This parenting gig is hard. It’s amazingly beautiful. But it’s mind-numbingly hard at times, too. And I am still not sure how socially acceptable it is to admit that – in my own culture, much less universally.
In our Instagram world full of Facebook posts with pictures of Pinterest-inspired birthday themes and clever Twitter feeds, most of us always and only show the beautiful side. And that’s ok, because I know I don’t want to be blasted across cyberspace when I am not at my best. I am not a proponent of publicly shaming, ridiculing or narrating the worst of our children.
But is it ok to say the words… to share the thought that this is hard? More so than in half-chipper statements with a few friends over coffee while our kids gleefully play together in the background without incident. Right.
Whether you are a stay-at-home, work-from-home, work-outside-the-home, part-time or full-time parent, I have to believe there is a universal hard factor in this incredible role caring for the little people you love most. Unless you completely outsource the upbringing of your kids, I have to believe we have the same paradox of emotions. And if you say it’s rarely tough for you, I assume either you truly have a supernatural gift, your children are verifiable angels on loan, you are in denial, or you are lying.
The hard includes the non-stop. And the need for just a second of quiet or stillness and an inch of space. And the finding your style and figuring out boundaries. And the tantrums and meltdowns, whether of self, spouse or child. And the unknown, the self-doubt and worry. And in our case, we’re not even to real-life decisions yet; we are just starting, “Would you like to stop doing that now or would you like a time-out?”
Oh, but the beautiful… The beautiful includes the smiles and bubbles and the new discoveries of hands, then feet. And the sounds not pronounced right that turn into phrases that turn into sentences. And the hugs and kisses and spontaneous “I love yous” and funny faces and giggles. And the singing and the imagining and the questions. And this list goes on and on and on and almost makes you forget you felt you were losing your mind just seconds ago over the hard.
I recognize that I confess this reality of hardness under one of the best-case scenarios I could imagine for my family, for which I am profoundly grateful. I can only imagine the challenges for families dealing with a chronic illness or disability or death, or that are without a regular income, or that don’t have an equal partner in the parenting process – among many other would-be obstacles. Truly, my compassion and my respect for any such parent has skyrocketed.
To family and friends who had their children sometime in the past almost two decades before I had mine, my apologies for my ignorance and insensitivity. For not being there, not saying the right thing or not supporting when you needed it, I am sorry. For flaunting my latest trip or achievement or selfish plan that made you feel your life was boring, forgive me. Thank you for not cutting me off then, for still loving me, and for not telling me now, “Do you see?” You know who you are.
And to my parents who allowed themselves to be outnumbered with three of us and who embraced the beautiful and the hard and gave it all they had, thank you. I applaud you. Forgive my ignorance and insensitivity, too. A few more scales have fallen off my eyes and I can see the plank that was sitting behind them. I only hope your role is somehow becoming less hard and more beautiful.
This parenting thing is truly a roller coaster of emotions, an enigma of sentiments. It is already the hardest thing I have done and the most rewarding miracle of life that I never want to end.
Because beautiful and hard can co-exist and both be true. And my love remains infinite in spite of or maybe because of it.