Parenting is scary AF.

Confession: This parenting thing is going to eat me alive.

These last few weeks Norah has been telling me some of her friends in school have light up shoes and she thinks they’re “so cool”. Today, we were out with her grandma and Norah noticed some on the shelves at Target. Bright pink, her favorite color, swirls of purple, and best of all L I G H T S in the shape of hearts around the sole of the shoe.

I placed them on her feet and Mom told her to be careful because the shoes were tied together with a string. In little girl fashion, she threw caution to the wind, took off running and immediately tripped before declaring, “I LOVE THEM!”

We came home and packed the family for a birthday party. Norah wanted to wear her new shoes. Her outfit was a bit mismatched. I asked if she’d like to change tops and she said, “No! I’m comfortable.” I set aside my thoughts on her outfit and off we went.

This week Ted and I had counseling. We didn’t have much to chat about with our counselor, so I told him I’d love his input on schools for Norah. We’re still undecided the best fit for her. We have an excellent public school system but I’m in love with the Montessori style of learning. Our public schools are five minutes from our house and the latter, a 20-minute drive one way. But in discussion, I realized what scares me the most about our public schools. Norah growing up too fast and Norah fitting in. Ted and I had different realities in high school, at the same school, six years apart. He was popular. I was not. He was cool. I was just – not? Learning was easy for him. Learning took all of me. He was sometimes rude. I was bullied.

In elementary and high school, I had really crooked teeth. And people made judgments about me because of it. They talked about me. They made fun of me. To the point that in my senior year photo, the photographer photoshopped someone else’s smile into my own. He gave me the option and I remember thinking – I guess I don’t want to come to a 20-year reunion with my senior photo plastered on the wall with really crooked teeth. (Little did I know social media would let everyone see me, every single day in the future). I remember my Mom pleading with me to go to the dentist and I was terrified. Looking back as a Mom now, she just wanted me to fit in. But I had a very real fear of dentistry. I told her if people didn’t like me because of the way I looked, I didn’t want to be their friend anyway. A good way to sort out the shitty ones, I suppose. I didn’t care if people talked about me. But it doesn’t mean it didn’t still hurt.

As I parent very young girls, but mostly Norah, I’m already trying to decide which emotions are my own and which are truly hers. I want to protect her from it all, and I know I cannot. Motherhood can be downright scary.

We got some looks tonight about her shoes. I don’t think she noticed. But I did.

At one point she was playing with other little girls, and I went to check on her and she was hiding in the closet. I asked the other girls where Norah was and was assured by them, she was fine. She came to my side and said, “I want to be with you.” So, we joined the grownups in the living room.

After she fell asleep tonight, I laid my body next to hers and snuggled her close and cried. This parenting thing is going to eat me alive. She’s almost four and I can’t stand the thought of anyone judging her or seeing her for anything less than what she is. A miracle. The light of my life.

I don’t care what my girls look like. I don’t care how they dress. I don’t care what they accomplish, or don’t. All I care is that they’re seen and accepted for exactly who they are – the most beautiful, pure hearts I know.

And they will do that for other humans. That’s my job as their Mom to teach them.

How do we as parents protect them in this world?

Russia just invaded Ukraine. Russia is a bully.

Ella Walker, 13 and from our town, just killed herself because she was bullied.

I put up with bullies for years.

And it’s terrifying that my heart is walking around in two little bodies every single day, slowing expanding past Mama’s bubble wrapped home.

Parenthood defines vulnerability.

It’s going to eat me alive.

My smile. Because I’m an adult now and anything less than love has no home here.

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