Summer Lessons

A few weeks ago I was tucking my daughter into bed when she said, almost in tears, “Mommy, this has been an awful summer!”

Bike Lesson
Bike Lesson

That afternoon, I’d made an error in judgment and let her ride her bike up the hill on our street. She’d only learned to ride a few days before. When she asked to ride up the hill, the fact that this meant she would be riding down, too, didn’t register with me until I saw her careening around the curve with a look of terror on her face. She was doing okay with the braking until she lost control of the bike and fell off pretty dramatically, scraping her forehead, nose, and lip (and the front of her helmet), and banging up her right wrist enough that I was planning a trip in for x-rays if the swelling didn’t go down by morning.

So, when she said she’d had an awful summer, I knew what she was talking about.

I must have channeled some much more together parent than myself, because I opened my mouth and this came out:

“Well, sure, your summer looks awful if you only look at the bad things. But none of the bad things would have happened if you’d not been doing really great things at the time.

You wouldn’t have gotten stung by yellow jackets if you hadn’t been catching fireflies.

You wouldn’t have gotten chiggers if you hadn’t been playing in that sandbox with your new friends.

You wouldn’t have gotten swimmer’s itch if you didn’t have that great day at the lake.

And you wouldn’t have fallen off your bike if you hadn’t learned to ride it this summer.

The bad goes along with the good. It’s not an awful summer or a great summer; it’s just a summer. How you feel about it comes from how you look at it.”

My daughter smiled and pulled me in for a hug. As I kissed her goodnight and turned off her light, it occurred to me that the message I’d given her was one I’d not known before I said it out loud.

I love moments like that, when I set out to teach my children something, and I learn something in the process. They make up for the moments when I think, “I’m an awful mother!” Really, I’m not an awful mother or a great mother; I’m just a mother.

A mother who sometimes totally nails this parenting thing.

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