Children raise parents as much as parents raise children. That’s why our little ones know the precise moment when we are trying to make a good impression - then teach us not to take ourselves too seriously. For example, my daughter often instructs her four rowdy boys on proper guest manners before visitors arrive at their home.
“Every time the men from the church come over and the conversation turns serious, my boys disappear,” my daughter said. “Then they make a grand entrance marching down the stairs with their underwear over the head - their eyes peeking out the legs holes. If that isn’t enough, they stuff their pants with pillows. It’s so embarrassing.”
I laughed because I recalled the time that same daughter used the Sears display toilet (which was not hooked up to plumbing) right in the middle of the store in front of everybody.
“Libby climbs on everything!” my grown son laments. “We don’t know what to do with her. She never holds still.”
Of course I chuckled because I can remember this son climbing up on the stove, placing his diapered bottom on the burner then turning the temperature knob to high.
Parents remember their children before they remember themselves. We know each child in personal ways even they have forgotten. Yes, we were there when our children were born, learned to crawl, walk and say their first word. We were also there when they picked their nose through the entire Mother’s Day program, ate dog poop and stepped in a gallon of paint. We were there when they had croup, sliced their finger with the scissors and flooded the toilet with twenty-seven pounds of toilet paper.
Then as our children grow up we observe them gravitating toward their personal gifts by building with blocks, writing stories, digging in the back yard or collecting coins. Later we watch them become builders, authors, archaeologists and bankers. If we are paying close attention, we witness each child become their unique self day by day. What a grand privilege it is to observe little people we love morphing into big people we love right before our eyes. We’re never quite the same because of our parenting journey.
One day the girls in my daughter’s third grade class were discussing their comfort items from babyhood during recess. Alisa found out that some of her friends dragged blankets, sucked on their thumbs or couldn’t give up their pacifiers or stuffed animals.
“What did I use?” Alisa asked me when she got home later that day.
I thought about her babyhood and smiled.
“Me,” I answered. “You used me. Whenever you got tired, bored or scared, you found me, crawled up in my lap and went to sleep.”
I know playing the role of a soft blanket might not seem like a very important position in life, but of all the roles I’ve filled, being a comfort to a child was probably the most important of all.
Children in our midst keep us young and humble. They never stop learning or needing us and we never stop learning or needing them. Though most of my children have grown up and left home, nothing takes away my deep primal urge to wrap them in flannel, hold them close and rock them to sleep just one more time.