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The boy is sick (again) with the beginning of something, and he asks politely to watch a show, so I say yes of course to the sick little sweetie and we plop on the couch. He’s been around kids for, really, the first time this year. Sunday school and the best friend’s little, some quick playground friendships, that sort of thing. So now we’re going through all the common ailments a little boy might get.

One thing has become very clear this year. The kid does not know a stranger. This is a foreign way of being for me, but I like watching him work. He spies a child (could be his age, could not) and then he cranes his neck into their face and asks them questions that demand an answer. “What are you doing? What’s your name?” If they are too young, they wordlessly look between him and their mother. If they are too old, they say “go away” and tighten their circle, or else, sometimes, take him in as one of their own.

One such time there was a grasshopper involved. The kids were pretending it was a scorpion, and one of the older girls informed the group importantly that scorpions only live in the *desert,* which is a key piece of information when you’re five. One of those things you tuck away in your knowledge bank. And then one girl climbed a tree and another fretted that she would never get down. All the rest played in the dirt, and there was my boy in the midst of it, talking and watching and, generally, being his happiest.

One of the great pleasures of being a mother is just watching your child be. Many mothers have said this, and I happily join the chorus. They are different from you, even if they are similar, and they gobsmack you with the way they tackle the world. It’s like an everyday miracle watching them laugh, really belly laugh. Or watching them learn kindness; watching them hug a friend without a moment’s thought because they love them, kissing you on the cheek, picking up something without prodding. It’s a downright shocker when they defy you soundly for the first time. You know it will happen, you think you’re prepared, then – wham! – they do it and you’re like, “who told you this was okay?” Then you go on loving them in those myriad parental ways. You learn about yourself, you grow, you regress, you change, and holy moly you pray.

You know, some nights I lay down thinking we’ve got this parenting thing down pat. (You can laugh, but you know the feeling.) Other nights I’m pretty sure the roof has caved and that all is a charade. You start envisioning black and white striped uniforms, ya know.

Maybe, if you know a parent who is doing a good job (not a perfect job, but a good one), tell them about it. Use a particular, something you see in their kids that they’ve been nurturing. It’s like having a realignment. We get some things twisted, get some knots in our muscles, with all these hard-work days, and we need someone to come along and say, you’re really doing the work here, and it shows; good job. This type of encouragement parents us parents, keeps us on the straight and narrow with our chin up. These are long, long days and minute years – isn’t that what they say? Sidle alongside us for the journey and we’ll love you forever.


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