A couple of days ago my ten year old scored at her volleyball game. She pumped the ball thirteen times before popping it over the net and she scored! Yes, it was a really big deal, partly because of how elated (and in shock) she was. And for me, to know that she weighed a mere four pounds when she was born and now she’s playing volleyball of all sports was an emotional double take! My eight year old leaned over and asked if I was crying. I didn’t think it was obvious so I explained they were happy tears and that I was so proud. “So if I get really really really happy, I’m going to start crying? That doesn’t make any sense Mommy.” Nothing like that rubber band to snap you out of your moment:)
I remember when my oldest was born and my dad said “she’s not even as big as a five pound bag of sugar.” She was healthy, just tiny. No explanations why. As a new mom, I couldn’t help but worry but after lots of reassurance from the doctor and my intuition, I knew she was ok. Funny how things shifted on the playground. That’s where I endured endless chatter of those moms whose children were smarter, bigger, faster, slept longer, ate more, cried less, talked earlier, walked quicker, had more hair, more teeth, anything that could give that mom a home court advantage over us visitors. They could smell the fear in new moms and rather than give comforting advice, they would wave those percentile charts over our heads like victory flags. (My child barely if rarely was even on those charts). More than once I left the park clutching the remainder of my nonfat latte in one hand maneuvering my non-cooperative stroller with the other wondering if I had just made more organic baby food or switched to cloth diapers or nursed EVEN LONGER, maybe then my child’s head circumference would be in the 80th percentile!
I finally migrated to the moms who’s kids were the ones eating sand and they just smiled and cooed at them without concern. They were the ones who weren’t worried their children would catch a cold being barefoot in November or that their child didn’t get into the baby Mozart class with all the other perfect children. Looking back it was always their second or third child. They learned from the first, that barefeet and sand snacks wouldn’t kill them. And that was brilliant advice to me. I, too, let go of the fear with my second one. I tossed those awful baby books that convinced me of all the possible things that could go wrong with my child. Remember them? The ones that we read like a bible daily to guide us through pregnancy and baby years. They guided me alright-into sheer panic.
And now, I have two extremely different children whose interests are polar opposites. I have one with the intensity and focus of a laser with artistic ability far beyond her eight little years. And another who floats around the room like a butterfly who connects the dots of life in a unique pattern all her own. They keep me guessing everyday as to who they will become. It’s exciting to watch and I hope everyday goes slow.
In the chaos of daily parental Olympics, the competition is exhausting to me. Everyone is racing for gold. I wholeheartedly admit I run towards the back of the pack at times, and it’s not because I don’t want my kids to excel. I refuse to get tangled in the drama. It’s a fine line of pushing your child to their max to succeed and pushing them in the opposite direction. It’s the difference between encourage and force. We decide where that line is drawn.
So fast forward a few years and my little four pound baby is now playing volleyball. I won’t remember who she played or if her team won. But I will remember that she played. And even scored! I’ll remember that she laughed with her teammates and looked cute in her uniform. And that I sat on the sidelines with tears of joy.
So, if my children don’t make straight A’s and O’s in elementary school, will this lead to a mediocre academic life with no chance at a 5.0 GPA and no college acceptance? Should I have painted their walls in primary colors versus pastels to boost their IQ? I’m going to walk away from this sandbox with confidence and know that they’ll do great. Call it Mom’s intuition.
“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how light gets in.” Leonard Cohen
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