What a Parent Does

They both need white collared shirts for their chorus performance this week. It sounds easy enough, but as it turns out there aren’t a lot of stores selling plain, white, button-up collared shirts for girls. They all have ruffles or rhinestones or characters on the front. And hardly any of them are white.


Today I don’t mind the hunt. It reminds me I’m their mom, and I do things like find them shirts for their chorus concert.

I give up on shopping in the girls section at Target and move over to the womens. I train my eyes to ignore every color but white and quickly find a rack in the middle with white, button-up shirts. With collars. There is only one extra-small so I grab it, knowing I’m only half done.

I end up at Once Upon a Child to find another white blouse for my other girl. I don’t come in here as often as I did when the kids were younger. I smile as I walk in, remembering how John always accidentally calls one of the shows we watch Once Upon a Child instead of it’s actual name, Once Upon a Time. 

I head to the back where the clothes are color coordinated. Score. This shouldn’t take long.

They only have three white blouses in the girls’ size, one with ruffles in the front (won’t work), one labeled size 10 but looks more like a 4 (way too small) and finally another that looks the right size but has a rounded collar. I decide it will work and head to check out.

As the cashier rings me up, she tells me all about how the store works and I let her because why not.

“You can bring in any gently used clothes she’s outgrown and we will buy them from you. We accept all seasons.”

I thank her, knowing she speaks lies and more lies because she makes it sound so simple but they are actually very picky about the clothes they will accept. Ask me how I know. Needless to say, I won’t be bringing in any clothes she has outgrown anymore.

And besides, I have two she’s. Not that the cashier should have known that, but I notice when she says it. In our house, it’s never just one daughter. It’s always two.

When I first found out we were having twins, I was aware of the potential resentment one of them might experience because of being a twin. (I like to make up problems before they happen because I am a rational person.)

As it turns out, I haven’t had to do anything back-bendy or overly special to make sure they each feel like individuals. They are individuals. They are also twins. If they need a little something extra – time, attention, conversation – we try to be aware of it.

I’m reminded of something John Blase wrote about the importance of simply being present with our kids:

“Presence. I realize it’s a counterintuitive idea for most parents these days but I like to suggest that simply being there is as important as what you do when you’re there. The cultural pressure to be this fully engaged father reminds me of that picture of Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders; that’s a little much, don’tcha think? Maybe one of the primary roles of the father in a child’s life is to be there, on-site, in the scene, to keep the fear at bay. Not to interfere, but to protect simply by presence.”

from his book, Know When to Hold ‘Em

Walking to the car with my second white blouse, the wind picks up as I open the door. I’ll head to the school to have lunch with them after this, where they’ll each pick a friend. We’ll sit in our little group of five at the family table, sharing the kit-kats I bought at Target and they will  ignore me completely while they giggle with their friends.

I will be so glad to sit with them. And they’ll be so glad I’ve come.


  1. says

    Thanks so much for this text! Like for the previous ones, I got goose bumps. Maybe it’s your writing style, maybe it’s the contents, maybe both. And maybe it’s me reading the texts. Just so… accurate each time!

  2. says

    Just being there takes so much pressure off. Perhaps they expect less of us than we expect of ourselves as parents. I’m kind of banking on that actually. : )

  3. says

    I went through the white shirt hunt with my 2 girls, and now my daughter is doing the same with one of her 2 girls. White shirts and choirs, (or bands), a constant as life goes on.

  4. baileywife says

    I am reading this to my husband when he gets home, this justifies every conversation I’ve had with him lately on what TRULY matters! Thanks Emily!! ~Kim

  5. says

    ” (I like to make up problems before they happen because I am a rational person.)”

    Hahaha… It’d be great to be able to get rid of that instinct, huh? I’ve never heard anyone else put it into words before :) Let me know if you come up with a dimmer switch for that one!

  6. says

    A great reminder and something I’ve thought about often. I said to my husband this morning as he was brushing his teeth, “I’ve reminded the kids twice this morning that we are going to a movie and dinner tonight and they seemed happy to spend time with us.” I know you might be saying, “duh, so what.” They’re teenagers. I think that is enough explanation for a Friday night. Love the way you write Emily, always inspiring, even in the random and mundane stuff of life.

  7. says

    “Maybe one of the primary roles of the father in a child’s life is to be there, on-site, in the scene, to keep the fear at bay. Not to interfere, but to protect simply by presence.”

    Oh, I love this. I’m figuring out what it means to be a mama of a twelve-year-old boy. His world is different now. I want to rest in this sentiment.

    • Sandy says

      This post was a lovely reminder. thank you.

      I’m mothering a 12 year old boy, too, and this was what I needed to hear. Starting to realize he often just needs to know I am there, and no longer for me to give him all the answers.

      thank you.

  8. says

    Thank you for the beautiful reminder, Emily. It’s so easy to forget what really matters when we live in the hurried up world, trying to take care of all the urgent (like Christmas shopping) and ignore the important (our kids).

    I’m slowing down and making my “important” a priority this weekend by being present with them :)

  9. says

    oh, the lies of once upon a child.. i’m with ya, sister!

    sweet sweet post.
    i’m glad i’m not the only one ignored at the lunch table. ; )
    it’s taken me time as a mom to realize my role of “being” is just as important as doing.

    i love my visits here.

  10. says

    “It reminds me I’m their mom…”

    This. I adore this. I try to remind myself of this very thing when I’m doing the mundane things like putting away laundry, giving baths, changing diapers and feeding the wee one in the middle of the night. These aren’t things I *have* to do. They’re things I *get* to do. <3

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