This morning, I signed Sophie out of school for a doctor’s appointment. I’d completely forgotten about it (see Instagram), so we were nearly two hours late, but I’m choosing to dwell on the principle of Better Late Than Never and to thank my stars that Italians aren’t particularly hung up on punctuality anyway. While signing the school release statement, I caught myself wondering for the zillionth time if I’m really qualified to be doing this. Being the grown-up, I mean. I’ve had nine years now to get used to the idea of being a parent, but the range of parenting tasks I feel well and truly qualified to do starts with breastfeeding and ends with changing diapers. Infants are and always have been my homies. But what do I know about raising KIDS? About homework help and birthday parties and PTA meetings? About big-kid insecurities and big-kid friendships and—Lord O’Mercy—big-kid hormones? What in the world do I know about ushering these small humans through the mysterious and noisy process of becoming themselves?
Right now, I’m cobbling together these sentences next to the piano bench while Natalie practices, and it seems unfathomable to me that I’m the one here offering corrections and compliments, promising her that one day she’ll appreciate having had a musical education. Who is this person in my head generating parent-y clichés, and what has she done with the real me, the eleven-year-old me who just knows she’s going to be stuck practicing scales and arpeggios forever?
These are the easiest and the hardest days of parenting, all at once. My girls are becoming delightfully independent; my friends with toddlers almost cry when they hear that Natalie and Sophie get themselves ready for school in the mornings down to their breakfasts. On the other hand, I almost cry when it’s time for their showers or their piano practice or their chores because teaching them independence in these things requires exactly fifty million times more effort than just doing them myself. They need me far less of the day than they did as babies, but they need far more of me now. They need more of my focus and my creativity and my present, intentional self. They look to me to troubleshoot emotional tangles and answer complicated questions, and my goodness. Never do I feel less like a grown-up than when I’m being looked up to as one.
Fortunately, the girls haven’t figured this out yet. They think I’m the real deal, even when I forget doctor’s appointments or burn the pizza or quake in my boots at the timbre of their curiosity. They’re perfectly okay accepting me as the grown-up in our relationship, and when it comes down to it, theirs is the only qualification I really need.
Still though… I might want to work on that maturity thing. Word has it, it can be helpful when one is trying to pass for a real live adult.