It’s been 22 years. I’ve been a parent for 22 years. There are new-to-me parental experiences ahead – college graduation, empty-nesting, grandbabies – but I’ve traveled a lot of the parenting road three times.
Now a lot of those experiences are predictable and unsurprising. Any surprises these days seem relegated to unique-to-that-kid occurrences, like how they handle their specific activities and interests. But ordinary, everyday events? There shouldn’t be any surprises.
And yet, here I am. Time and time again I’m slapped upside the head with a surprise realization during an oft-repeated activity. It’s like pointing out the obvious to myself, over and over again. I never learn.
But I don’t want to.
Case in point: If you have three children, they will all be different. Of course it’s obvious. Think of any set of identical twins that you know: They look the same, were raised in the same house with the same parents, same milestone timeline and same cultural influences — but they’re very different people. It’s obvious that kids raised in the same family will all be different.
And yesterday the fact that all of my kids were different managed to surprise me.
I had dropped my youngest off at a high school, girls’ soccer game. It’s not a sport that he plays and he’s not in high school yet, but one of his friends had asked him to come watch her play and he made a promise.
“Who are you meeting?” I asked as I pulled into the school’s parking lot to drop him off.
I looked at the very small crowd in the bleachers and my own personal anxiety spoke. “Do you think you know anyone here?”
“No, probably not,” he said nonchalantly as he hopped out of the car. “I’ve never even been to a soccer game before. I’m not sure how it goes.”
My tummy got all butterfly-y but it wasn’t nervous, sympathy butterflies of walking into the unknown alone: It was love butterflies.
My goodness! All of the kids are so different!
It may have been this child’s first solo trip, but I’ve done that same sporting event drop-off several times with his older siblings, and all of them dealt with it very differently.
One of them would have gone if he knew, without a doubt and with a flurry of texts to confirm it, that there was someone he knew there. He would have confidently walked in alone, but with the knowledge of exactly where he was going and who he was sitting with. He would have known all the rules. This kid lives for sports.
The other kid never would have gone unless she had lost a bet or her friend had pleaded with her. She hates watching sports, she thinks it’s boring which, quite frankly, I can’t argue with. She would have had a friend in the car with us or she would have had a bag with a book in it on her shoulder (which is, in essence, having a friend in the car with us.)
The only time she was happily on a sports field was when she was marching in the band. She would have walked in alone like her brothers, but she wouldn’t have the same Yes! Sports Fields Are My Happy Place bounce to her step.
But this kid, this third child who was hopping out of the same minivan his siblings had at a very familiar place and doing an ordinary thing was bringing me surprise fuzzy love! Love for all three; for their similarities and for their differences. It was a special treat on a well-traveled parental path.
I never want to stop being surprised by the obvious, ever, and I never want to stop getting hit upside the heart with the butterfly flutters of love.
Susan Vollenweider is a Kansas City based writer and podcaster. To listen to the women’s history podcasts that she co-hosts or to read more of her work visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com.