Someone asked me a thought-provoking question recently:
"Are you the kind of parent you thought you'd be?"
It's a great question, but up until that point, I never really thought much about the kind of parent I would be. Until I held my little girl in my arms for the first time, I thought much more about having a baby, not so much about being a mother.
I don't follow a script or a plan. I don't fall squarely into any subheader in the dozens of parenting books I've read. To be perfectly honest, I'm kind of winging it here.
That one question thrust me into weeks of soul-searching and digging deep in the archives of my own childhood, which is probably not such a bad thing when we're all doing our best to raise good humans. I finally found my answer to that question: I'm the kind of parent who chases rainbows. (Or, at least, I'm the parent who aspires to chase rainbows.)
It's just a little something I picked up from my own parents without even realizing it. When I was about 6 years old, on one of our Sunday drives, we saw it—THE perfect rainbow. It had bright colors and distinct lines, a clear beginning and a clear end, one that didn't fade into nothingness before it hit the ground. The illusive pot of gold was within reach!
Squealing in our station wagon, my sister and I barked directions at my parents.
"Step on the gas! Someone is going to get to it first!"
"Turn right here!"
"Drive through that field!"
While they stuck to paved roads, they didn't obey all the traffic laws. We talked about the first thing we'd each buy, debated whether or not we could keep the leprechaun as a pet, and wondered if we'd need to call in reinforcements to lift the pot into the back of the car (and what kind of cut those reinforcements should get).
My parents seemed every bit as excited as we were.
Years later I told that story to my college roommate. She got quiet, then looked at me like I was from Mars. "That's amazing," she said. "My parents would never have done that."
That broke my heart. It never occurred to me that was something a parent would not do. You change diapers, you mash up fruits and veggies, and if your child sees the end of a rainbow, you go there.
When I had my own kids, I could understand where my roommate's mother was coming from. Sometimes we're in a hurry. Sometimes we're exhausted. Sometimes we just don't feel like staring at the eggs in the grocery store until they hatch.
That's why I'm so grateful someone posed that question… "Are you the kind of parent you thought you'd be?"
Of course, I have those days where Daniel Tiger has to step in so I can shower. My older daughter has eaten popsicles for breakfast and dropped the S-word more than once. We're all going to have these "I am not my best self right now" moments of parenthood, and that's okay.
I just also want to celebrate the magic as we jump in the puddles and let them put lipstick on all by their 'big' selves. Let's soak up the magic of childhood when it's staring us right in the face, rather than adding it to our Amazon cart or searching for it in any number of enrichment activities. That's when we realize we are the kind of parent we thought we'd be… if we had even given it a second thought years ago.
So when that ordinary moment becomes extraordinary, I intend not to miss it. If the day comes that my girls see a rainbow—especially one as promising as the one that descended on New Caney, Texas, circa 1989—we will go where it leads us.
Oh, and we did get to the end of that rainbow. There wasn't a pot of gold, but there was a Bennigans, and when you're 6 years old, that's almost as good.