This post is not about déjà vu. It’s about parenting.
I was such a mom last night. My oldest child is having trouble sleeping. He asked for advice yesterday and I told him some things I thought might help, some habits he could change. “I was wondering if I should do that, too!” he contributed. I told him it was common for kids hitting puberty to have trouble sleeping because the hormones which regulate sleep, like all the other hormones in his body, are going nuts and changing up the way they do things. He nodded and said, “I thought it might be something like that.”
Then my nine-year-old daughter beckoned to me from the bathroom -“Mom! Could you come here?” She was naked, ready for her bath, but she wanted me to stand by the door for the duration of her bath time. “Why, honey?” I asked, puzzled. My girl is an independent soul, and usually spends her shower time singing “Marry You” and dancing a little clumsily. After all, it’s difficult to really pull out the moves that song requires while on a slippery surface.
Anyway, when I asked for more info, a torrent of tears appeared. For all her dramatic gestures, my girl is not a crier, so I knew something must have really upset her. Apparently, at school that day she’d overheard some classmates relating the Bloody Mary legend (if you don’t know the story, please click on the link). Tara was petrified that Bloody Mary was going to come from behind the bathroom door and kill her (which is why she wanted me to stand by the door).
I held her and told her that the story wasn’t true, of course. I went on to recount an incident from a childhood slumber party wherein my friend Shelly had dragged me into the pitch-black bathroom, said the requisite words, and no Bloody Mary had appeared. My daughter was extremely relieved. She said later, “When I heard about it, I knew it couldn’t be true, but then I got so scared, and I started to wonder.”
In addition, my older brother is going through a difficult time. He texted me yesterday to let me know he really wished he could talk to our dad. Our dad passed away almost three years ago. In the months following his death, and periodically to this day, I simply wish I could talk to him. Even though I know exactly what he would say, and how he would say it, I want to talk to him.
My son, my daughter, my brother, and I – we all know the right answers. My son had figured out some techniques on his own, but wanted to hear from me what I thought. My daughter thought the story couldn’t be true, but she needed to double-check with me to make sure. My brother and I know the right thing to do. We know what to think and do and say that will lead us to happy, productive lives. But we only want to hear our dad tell us these things, even just one more time.
Parenting is about countless things. It’s about being embarrassed when your son calls mom’s male co-worker, “Dada”. It’s about reminding your daughter to wiggle that loose tooth so it’ll come out and the dentist won’t have to go in an get it, while your son is cheerfully volunteering, “I’ll pull it out for her!” It’s about braiding your daughter’s fine hair into french braids while her brothers make her laugh so hard that you can’t get a hold of her hair to complete the style.
But I think the most important part of parenting may be the assurance that you’ve been there before. I had trouble sleeping when I was a teen. I was told the Bloody Mary story at a slumber party. I was the little girl with the fine hair in the story above. When you’re a parent, and you tell your child, “You’re on the right track. I’ve seen this path before – heck, I went down it once or twice,” that might be all the child needs to hear.