Picking the Right Fruit

I have reached that part of parenting where the waters have become murky.  The low hanging fruit has been successfully plucked and what is left requires strategy to reach.  My girls can sleep through the night, use the potty, recite their address and phone number, and don’t bite (for the most part).  Considering they are now in middle school, these accomplishments may seem minor.  But trust me, at the time they were considered herculean tasks of extreme parenting.  Little did I know that even more daunting hurdles lay before us.  Now that I have successfully molded their external behaviors, I am left with the frightening task of working on their internal ones.

I have to teach them to be a good person.

Oh Lordy.  This fruit sits so high on the tree.  How do I even begin to reach it?  I thought I was doing well until Jada died.  Reflecting on her life got me thinking that maybe I’ve been aiming for the wrong fruit all along.

The joke in our house is that anything less than an “A” is a fail.  There is no such thing as optional  “extra credit”.  And if a McLaughlin commits to something, there is no quitting half way through when things get tough.  Work hard.  Strive for more than average.  Follow through.  What delicious fruit, right?  Good grade.  Good education.  Good job.  Isn’t that the dream all parents have for their children?  Be someone.  Get out of your small pond and take over the next size up.

And yet.  Is that really true?  Is greatness the answer?  Or is it maybe something much smaller and less flashy? Jada’s pond was tiny.  Our house, the mean streets of Sherwood, and whoever came to visit.  She didn’t really own much.  Two dog beds, a food bowl and a stream of chew toys that never lasted too long.  By conventional standards she was nothing.  Didn’t win a dog show, not certified by the AKC, never had a role on TV where she rescued someone from a well or rampaging cougar.  And yet, she made us whole. You want to lie on the sofa and binge watch Bosch?  Sounds great, I’m in.  Oh hello!  Feeling a bit peckish are we?  Well, let me accompany you to the kitchen and see what we can find.  Are you heading for the door?  Can I come?  Can I?  Can I?

Her accomplishments were much more subtle but, I would argue, just as amazing.  A companion, a happy presence, a partner in crime.  Would her life have been better if she had been “successful”?  If I had entered her in dog shows, driven her to events, groomed her to look perfect?  I doubt it.  Actually, I have no doubt.  I know.  Being a loving presence in our lives was the most powerful thing she could have done.  It was her shining accomplishment.  And if I can raise my girls to be as adventurous, companionable and joyful as she was, then I think I will have done well.  Lets aim for those fruits, shall we?