I don't think I felt like a real parent until yesterday.
I was only 25 when I had Marlo which, looking back, isn't all that young in the grand scheme of things. But I was young enough that I often got asked if I was the nanny or, even better, the baby sitter. Fortunately, I was too medicated to be offended by the implication that I am either A) too young to be responsible for creating and taking care of a life or B) that my child looks absolutely nothing like me.
When I was a mama to only one, I was also in the throes of first-time parenthood which is a period of time resembling a psych experiment gone rouge more than a blissed-out bubble of maternal bliss. I was a mom, sure, but I remained under the assumption that parents-- REAL parents-- had it all figured out. By way of deductive reasoning, I could not possibly be a parent because the things I had figured out numbered near nada.
I entered second-time parenthood more optimistic. However, I soon realized that I still didn't have anything figured out. I knew what to expect with a newborn which I've determined is a large part of the battle those first few brutal sleepless months (or in my case, these last fifteen). The second time around, I quickly discovered that my most challenging obstacle was that I had absolutely no idea how to raise two kids.
Siblings was an entirely foreign concept to me as I grew up an only child. Mo was incredibly excited about Edie's impending arrival and she loved her already... all the way up until the minute she arrived. After only a matter of a few days, Marlo realized that a newborn was rather boring and being hushed, rushed, and told to wait (over and over and over again) wasn't worth all of the hype. We had lied to her. When Edie was six days old, Mo scratched her on her nose, drawing blood. It was then that I realized that this sibling thing was likely going to take some work.
From that first drop of blood moving forward, my only goal was to help Mo not hate Edie. I also reasoned that if Edie could survive her first year as Mo's little sister with very little blood shed, I would declare it a job well done for all of us.
Yesterday, a little over fifteen months later, I sat on our porch and watched two sisters delight in each other's company. I drank a glass of rosé, silently soaking in the fruits of my labor. They laughed, they bickered (well, Mo whined; Edie just grunted), they hugged, and they played. They behaved like sisters who love each other as much as they are utterly annoyed by the other's presence which is a delicate balance I consider a win.
They take their respective roles seriously: Mo looks after Edie probably more intently than I do. She anticipates a fall or a stumble and is usually the first one reaching for her chubby little hand. There is no one more proud of Edie than Mo. Edie, on the other hand, is becoming an expert at annoying the shit out of Marlo. No one can do it more efficiently and she devilishly delights in messing with her any chance she can get. She also finds no one funnier than Mo which, in Mo's eyes, often makes makes up for standing in front of the tv when she's watching Bubble Guppies on repeat.
As I watched my two girls be sisters, I felt like one of those real parents. I now know that the things I get wrong don't and won't matter as much as the things that I get right.
Maybe what makes you a real parent isn't having it all figured out; rather, just figuring out your kids and doing right by them as often as you can*. That's my theory, anyway, and I'm sticking to it.
*The fact that Marlo now looks like my twin and I no longer get mistaken for the nanny doesn't hurt matters either.