Getting One Answer Right
I was sitting on the steps that lead to the second floor of our house (it’s one of the places I go when I need to hide). I was doing something on my phone (incredibly life-affirming and positive, I’m sure, as all internet scrolling is) when Quinlan came bounding down the stairs. She stopped, sat down beside me, and wrapped her arms around me in one of her monkey hugs that drape and cling and demand that the hug-ee not leave such an embrace until Quinn is good and ready to disentangle herself.
When I could come up for air, she planted a kiss on my cheek. I smiled, remembering her as the baby who wouldn’t even sit beside me on the floor without a hand on my leg. “Do you know you’re one of my favorite people in the whole world?” I asked her.
She was already on the first floor and headed to the kitchen. She shrugged.
“I know,” she said, and continued on her way. I was left sitting on the steps, stunned by the nonchalance of her response.
I’m your typical parent in that there are many nights I go to bed vowing/praying/hoping to do better in the morning. There are instances where I cringe as soon as I react a certain way, or make a questionable statement, or handle a conflict not…ideally. I’ve said it so many times, but it bears so much truth: parenting is the most important test you’ll ever take, and yet you won’t learn your results until about twenty years after you’ve taken it. And as David and I emerge from the sleepy-eyed fog of being little-child parents and head immediately into the rough waters of pretweenhood (why is there no break in between?! Why did no one warn us??), we’re even more unsure of our footing.
But then there’s this: You’re one of my favorite people.
I don’t need Quinlan to say it back. I don’t need her to say–or even think, truly–that I’m one of her favorite people, too, and I think this will be important to remember as we continue on into the (gulp) teen years. She’s going to think I’m awful, many times. She’s going to think I don’t get it, that I’m out of touch, that I’m too strict. And that’s fine by me.
It’s fine because my job is about how I feel about her, not the other way around. Quinlan, like her siblings, will always remain one of my favorite people in the whole world. With her own flaws, she is perfect. When she makes mistakes, she is still loved more than my heart can handle. When she is learning and growing and trying to understand her place in the world, the world is still better for her being in it. And that will guide so many of my decisions for her as she grows up and away from me.
They start growing away from us as soon as they’re born, these kids (even the monkey-huggers). They grapple with needing us and not wanting us and then needing us to let them know we’re there when they do want us. And it’s going to get harder. But it makes me feel better to think that as long as my children know this–you’re one of my most favorite people–then at least they know that, in some other human’s eyes, they are worthy. At least they know that, no matter what, even their strict/out of touch/oh-my-gosh-you-just-don’t-GET-IT parents are rooting for them, always.
They’re the most important words I can hope to hear her say.