Sometimes I go back and read the stuff I’ve written and published, and I cringe. But other times I reread my work and have a satisfying sense of pride. That’s how I felt when I reread this piece I published in Mountain Gazette last year about that very steep learning curve of parenthood. In it I chronicle my evolution from a judgmental child-free woman to an in-the-weeds mom of two. It starts like this:
I remember the last time I knew everything there was to know about parenting. It was July 2009, and I was standing in a huddle of adults in a garage in Huntington, Vermont. At the bottom of the huddle, sitting on the cement floor with a piece of fat, purple sidewalk chalk in one hand and a plastic, spill-proof cup in the other was my niece Sylvia, three years old. She drew. She sipped. She did both at the same time altogether ignoring the constellation of grown-ups orbiting her like planets circling the sun.
“Sweetheart,” her mom, Kerry, said for the umpteenth time. “You have three choices. Would you like to go on a ride with uncle Jeff and me; go on a walk with grandma and Aunt Rachel; or go to the hardware store with daddy?”
Staying in the garage and coloring was not an option, and yet Sylvia had clearly chosen that activity by refusing to acknowledge that her mom, my husband’s sister, was speaking to her. Kerry repeated the options. She never raised her voice. She never told Sylvia she was being annoying. She never rushed her into a decision. She just repeated over and over that Sylvia was welcome to go for a car ride, a walk, or to run an errand. And Sylvia continued to ignore her.
Oh for the love of GOD, I thought. How about we don’t let the three-year-old think she’s the center of the universe? Somebody pick her up and TELL her what she will be doing next.
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