One of the best pieces of parenting advice I’ve heard is that if when you find yourself struggling more with one particular child it’s time to spend a little extra one-on-one time with that child. On Friday night John and I went out on a “date”. I have found things to be a bit more of a struggle with him lately. Nothing major, just normal growing pains. But it seemed to me that he was letting us know he needed a little extra attention.
We rode our bikes into the “downtown” area where we live and went out for pizza. He’s a good biker and is usually hampered by having to wait for either David who is slower or H. and I who are walking with Ruth in the stroller. He was amazed at how fast the ride was with just the two of us. At the pizza place we sat at the window on high stools and shared a couple of slices of pepperoni pizza and a salad. We talked about his upcoming birthday and David’s birthday and presents. We talked about Legos and his friends. We talked about pizza and bikes. One thing I have found on these dates is that it’s never good to mention any of the issues that might be struggles. It’s not the time for lectures or serious discussions. It’s the time for listening (me), talking (him) and giggles (both).
After dinner we went to an ice cream place and sat and talked some more. He asked me some good questions. We watched cars going by. Then we got back on our bikes and headed home. On the ride home we meandered and went down some little side trails. He asked if we could ride through a church parking lot near our house and I said sure. This is something he always wants to do and I haven’t fully understood why. The parking lot is on a hill so as you swoop down from the road it’s very easy to dip and circle and loop and weave around and around the lot. It felt like flying. It felt great.
One of the things he asked me was “What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?” I told him a little bit about residency and why that was hard physically and emotionally. But I didn’t tell him that the real answer would be “This.” Being a parent. There are no “do-overs”. There are no “good-enoughs”. There is the constant tension between letting go and keeping close. There is the never having a day off. There is the exhaustion and the constantly being needed.
There is also the sheer joy in hearing him laugh. The pride in seeing who is becoming. The blessing of watching him fly and being the person he comes back to.
I might tell him all that someday, but not at 6.
Because he can’t understand yet that the hardest is also the best.