When I was younger and these four were still wearing shoes that velcroed and sitting in car seats that buckled and watching purple dinosaurs and eating fruit that rolled up…
…one day I had a melt down.
I can’t remember why.
I think someone pushed someone and told them they were a dummy and someone spilled red kool-aid all over the floor and someone else tried to clean it up with my sweater and someone else stepped in and walked red kool-aid footprints all over the house.
And I yelled.
And I scolded.
And people cried.
And I felt like a failure.
And right in the middle of scolding myself and wringing out my sweater and mopping up kool-aid footprints with paper towels attached to an old broom handle, my father showed up. I burst into tears. “I’m a terrible mother,” I told him. “I yelled at them—and not just a little yell. A yell that sounded like it came from one of those sea creatures on Land of the Lost. I can’t DO THIS.”
He hugged me as I cried and cried and cried and got tears and runny nose all over his shirt. When I was done, I sniffed and wiped my tears away with the corner of his shirt and he looked at me in the eyes and said this to me, “You don’t have to be the best mother on the planet. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to get it all right the first time. You just have to show up. And try. And when you fall down?”
“You have to show up again.”
Our littlest twin, Whitney, is a dancer.
The kind that dances in the rain and points her toes when she’s watching the Bachelor and spins down the hall and leaps up the stairs and twirls like no one is watching. She tried out for drill team last year and made junior varsity.
All year she twirled and danced and wore a uniform that looked like this.
See that smile?
It’s because she’s thinking about dancing.
But this year is different.
This year is a little scarier.
This year is challenging.
Why? Because she’s trying out for varsity. The official team. The team that goes out onto the middle of the football field during half time and does high kicks and line routines and double turns and jumps up in the air in unison and lands in the splits.
And she’s nervous and trying to be brave and act like she has this.
Except sometimes she worries she doesn’t.
This week she stood in the middle of the kitchen showing us her dance.
She’d start it and forget it and look sheepishly at us and try it again.
She’d miss her turn or she’d step on the wrong foot or she’d realize we were watching her and get nervous.
After a few minutes of watching, my husband stood next to her in the kitchen.
“Show me,” he said. “Show me the dance. I want to learn.”
She giggled and laughed and rolled her eyes and told her dad she wasn’t sure if he’d make the team.
She showed him how to stand in second position.
And point his toes.
And spot his head.
And raise his arms.
And together they twirled.
Because my dad was right—that’s what being a parent is all about.
It’s not about being perfect.
It’s not about getting it right the first time.
It’s not about never making a mistake.
It’s about being an example. It’s about being there through the homework and the red kool-aid and the baseball games and the science fairs and the teenage drama and the tears and the laughter….
….and showing up for every single twirl.
PS A long time ago in a blog far away I wrote this post about two tiny golden-haired girls and dancing with Cinderella.
Looks like they are all still dancing.
PPS Today is my birthday and this was the best present ever. 🙂