I had only changed a handful of diapers before my kids were born.

I didn’t have siblings, and almost everyone I babysat was potty-trained or very close to it by the time I arrived on the scene. 

I wasn’t deeply versed in bottles or naps or what to do when they cry. 

I could play soccer and make Toaster Strueddel and drive to the swimming pool and almost guarantee that every kid in my care would be present, accounted for and in one piece at the end of the day. 

But as an adult, I have very few parenting skills and, on paper, look woefully unqualified to be raising five children.

Or one child. Or, you know, a beta.

Keaton was our guinea pig, of course (thank God the phrase isn’t “Keaton was our houseplant,” because those, like all fish, are goners the minute they cross the threshold).  We had our moments. She never slept, screamed on car rides unless Madonna’s “Cherish” was playing (you tell me which is more painful), and just didn’t seem to like me much. I would say, “She’s so serious” and I’m sure everyone around me was thinking, “Uh, she’s fine with us, I think it’s you.”

That we didn’t immediately bond is, especially looking back, crystal clear.

One day, after a bath, I got her dressed, zipped her up face-out inside my coat in preparation for a walk, made a silly face in the mirror, and took a picture.

She smiled. 

She’d smiled before, obviously, but it was one of the first times I felt like she was smiling AT me–with me–and not as a reaction to a high-pitched plea on my part.

The photo still sits on our desk, a testament to the one and only parenting skill I’ve perfected (and continue to readily practice) over the last decade: 



I may yell too much and have too little patience and dole out too many ridiculous “quit crawling up onto the table during supper or I swear I’m taking away all of the chairs for good” pseudo-punishments. 

But making stupid faces to get my kids laugh? All over it…

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