practiced at home a lot before hand. When I say “a lot”, I mean that every member of the family now knows the lyrics better than Radiohead. Guys, it wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty great. Not only because he has a good voice with a really decent sense of pitch, but because that child stood up and walked on the stage and grabbed a microphone and just sang that song in front of every single person whose opinion matters more than mine at the moment. HE DID THAT.

Then yesterday my daughter announced that it was time to begin baking Christmas cookies. Feeling particularly lazy, I mounted an argument on several fronts: 1) It’s only November 24 2) I don’t feel like it 3) I guarantee that I will eat most of the cookies before they even get to meet the Santa-shaped cookie cutter. She told me that she’d take care of it and proceeded to bake and decorate three batches of sugar cookies (lightly flavored with almond) all by herself. The only responsibility I had was controlling my sugar dough cookie consumption. SHE DID THAT.

A disclaimer: this article is not for the people who really, truly believe that their kids are perfect. This is not meant for those parents whose children were born sleeping through the night and walking at nine months and potty trained at a year and five months. It’s not for people who talk about their children’s boundless talent at everything that requires talent, or for those whose offspring go around the table shaking everyone’s hand and making polite conversation at the tender age of three.

I wrote this for the parents who sometimes have to leave the restaurant with a red-faced, bellowing child under one arm and an apologizing spouse trailing behind. This is for the ones who have mastered the art of speaking through their teeth at the kid who refuses to say hello to their employers at the Christmas party. It’s for the ones who drag themselves to sleep every night after rocking their colicky babies to sleep against the advice of every other person (who all know better than they do).

I wrote it for those of you who believe that their children are completely capable, but are still astounded when they do independent, wonderful things. This is not because you don’t believe in your children, it’s because you had some doubts about yourselves as parents.

Maybe that’s because you make all sorts of grievous errors. You shout out consequences and then forget, or say the one thing that is bound to make a bad situation worse, or slam a door. And these kids of yours (THESE KIDS) don’t pick up their clothes or go to bed or even BATHE until you transform into the person you swore you never would become or say the things your parents said to you. They fight with their siblings and get sassy and leave the new toilet roll ON TOP of the dispenser (monsters!).

And then one day, they do things that many people applaud (people who aren’t even related to them through marriage), and you understand that you might have done some good in their upbringing. That makes you wonder which thing was the right one, and how can you repeat that several more times until they get to adulthood.

I don’t have that answer for you. But I am happy for you when you get to experience those moments of amazement. I always know when someone reaches that moment, because he or she is wearing this amazed, proud, and completely surprised smile that is unique to parenthood. I’ve felt it on my own face, and I see it regularly on my husband’s.

All I can tell you it this: wear it big, and wear it well. You have absolutely earned it (even if you have no idea how).

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