No Matter What

All of our biggest conversations happen in the car. We were on our way to gymnastics, deep into a Depeche Mode song, when Quinlan asked me to revisit a story I’d once mentioned about a boyfriend I’d had when I was younger. “Mom? Did he throw you into the lake?”

It took me a moment before I realized what she was talking about, then immediately swore to always downplay any single story I told her again from there on out. “No, no, honey. That boy never THREW me into a lake. We were in a canoe on a lake, and he was teasing me by rocking the boat over the deep water.”

“And that’s why he didn’t become your boyfriend anymore?”

“Well, not because of just that. But I was upset because he knew I was scared. But there were more moments after that when…” I couldn’t think of a way to explain it. “He wasn’t mean. I just started to feel bad about myself when I was around him. Like, sad.” She seemed to understand what I was saying. “So I knew it was time for him to not be my boyfriend anymore.”

We drove in silence for a bit. I wanted to say something more.

“Can I tell you, though? Do you want to know what I like about your dad? As a boyfriend thing?”

“What?” Her little voice. Oh, that little voice.

“I just realized this the other day, actually,” I said. “And I told your dad, too: no matter how grumpy I am, or grouchy, your dad always makes me feel good about myself.”

And then I corrected myself. “I mean, not makes me feel good about myself,. What I mean is that I know that he likes me just as I am, all the time.”

Quinlan’s response was matter-of-fact. “I know.”

“You do?”

“Yeah. Even when you fight, he still likes you. You can tell. Just like when we do something wrong, you still like us.”

“Yes, exactly,” I said. I totally teared up behind my sunglasses.

“Mom?” Quinlan wasn’t finished. “Do you always like us?”

More teary eyes. “Yes, baby. I always like you,” I said. “When I say you’re my favorite people, I mean it. You guys are my favorite people.”

There was a beat of silence.

“Daddy, too?”

“Yes. Daddy, too.”

I could see her thinking about that.

“That’s true love, baby,” I added. “When you like each other no matter what.”

In the rearview mirror, I saw her nod.

2 thoughts on “No Matter What

  1. You SO get this parenting thing right! No matter what you might think, you know, on those days when you’re pretty sure you’re not getting it right….

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