One of my girls (and I will leave it to your imagination as to which) has invented a sign of affection known as Pee Kisses. They involve looking deeply into the eyes of a loved one—say, your mother—then tenderly trickling your fingertips all the way down her cheeks. Let me just tell it to you straight: Pee Kisses make me want to throw up and then exfoliate my face in bleach and then throw up again. They are that gross. They are, however, preferable to the facial squishing involved in Poop Kisses, and they don’t give me premonitions of family counseling mandates the way that Anonymous Daughter’s Full Moon Nightly Salute does.
I’d thought that by birthing two daughters, I was avoiding a wide swath of parenting unpleasantness. Burping contests at dinner, bodily-fluid-themed goodnights, spiders on my toothbrush… the kind of horrors I’d always assumed mothers of little boys had to face alone. As it turns out though, children are children, and burping contests are universally hilarious, and mildly arachnophobic mothers are never safe. Never.
Not once in the earliest days of motherhood did I expect that my sweet little girls would one day take some of their greatest delight and personal satisfaction in freaking me out… but on the other hand, I never expected that I would one day take some of my greatest delight and personal satisfaction in egging them on. I have the trauma routine down pat: groan, wring my hands, gag, and then run away to increasing shrieks of laughter. The girls are at their happiest when I act my most horrified because for us, yuck is a love language.
Here’s what I mean—The girls know it’s terribly improper to make fart jokes at the table, which is exactly why they do it… and by picking up the thread of humor they’ve spun, I’m validating their sense of humor and their funny creative minds. I’m showing I genuinely like to be with them. I’m playing with them in a way that comes far more naturally to me than sitting down with a dollhouse does, and my message comes clearly through all the gagging: I love you.
I didn’t know I was going to be this kind of mom. I’d always imagined myself raising children with impeccable manners, to prove I knew what I was doing if nothing else. The mother-self I used to envision was stricter, quieter, and far more on top of everything than this real-self who so often feels like a parenting imposter. I holler at my children, bristle with impatience at times, and forbid them from asking me anything before I’ve had my coffee. I sometimes ask them for help solving their own behavioral challenges because they know as much as I do about navigating our specific parent-child relationship. It’s a learning process, all the time, and the thing I’m learning the most about is myself.
I’m learning that manners are not as important to me as seeing my children’s true personalities in action. I’m learning that very few aspects of our life need to be “non-negotiable” (a word my girls associated with naptime by age 2) and that my opinions do not automatically trump theirs just because I gestated them. I’m learning that I absolutely do not in any way, shape, or form know what I’m doing but that relationships are living things, fluid and adaptable with ample room for grace, and that I would rather be in a position to grow alongside my children than in one to rule over them. I’m learning to see my capacity to show love as a living and adaptable thing as well, a creative force that can rise to any occasion…
…including, but not limited to, Pee Kisses.
What has parenting been teaching you about yourself lately?