When you were young you were colicky, both of you were. I mean I think that’s what it was. At 6 pm every evening one of you would start crying and cry and cry for hours. Your dad would walk in the door from work, swing his tie over the shoulder of his suit jacket and take over so my biceps could rest or I could cook dinner or help your sister with homework. Whatever fire needed put out we just kept squirting water out in front of us, blindly hoping to make a dent in it that day before it kindled again the next.
We had all kinds of tricks in our evening repertoire.
Bounce him up higher, closer to your face while you hum.
I think she stopped when the blow dryer was on. No, it has to be closer to her ear.
He’s quiet when I swaddle him this way.
Try running the water while you bounce him.
I think she just wants to walk. Not with me, she only wants you.
And on and on it went every night. You guys cried and we threw all the fixes at you, hoping something would stick. Recommendations from the pediatrician, natural remedies from other moms, football holds, fancy swaddling techniques, nap time adjustments, we floundered around trying to figure you little people out. You yelled at us red-faced, mad at the world. How incapable were we that we couldn’t make life warm and fuzzy every waking hour?
One of you had gotten colicky first so your phase ended while the other lingered, one crier a dull roar compared to two. One hanging out in the baby swing while I stood perched in the doorway when your dad arrived, ready to hand the last yeller off.
I’d like to say we had a system but we were really just winging it until the next phase. Trying to help you when you couldn’t help yourself, soothing something we couldn’t quite put our fingers on with methods we told ourselves were helping.
Your dad and I would trade tricks we thought worked, swapping tired arms and patience. It’s been 12 years since we stumbled through those evenings, the business of soothing tears and aches no band-aid could cover.
Last night I walked past your room and heard you sniffle. Your door was closed as it always is so I stood there for a minute, waiting for the next sound. If you continued sniffling I’d come back in a minute with something useful in my hand– laundry, your perpetually lost phone, a piece of homework that swept off our kitchen table.
We are here again my little/big-ish people. Twelve years into this parenting dance and you’re taking turns getting mad over things and sad over things and sometimes you tell us but many times you don’t. Sometimes we hear sniffles through a door or too much quiet or not enough and we start the guessing. Sometimes you need us and sometimes you need to work it out on your own.
Sooner or later you will get old like us and realize your parents were winging a ton of things when it came to raising you guys. There aren’t hyper-specific parenting books, published just yesterday with the most up to date information on parenting through Tik Tok and Instagram and failed auditions and pets who leave too soon.
We’re tip-toeing around hormones (I’m sorry I said that word and the next one too), puberty (see? sorry!), and whether you need a long talk in the car, an immediate intervention or for us to completely leave you alone because everything is fine. Your dad and I are playing parenting triage almost every day.
Is she sick? Did he say anything?
Have you checked their text messages?
Should we just ignore that?
Don’t look over there.
Did you see that comment under that photo? No, don’t say anything!
Should I go in there? Do you think she wants company?
You can’t ask them that!
We’d love to pick you up and swaddle you and turn the blow dryer on by your ear but you’d just roll your eyes and tell your friends we’re weird. Although honestly maybe our weirdness would distract you from your current drama or maybe you don’t have any drama. WE DON’T EVEN KNOW.
That sniffle I heard was nothing, I think. You’re fine. The preteen down the hall is fine. We’re all fine until the next day or week or month when you need a little help to figure out this growing up thing again.
And I guess that’s my point in all of this. To let you know that we’ve got this– your dad, me, you. We’re going to screw up and you’re going to screw up and one or more of us may cry one or more times in the very near future but we are here for you. We’ll fling help and answers and quiet at you for as long as you need it and when you don’t need it anymore we’re here for what you do need. Unless it’s the car, your dad’s got that one. I still hit the curb parking in front of our house.
We love you, our sweet preteen people. No matter what phase of life you’re in, no matter how little of a clue we have about how to help you, we will always know how to love you. We’ve known it from the minute we knew of your existence and we’re really good it, if I do say so myself. The loving you part is our specialty. I promise you that as everything else changes, all this love we have for you is the one thing that will always stay the same.
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