The highest praise my daughter ever gave me changed how I view parenting for good.
What feels like a lifetime ago, Austin, Texas was the land of unflagging sun. During our first stint living here, I rarely checked the weather forecast as it was always the same: sunny, sunny, hot, hot. (To that end, I donated my rain boots when we left the Bay Area. I'm a moron that way.)
It seems I've either become Rain-Elsa (a thought which intrigues me), or the climate of the ATX has shifted the past few years. Regardless, I can count on one finger the number of recent nights I've not been woken by a thunder-terrified 9-year-old and her not-at-all-terrified-but-always-up-for-adventure Doodle sidekick.
During the storms (usually happening during my worst hours of midnight or 1am), I'm usually pretty good about rising to the occasion and making myself MamaProud. That's parenthood.
Even though I'm roused from a sound sleep, I'm understanding and patient. I can recall clearly enough my childhood fear of thunder to be able to mumble comforting words, and roll over to make room for my two companions.
I'm less benevolent, however, come morning.
I wake bent to a right angle from being squished, exhausted from crappy sleep, and highly aware how long my day ahead will feel as a result.
I'm less benevolent come morning, until I remind myself of the drawing my daughter once bestowed upon me after a particularly scary thunder and hail storm:
Her choice of words struck me that morning and have remained firmly in my mind since.
"You are my safe person."
After I read her note, I couldn't stop thinking about the definition of the word safe (protected from danger and harm) and what an honor it was she chose that word to describe me.
What high praise it was from a child that she viewed me as the person in her life who could provide shelter from the storm.
Her choice of words sparked in me a wonder about the very idea of a safe person, and when we, as grown-ups, lose that in our lives.
I wondered if many would say (way over-wondering this entire thing) we shed our feelings of having a safe person once we realize the world is chaotic, and control is an illusion.
Last weekend I was running errands when, again, it began to storm. I returned home and my child greeted me at the door in a panic.
"Where were you? I needed you!"
I explained I didn't hurry back since she was home with her Doodle and her Dad. She again employed the phrase I'd pondered since our last sleepless night:
"But you're my safe person."
I was flattered; I was overwhelmed; I wondered if it was my "duty" as mother to teach her to find safety in herself. Here's where I now look to you, in the truest sense of old school horizontal blogging, and am curious what you think.
In the end, is this what life is all about?
Is our job as parent/child-mentor to teach children to find shelter from life's (literal and metaphorical) storms within themselves?
Is it our task to facilitate them growing to become their own safe person? Is this the essence of roots and wings parenting?
Do we grown-up types still have safe people?
This article was originally published at carlabirnberg.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.