They’re sleeping in the next room… or at least the older one is, curled up neatly on her bunk bed where I left her, propriety intact. The younger one is still dancing around in her slipper socks, strewing books and toys across the floor and shouting “Da da da da da!” in blatant disregard for all known rules of naptime. Instinct tells me I should be stern with her, but I can’t help giggling. I adore those girls.
In just over a week, my oldest turns four—an impossible, terrifying, glittery-pink age that will suit her perfectly. I don’t know how this happened, and it occurred to me that the girls may be in dentures and Depends before I reconcile myself to their growing up. It’s like getting hit over the head with a final exam for which I’ve never studied: How can you raise your strong, vibrant preschoolers into strong, vibrant women? Present your answer in 14 years or less.
Uh, I have no idea. My own formative years were sponsored by the decade 1860 and the planet Mortificationus; no help there. I’ve worked with children from infancy through college age without ever unraveling the mystery of parenting, learning which colors and patterns work together to keep the kids out of therapy. I know an encyclopedia’s worth of Don’ts, but only two and maybe a half Do’s. This scares me.
The only two things I have going for me are that I love my daughters, as immensely and achingly as a mama can, and that they trust me. I doubt every molecule in my body from time to time, but they haven’t yet learned the logic of parent = human = fallible. And even though that feels like cheating, their good impression of me boosts my confidence until I begin to think I could actually nurture them without any disastrous side effects. And maybe it’s not cheating at all…
Because my daughters absolutely can trust me to stick with them through the best and worst times of their lives. They can trust me to give them honest answers on sticky topics and to encourage their independence. They can trust me to teach them about boys and bodies and creativity and forging a future. They can trust me to read family bedtime stories as long as
I can force them to sit still they’ll let me. They can trust that their precious hearts, their technicolor personalities, and their treasure troves of dreams are held securely in their mommy’s love. And they can always trust that when I embarrass them beyond all hope of recovery, I’ll be able to embarrass them further still with a cautionary tale from my own childhood.
I may pass this exam after all.