Friday, May 3, 2013

The Kids Are All Right

I'm not sure when it happened, exactly, but Lina is a full-blown kid now. She's ditching the sippy cup and getting dressed on her own and cracking jokes and everything. She tells me she wants to be a taxi driver when she grows up, which I'm not one hundred percent sold on. But when she offers to drive me "to the airport and everywhere" I soften to the idea and nod my approval (the same doesn't apply when she says she wants to be a garbage lady, which I think means sanitation worker).

The point I'm making here is that she's becoming her own person, with her own ideas and questions and logic. I feel like she's beginning the journey of figuring out who she is and how that idea fits in with the rest of the world, a quest that for most of us endures long into adulthood. For now, I'm just watching her at the starting line.

As parents, we're tasked with this monumental responsibility – to shape our little ones into happy, well-balanced adults. To teach them the importance of being kind. To help them uncover their calling in this life, and then nurture the crap out of it so that they'll never know the bitter taste of dreams that go unfulfilled. Basically to steer them away from becoming garbage ladies, I guess.

It's a lot of pressure for me as I watch my oldest daughter gradually grow into the person she will become. Mike seems to take it more in stride, which isn't all that surprising. Instead, I find myself drilling my dad for all the answers. I feel like he and my mom did a pretty bang-up job in the parenting department. Surely, he must know some secrets, right? But leave it to my father to oversimplify the complex business of raising kids. "You have to just trust them," I remember him telling me once. "You know your kids. If you love them and set a good example, they'll make good choices."

The idea here, according to Lou Hayes, comes down to trust. And all trust is, really, is an offshoot of love. Could it really all be that simple?

Last Saturday, the girls and I took our weekly trip to our neighborhood library. While waiting for storybook hour to start, we passed the idle minutes by reading Dr. Seuss's Star-Bellied Sneetch book. You know the story. It's the one where all the sneetches without stars on their bellies are cast off, passed over for being different. None of the elite star-bellied ones will associate with these lower class Seussical outcasts (who are cruelly left out of everything from frankfurter roasts to marshmallow toasts, just because they don't look like everyone else). We were still in the earliest pages when Lina cut me off, genuinely appalled by the treatment of these poor sneetches.

"That's not very nice," she said. "You should ask everyone to play, even if they have no stars on their bellies."

With that, my heart swells with pride as I pull her close and kiss her head. “That’s right,” I tell her. Reassured, at least for the moment, that my girls are growing up just as they should.

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