I never liked playing hide-and-go-seek.
Nothing about it appeals to me, even still. You hide – you try for a location clever enough that you won’t be out first, but not so clever you are lost forever in the abyss that is whoever’s enormous, horrible basement you’re hiding in. The children I regularly played hide-and-go-seek with always wanted to play in the dark and basements become approximately 37,000 times scarier with the lights off. That’s just science.
Then there is counting (and the cheating, usually). Within seconds, before you have even adjusted your eyes to the dark and stopped hyperventilating long enough to find somewhere to actually hide your person, you hear the dreaded words – the six words that still to this day send chills up my spine:
READY OR NOT, HERE I COME!
Off in the dark, panic ensues. Hearts beat faster, all of us thinking “we’re NOT! we’re NOT!!” – but knowing there was nothing we could do to stop it now. All that was left to do was try with all your might to stop yourself from terror-breathing too loudly and wait your turn to be scared. I mean found. As an adult, glory be, no one wants to play hide-and-go-seek anymore – but If I’m honest, I still fear those words.
Back in my twenties, I remember being fascinated that all of a sudden, without any adequate preparation – I was the adult in the room. Me. The girl who’s socks didn’t match. I was a grown up. I remember looking around anxiously thinking… ok… someone is going to teach me how to do this, right? A grown up task would be thrown my way, as if to say, “READY?!” and I’d think, I’m not! I’m not!! As the years continued to pass, I’d occasionally be filled with this panic once again, as though I was about to get caught in a big lie – I was posing as a grown up, when really I had not had the proper training.
When I became officially aware that I was going to be a full-fledged parent, upon becoming engaged to a man with a child, I felt the exact. same. way. In fact, I am still wondering: when is someone going to pull me aside and fill me in on all those little secrets that the moms always seemed to know? When am I going to stop feeling this nagging anxiety that I’m going to make a wrong choice, discipline for something I shouldn’t, not discipline for something I should, say something I wish I hadn’t? Every single day a sweet, angel-faced little girl approaches me with this very similar “READY OR NOT, HERE I COME!” attitude, and every day I feel a little panic that maybe I’m not ready. I’ve not been briefed for this mission! Where are the adults?!
I know there are books, blogs, and podcasts with answers to some of my questions and there’s little doubt that I’ll be researching them til the day I die, but I’m talking about that innate feeling I was under the impression all adults had. That inherent knowledge, which helps them to always know what to do in all situations. I believed that this would one day be bequeathed to me and I would then hold the same infallible powers my parents seemed to have – but I am still waiting.
I hear others speak with the same fear – of whether or not they are ready. To be adults, to be parents of any sort, to have children depending on them for life and meals and answers to how babies are made and whatnot. I’m fairly certain that I am not alone in my worries.
Here is the mistake I have been making and I’m going to let you in on the secret too. “Ready” is a big scary question – that part is true, but it also doesn’t mean what we think it means. “Ready” doesn’t mean fully, 100% prepared for all the things, infallibly, perfectly, and without any remaining questions. What it mean is that you are making the decision to wake up every morning and show up. Then after breakfast, mid-day, after work, and before bed – you show up. At bedtime, you show up. In the middle of the night, you show up. It means you are ready… to be wrong. To apologize. To walk out of the room after disciplining, realize you made a mistake, and walk right back in to rectify it. It means you will do your research, you will learn what you can to care for your kids the best way possible. It means you will call in professionals when you have to, ask your mom what she would do, ask your friends to pray for your patience to be increased. It doesn’t mean you’ll have all the answers – but you will sit with your child in their questions and help them to figure things out along the way.
The mistake would be to think that because I am the parent, I am always right. I must be prepared to be taught. I must be prepared to be wrong and make it right. Watching your kids accept your apology will always be worth more than making them think we’re always right, when we’re not. I’m not infallible, but I’ll do my best, and love my kid. And that is how your kids grow up believing you are powerful beyond their wildest dreams.