This afternoon I made a phone call to my friend while the baby was sleeping and the toddler was busy dumping an entire bottle of baby shampoo into her toy bathtub. And while I’m never guaranteed any real quiet moment, I thought I’d give it a go anyway and try to catch her for a quick chat about her recent vacation. Between the two of us we have six kids, so our conversations are generally short, in passing and continually interrupted by “stop that,” “careful” and “here’s a sucker, now go play.”
“I just dread back to school time,” she said after I reminded her that Thursday was the day. She’s sending her third baby to kindergarten this year, leaving only one at home and reminding her that she’s quickly approaching a new phase in parenthood. And it’s leaving her heart and lip quivering.
“It’s a milestone that affects me more than their birthdays,” she confessed. “It just reminds me that they are another year older and I wonder if I did all I could this summer. Did I pay enough attention? Did we create good memories? Did I do enough?”
Did I do enough? Well, now isn’t that the question of questions (and clearly not one my two year old was asking herself as she drained the bottle of Johnson and Johnson’s into Rupunzel’s hair while I effectively ignored her.)
In our day-to-day as parents at any stage, the “enough” carries different weight, meanings and versions. “That’s enough chocolate on that ice cream,” I say to my toddler as she’s exploring what it means to “do it myself.”
“Enough is enough,” we say as exhaustion takes hold and we make the decision to finally let her cry it out.
“That’s enough!” we holler from our perch at the kitchen sink to our boys who have been wrestling in the living room long enough to finally break the lamp.
“There’s not enough time!” a phrase that plays over and over in my head as I shift between mommy, housekeeper, business owner and wife with hardly a quick moment to just be me.
But in the midst of all of the “enoughs” it’s my friend’s words that ring the loudest in my ears. And I might have had hope that it all gets resolved one day if I didn’t just hear my own father, a dad to three grown women, ask the same question out loud.
“Did I do enough?”
If it made me anxious to hear my friend ask the question, I think it made me down right panicky hearing the words come from my dad, proof that the wad of worry packed tight in my chest, the one that began to sprout the moment I saw those two pink lines, will only grow bigger and more compact as my hair grows gray and the toy car my daughters are sitting in today morphs into the real deal with rubber tires and a big engine primed to take them out of the driveway and into the big wide world without me.
And then all of the things I taught them, with intention or by accident along the way, the things we did that gave them the confidence to let go of our hands, to do it themselves, to expand on a talent, to say “yes” with certainty or “no” with conviction. All of the bedtime stories, the pony rides, the taking them along, the insistence on manners and laundry chores, the pizza night traditions, the late nights waiting for them with the lights on, the min-van lectures and the spontaneous living room dance parties will have to be what they will be, which is a summary of all of the ways that we love our children. And when it comes to that kind of love, well, it just has to be enough.