Rule #31: Life is full circle indeed.
My dad is somewhere chuckling as I write this post. “Teh-yuk-yuk-yuk” with a big belly laugh to follow.
Growing up, my brother, Jimmy, and I went to daycare before and after school. Our folks worked long, devoted hours at their respective hospitals. My mom is a nurse (now in administration) and Daddy-O was a critical care physician who also ran the ICU. They both had big, demanding jobs that they loved and poured their hearts into (my mama still does). The stress of their days can’t be understated. The politics of the healthcare system topped with patients who are critically ill is enough to send anyone into a bit of a stressed mood.
And now enter: Emotional, dramatic Lilly.
Here’s how this would usually go whenever Daddy would pick me up from daycare afterschool:
We get in the car. Daddy says, “What do you want for dinner, Lil?” I gave my answer, then we headed to the store. (We went every day usually because that’s just how he operated. Buy what you need for the night and worry about tomorrow when it comes.) On the five minute drive to the store, I’d ask him no less than twelve times, “Daddy, are you mad at me?” “Daddy, why is your face upset?” “Daddy, did I do something?”
Let me just answer that for you – NO. Daddy wasn’t mad. His face was just thinking about the day he’d had. No, I didn’t do anything. But here I am, little emotional Lilly thinking the worries on my Daddy’s face were mine.
Now, you may be seeing where I’m heading with this. By the time we got to the store, inevitably, Daddy WAS mad. His face WAS upset because he’d answered my questions as patiently as possible for five agonizing minutes as he did every day. I had finally pushed that button to the limit and beyond. And, like every human parent, he’d lose his cool. He’d say, “Lillian! I am fine! Stop asking me!”
And now enter: Major waterworks from emotional, dramatic Lilly. And thus the cycle began again.
Poor Big Daddy-O. I can’t imagine having to parent little me.
And NOW enter: My emotional, dramatic (but oh-so-sweet-and-lovable) Corey Douglas a mere 30 years later.
Again, my Dad is laughing “He-yuk, he-yuk, he-yuk!” because I am indeed now parenting little me.
Corey no less than 10 times a day and usually in moments of stress or chaos: “Mommy, are you happy?” “Mommy, I love you!” “Mommy, will you carry me?” (Homeboy is a solid 45 pounds of love).
My little man is now returning that emotional reassurance I dragged out of my tired dad so many years ago. I finally realized the full circle of this little exchange after driving the kids home from school a few weeks ago. “Mommy, are you happy?” came from a tiny voice in the back. He’d just taken no less than eight minutes and as many reminders to climb into his seat and get buckled. My patience was toast at that point (the repeated reminders and asking him to do things has been my biggest struggle with him lately – that’s like in the Webster definition under Parenting, right?). So, I’d lost my cool. “GET IN YOUR SEAT NOW!”
And now enter: The very upset, stick-out-the-lip big boy with waterworks to express his complete shattered little feelings. Here comes the Mama Guilt, too. And then the whole way home, “Mommy, are you happy?” “Mommy, I love you!”
And now, I find myself being more grateful than ever for both of my parents who always fed my emotional needs, even when it meant swallowing some of their own. I think that’s really what Webster should define Parenting as: the sacrificial love to another in all circumstances (even when you do lose your cool).
Big Daddy would be happy to know he’s vindicated. All those countless questions can now be answered for certain: No, Daddy is not mad. I only wish he were here so I could give him that belly laugh I’m sure he’d be happy to throw my direction.