You must be a chameleon. If you want to be a parent, you have to be a chameleon.
You have to blend in, change with the scenery, figure out how to survive by going with the flow.
Every time Jake leaves, a small section of my heart goes walking out the door with him. Damn, I miss that guy. And L.A. is too far away to jump in the car for a visit. And six hours on a plane does not allow for a casual lunch. Change your color.
The more I parent, the more I learn–when to speak, and when to button my lips. I’ve learned that nagging never works, and that a shopping trip can uncover revelations that might otherwise stay under the covers. I have learned that growing up these days is harder and more complicated, and that if you don’t photograph it, it didn’t happen. I’ve come to understand that the fight for independence can always be abandoned by a plea from the couch for breakfast, a ride, a trip to Bloomingdale’s. I now know how complex birth order is, how it can define and redefine who you are. And I know, have learned, understand that kids love their parents madly, even when they pretend they don’t.
Change your spots, step into the background, make believe you’re not listening. Don’t shriek when an experience surprises you, unless it has to do with firearms. Get your point across in casual ways, leave a note in the eggs if you have to, but don’t say it more than once, or believe me, IT WILL NOT REGISTER. It will be discarded like the chicken you forgot to cook that’s smelling up your whole refrigerator. I have learned the hard way.
Make sure to impart the importance of laughter. And do it together. It’s like Krazy Glue. Family sees the best and worst, and is allowed to tell you what they think, and kiss and hug you when they want. It is required to have one another’s back 24/7, 365 days a year. With family, you are allowed to cry, or get mad, or be wildly and insanely happy, pissy, or gloat-y. But sometimes you just have to be a chameleon.
I am still learning. I still have miles of road to learn. But if you want to understand love, be a chameleon. Be a parent.