She was all tucked in. It was a little later than usual but it seems that every night this summer has been. One long procession of late bedtimes, lazy mornings, rules and boundaries pushed to the sidelines as we embrace everything the season has to offer.
I was mindful of the time and rushing through the bedtime routine. It’s changed in ten years but still has all the same elements we started with in the early days: hugs, kisses, sweet wishes. Sometimes rushed, but always there nonetheless. Even on late nights like this.
Then she wouldn’t let me go. She put her hand on my arm, locked her eyes into mine and started to talk. The tears soon followed. Too much of this from her brother, not enough of that from me, moments of frustration and exhaustion and insecurity…all catching up with her on a late Sunday night.
I wasn’t spending enough time with her. When I did, all the attention was going to her brother. He was even monopolizing her time with her best friend. I had told her she wasn’t a nice big sister in a moment of frustration earlier that evening. It stuck to her. But she IS a great big sister, I reasoned silently with my own guilt. She knows she is. She tries hard to be. She wants to be.
And that’s when I told her the truth.
That we don’t actually know what we are doing. That she is the first ten-year-old we’ve ever had. That she is the first big sister we’ve ever parented. That she is the first everything. That we can’t possibly be perfect at this parenting thing because we’re just trying to figure it out along the way with every day, every bed time and every moment in between. Some of it works and some of it doesn't and we don't know until we try.
I told her the truth.
That we do our very best, each and every day. With every packed lunch, every rule we make, every hug and every kiss. That we try really hard to get it right. With him and with her. With them both together and apart. But that we are figuring it out as we go. With every late night and early morning and every imperfect moment.
I told her the truth. That we aren’t perfect parents. That we don't even know what that looks like. That we honestly don't know what we are doing half the time. But that we’re the best ones we can be.
Her eyes stared at me in wonder with a hint of disbelief and confusion. And then she smiled. She understood. She got it. She made sense of it all, in that messy, teary, late night moment.
And it was kind of perfect. For both of us.