Parenting is a contact sport
Some people like to claim their gray hair comes from things their kids did. I see my scars and remember.
I have a long skinny scar that runs from knuckle to knuckle on my ring finger that came while digging in the garden with Michael. He felt so badly when he saw that his little shovel missed its mark and drew blood.
I was surprised how strong he was.
I’ve got a knot on my forehead from trying to help build a fence for the cashmere goats, a 4H project that lived here for 5-6 years. I got clubbed so hard by a round of woven fence wire that was hung up on a t-pole — almost spring-loaded, like a giant mousetrap — that it should’ve killed me. But the kids were all standing there, so I told myself to take the hit and keep on ticking.
Today I went to work with an odd-looking burn on my chin, like a permanent dribble of hot chocolate. I thought for sure at least Bj would say something, but no one asked.
Last night, Sam was determined to learn how to cook fish tacos. He dropped in the first battered fish strip from such a height, the frying oil splashed. Sam got a few splashes on his arm and I took one on the chin. But by the third strip, he was dropping it in perfectly.
Like Jason Robards character said in Parenthood, parenting is “like your Aunt Edna’s ass. It goes on forever and it’s just as frightening” and is unlike football, since there’s no end zone where you get to spike the ball and do your little dance.
Except he missed the part where parenting is a contact sport.
I’ve seen a time when the parenting switched places but you’re right that it never ends. The scars go both ways. I know I’ve left a few that can’t be seen. I’m not perfect and this is damn hard.
I would be the last to admit that I haven’t left scars. It’s bad enough to screw up, know I’ve screwed up and realize there isn’t much to do to fix it, but being surprised by the unintentional, unknown ones? That’s the worst for me. Paige and I had such a moment this summer when she was going through things we kept — artwork, grade reports, journals, etc. A bad memory came flooding back, one from second or third grade where she remembered that she wasn’t keeping up with her classmates. She was worried and told me then. I relayed the concern to the teacher, but the teacher wasn’t concerned. Neither of us grown ups said anything more about it to her and she took that as evidence we didn’t care. Neither of us took Paige’s own concerns to heart and gave her any kind of message to show her we really, truly cared. Not just some silly self-esteem message, but something easy and tangible she could do and we could support that would help her believe in herself. That all did some damage. All I could do this summer was hold her while she cried for her young self. Michael sometimes gives me those same glimpses. They may come to understand when they have kids of their own and start falling into all the same traps, but that’s no comfort.