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tell them Yesterday afternoon, I walked Toddler to her art class at the Children's Museum. On the way, a fire truck zoomed by with its sirens screaming. Toddler jumped up and down with excitement. "A fire truck!" she shouted. "A fire truck!"

And then another truck passed us, this one more slowly. Toddler waved at the firefighters hanging out the truck's windows. These nice and smiling men waved back. My big girl beamed. We kept walking. She was holding my hand. She looked up at me and said something.

"Mom, is it okay if I am a firefighter when I grow up? Because I already have the costume."

"Of course that's okay," I said. "And it's a very important job because firefighters help people. And firemen are very strong, too."

"I am strong! Look!" She said flexing her tiny arm, showing me her elbow.

"Yes, you are very strong."

While Toddler was in class, I had coffee with a good friend of mine whose daughter was also in the class. My friend and I talked about many things, but mainly, we talked about our kids. We each have two little girls. We talked about their personalities. About their differences. We debated aloud and together whether our kids are who they are because of nature or nurture, or both. We came to no ready conclusions, but it was good to have this chat. With a fellow mother, a fellow worrier, a fellow person.

When our time was up, we picked up our girls at class. We let them play a little in the hallway and then we all headed out. We said our goodbyes. Toddler and I walked home. Again, she gripped my hand without hesitation. Again, we talked. She told me about class. About school. About her friends. In the October afternoon sunshine, I was amazed by the lilt in her sentences, the emotion in her words. She had something to say, this little person.

And I had something to say, too. We approached a little Indian restaurant with a wooden bench outside. The bench was empty.

"Hop up on the bench, babe. I have something to tell you."

Toddler listened to me and climbed on up. "What, Mommy?"

I gripped her tiny shoulders and looked into her eyes. "I just wanted to tell you that I am very proud of you. For loving school and classes and playing so nicely with your friends. These things are very important and I want you to know that. I am very proud, okay?"

"Okay," she said, smiling. And then she hopped down. We both did.

And we kept walking. Holding hands. Silent for a stretch. We ducked into a small boutique so I could buy a few hair bows for the girls. Toddler played with a Thomas the Train umbrella and as I was paying for the bows I selected, she asked if she could have the umbrella. I looked down at her looking up at me, eyes big and bright, and I said, "Sure."

Her umpteenth umbrella.

I am not the perfect parent. I do not pretend to be. Perfect parents do not dole out candy corns at 7am to reward good sleep. Perfect parents do not let their kids watch oodles of television. Perfect parents do not buy their little creatures expensive character umbrellas just because.

But, as a parent, I'm doing okay. Maybe even better than okay. The proof? A little girl who suddenly doesn't seem so little. A little girl who is smart and sweet and good. A little girl who is at this very moment dressed as a fire chief and clutching a brand new blue umbrella. And an even tinier little girl who sits with her now.

And the truth? The truth is that I might have nothing to do with this. With this little person. With this goodness. But maybe I do? Maybe we do?

I don't know. What I do know is that I am proud. And I am so glad I stopped her on that bench even though we were in a hurry to get home. Too often, we think things and don't say them. We assume people know. But maybe they don't?

Say it.

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  • Are you good at expressing your pride and admiration to the people you love?
  • Do you think our kids are products of nature or nurture or both?
  • Wouldn't it be amazing if we could be whatever we wanted when we grow up as long as we have the costume?
  • Do you buy your kids and yourself unnecessary items from time to time? Do you think this is okay?

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