My boys were three months old and five years old. I had been a mother for a grand total of three months. Adopting a five-year-old made me the mother of a five-year-old without ever having been a mother to a one, two, three, or four-year-old. I didn’t realize at the time how much parents grow with their children. Everything my five-year-old did was new to me. I didn’t have time to develop a parental sense of humor or irony. Forget about knowing what was age appropriate behavior and what was naughty….there are just a whole lot of question marks when you’ve never been the mom before.
One afternoon we were lured in by the blinking siren song of “Now Serving Hot & Fresh” at the Krispy Creme doughnut store. We watched in wonder as the dough moved along it’s automated journey to become a warm and tasty treat. As we were sitting and enjoying our treats, the sweet cashier gave my boy a paper hat. He asked for another and brought it over to me. “Let’s be twinners!”
I didn’t wear the hat. I tried to convince him that his baby brother wanted to wear the hat. I was just too self conscious to wear a paper hat in public. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the hat was so much more than a hat. It was a child reaching out to his new mom. It was his attempt at building a stronger bond. It was a memory that I never made.
I took myself too seriously for too long. Parenting is, without a doubt, the most important thing I will ever do. However, it doesn’t have to be a somber, serious and dull endeavor. Who cares if people I don’t know think I’m ridiculous for wearing a paper hat? Who cares if people I DO know think I’m ridiculous? Frankly, I am ridiculous a fair percentage of the time and it’s a whole lot more fun. It took me a while to learn to laugh at myself and at the situations I often find myself parenting in.
Years later I was at another activity in public with my kids. This time I had four little ones and my two youngest had the chance to make paper hats. They made one for me. “Let’s be twinners!” This time I wore the hat. I was a little surprised to see that I was the only parent wearing a paper hat that day. But then, I had learned that it wasn’t just a hat.
Life offers very few opportunities to wear paper hats with your children. So wear the hat. Wear the macaroni necklace. The fruit loop bracelet. The paper brooch. The dandelions in your hair. It isn’t about the hat or the necklace. It’s about the child. And childhood is far to precious and fleeting to miss out an any opportunity to strengthen the bond between parent and child.
After all, it isn’t just a paper hat.