If I've trusted someone and said, "This part sucks! I'm feeling ill equipped," I have often been told "...it will get easier." It's super difficult these days to admit a parenting struggle without fear of being railroaded by judgment and/or advice because, let's face it, some people love the opportunity to tell us what to do. Unfortunately, there's not always a simple fix in parenting.
Like when you bring your baby home, do you place him on his side, belly, or back to sleep? These positions changed with each of my children, and each time I was assured "this way" was statistically proven to keep my newborn breathing.
Sneaking into the room if a nap was longer than usual, bracing myself, and then allowing the breath back into my own body only after I knew they were okay never got easier.
Then, enter Mobility. It was no longer safe to put the baby down and look away for longer than four seconds. We "baby-proofed" everything, and still my children managed to find the tiniest of overlooked pieces of you-name-it in the rug, under the couch, etc.
Just vacuumed? IRRELEVANT. They would find something, and shove it in their mouth, nose, or ear the very second I closed my eyes to sneeze or yawn. This did not making breathing any easier.
It's quite possible I held my breath until each of my kids turned two.
Now, if you’ve never heard the term “Terrible Twos,” you probably don’t have any friends… with kids, I mean. Everyone knows that toddlers are terrific assholes.
Most parents who have experienced "The Toddler Years," will agree they should come with a support group and on-call psychiatrist. If you want to start some serious shit, tell a toddler he can’t have something. I dare you. Shit gets ugly real fast. Coping with a tantruming cling-on who both hates your face and can't stand a second without you can be...anxiety provoking.
As my kids have grown and learned how to better communicate, screaming fits have lessened, but so has my level of sanity. How many times can one person ask “Why?” in 30 seconds? Unclear.
I do enjoy "The Preschool Years," however because we parents are still viewed as completely infallible human beings. They ask the zillion questions because it’s clear we're fucking brilliant! I appreciate these years so much more with my boys, because I now understand this beautiful ignorance is short lived.
School-age didn't get easier either.
The year my daughter started school, she was introduced to the battle between self-esteem and "what others think." While I certainly do my best to instill the idea that self-esteem is the result of taking esteem-able action, Society and the media sends quite a different message. I was reminded, very quickly, how cruel kids at school can be. There were plenty of days my little girl was tormented.
Finding delicate balance between the desire to head to your child's school with a warning and baseball bat, and the awareness that shit’ll get you arrested can be difficult. I tried to live by example and teach my daughter that her opinion of Self was the only one that mattered, but honestly? Some of those days I wanted to tell her those kids were just dicks. Having a child suffer through shit we can’t fix is not easy.
Then came fearsome adolescence, and the days of sitting on my brilliant pedestal were over. She was suddenly on to me.
The secret was out.
My daughter not only realized I didn't know everything, but also began to wonder if I in fact knew anything. This made her really angry, as if our entire relationship had been built on a lie - a lie she thought I had told her. Like when the people on "Intervention" find out that they're not actually on a "documentary" about addiction.
Teenagers are fucking scary. Their frontal lobes aren't fully developed enough to grasp what's happening to their bodies and hormones (Nature's cruel joke), and somehow… it can appear to be ALL OUR FAULT.
During "The Teen Years," my precious angel poked and prodded at every-single-solitary insecurity I’ve ever experienced or imagined. Maybe it's different for boys and their fathers, but the game in our house became “I don't know who I am, but it's DEFINITELY not you. Here's why!”
I didn't see it coming. It came out of left field. It seemed one day she adored me, and the next I was the dumbest person she'd ever met. It started slowly - like the upward jerks of a roller coaster right before the drop - and then... WEEEEEEE!!! I spent most of those years with that pit stomach feeling between the moment you're unsure if this might be the day the car comes off the track, and the end of the ride when you realize you've survived.
The days of feeling wrapped up in usefulness and appreciation just for being present were slapped away, and suddenly my mere presence in the same state became unbearably annoying. It was painful, and I tried to laugh some of it off, but when I reached out to scream WTF, I heard "Don't worry. It gets easier." It didn't.
While my daughter fought for independence and tested boundaries, I wondered if I had succeeded in teaching the lessons she would need to combat the world we live in. In the later years, when she would storm out after an argument, I would pray she would still hear my obnoxious voice guiding her away from trouble. I had to hope, because there wasn’t much more I could do. I tried all sorts of things, but in the end it was she who had to make those life choices based on the information I gave her. Those were the most terrifying years of my life.
I’m happy to report that she totally got her shit together, and is currently a college Freshman. That should surely be the easy part, right? Obviously.
Now along with the plethora of anxieties I already had, I also have to worry about binge drinking and frat boys. Will she continue to respect her body? Will others? I worry my beautiful, brilliant daughter might fall for the wrong person and have her heart and spirit broken. I’m not as sure I would be able to fight the urge to grab a baseball bat in that situation, and I worry about my limits.
I’ve always worried about my limits.
Am I – Will I – Could I – Should I – questions have been running through my mind since each were born, and I'm not sure that will ever change.
I don’t think parenting ever gets easier. I think it gets different. With each new phase comes another hurtle to jump or mountain to climb. Some parts might seem easier to some, depending on what our individual strengths are, but I don't think it's fair to sell the idea that at some point, "easy" is the achievable outcome. That just leaves many of us wondering why we can't get there, or what's wrong with us. Then we clam up about our struggles because maybe we think it's not "normal" to still be having a hard time.
So, when parents trust us enough to share their struggles - their fears of their own inadequacies, let's not say, “Don’t worry, it gets easier.” Let's be honest! Let's say, "I'll pray for you" or "Holy shit, I totally get that," or let's just listen!
But let's stop spreading rumors. Parenting does not get easier.
photo credit: Holtsman via photopin cc
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