We had just settled into dinner, a steaming combination of apple sausage and dijon asaparagus. Generally, we prepare a separate plate for Bee – avocado, eggs and berries – and then offer her a taste of what we’re having. “You don’t have to like it,” we say. “But you have to try it.”
I flash back to my own childhood, my tiny feet creeping closer to the edge of the diving block. My coach had signed me up for the 50-meter freestyle, but the longest I’d swam straight was half that. “You don’t have to like it,” she says. “But you have to try it.”
She didn’t like the asparagus. I loved the 50-meter freestyle.
Today, a frenzied hour of parenting hit – the dog ran away and the goat milk spilled and the hand mirror shattered and the toddler threw a tantrum and we all kind of lost steam for a bit. And I heard my own words from dinner last night echoing in my head:
“You don’t have to like it.”
Parenting is a mixed bag of emotion, a delicate balance of pushing and pulling, then waiting and stalling. It’s a battle of wills and needs and wants and musts. And – in each and every moment – we don’t have to like it.
But we do have to try our best. We do have to strive for perspective and wisdom and grace with a whole heart and sharp mind. We do have to approach our children as children ourselves, trying what we know and liking what we can.
Because sometimes, we stumble on a moment we very much like the 50-meter freestyles and afternoon play dates and long, lingering summertime stroller rides. And we find that – in these moments – we don’t have to like it.
Because we know we love it.