I want to write a post about how hard it is to be a parent, but I don't want anyone to think this is a woe-is-me post or a we-parents-have-it-so-tough-so-pity-us post. Because it's not.
But goddammit, being a parent is fucking hard.
First, there's the baby. Right out of the gate, getting the baby conceived and then birthed has its challenges. There's infertility, sperm swimming the wrong way, IVF, miscarriage, early labor, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, motherhood after 40 (AMA), you name it...it's a crapshoot.
But it's also beautiful. A baby is the most wonderful gift in the world.
BUT. Then you have to feed the baby and keep it clean and healthy. Again, challenges. Breastfeeding. Formula feeding. Hormones. Post-partum. Food allergies. Skin allergies. Advice from fellow parents. Advice from your parents. Should you buy organic food. Store bought food. Make homemade food. Should you buy organic soap. Store bought soap. Make homemade soap. What if the kid has gas. GERD. Loose stools. No stools. Diaper explosions. Colic. Nap schedules. Sleep training. Crying it out. Remember the vaccines. Fix the diaper rash. The eczema. The teething gums. The cradle cap. The blocked tear ducts. Colds. Boogers. Wipe its ass. Wipe its nose.
What about your ass and your nose? Nope. No time for that. You've got a baby.
You also have laundry. You also haven't slept. You're arguing with your partner because you're sleep deprived zombies and when you try to hug or get horizontal your breasts leak and your stitches tear. You're overwhelmed. But hey! Your four weeks of maternity leave is up. Time to grab your breast pump and get back to work!
In a blink, your baby becomes a toddler. Now you really can't go anywhere because your life is surrounded by baby gates. Add in tantrums. Daycare. Babysitters. Grandparents. Potty training. The alphabet. Old McDonald. Separation anxiety. 1-2-3. Naps. No naps. Nap schedules. PBS. Hours at the playground. Running up the slide. Finger foods. Food allergies. Skin allergies. Sleep regression. Lost stuffed animals. Monsters under the bed. Pre-school. Meltdowns. Tears.
But it's also beautiful. A toddler is the most wonderful gift in the world.
There are tickles. First steps. Songs. Hugs. Kisses. Laughter. Homemade art projects. "Mama." Stories before bed. "Dada." Big Bird. The Muppets. Cuddling. Hearing your kid whisper "I love you" makes it all worth it. Most days. If you decided to throw another kid into the mix, let me say again, having a baby is the most wonderful gift in the world. But you just slid down the chute back to the beginning.
You are an animal.
In a blink, your toddler becomes a little kid. You can leave the house more easily. Great! But you know how you made your kid watch only PBS and you didn't use swear words in the house and you tried to instill proper values like respect and kindness into your kid? Well, some asshole on your kid's bus just shot ALL of that to shit. In one bus ride. Suddenly your kid knows words like fuck, dyke, dick, asshole, gay. Your kid knows about Sandy Hook. The true awfulness of it. Your kid is having nightmares now.
Your kid is five.
There are school milestones to meet. Food allergies. Skin allergies. Bullies. Field trips. Stifling playground rules. Safety. Safety first. Safety second. Helicopter parents. Conferences. Homework. Sports. Boy Scouts. After school clubs. Friends. Common Core bullshit. Sleepovers. Birthday parties. Your car becomes a taxi. You've amassed enough toys to fill a Toys "R" Us. You step on toys. Curse them. Accuse them of copulating.
Every day, it seems, your kid knows something new, something you wish the world would have kept to itself. Kim Kardashian's ass. Kim Kardashian's breasts. Curse words. Hatred. Violence. Lockdown drills. Fear of the dark. Of what's in the closet. You try in vain to shepherd your kid back to PBS, back to sweetness and innocence but you can't, the world is sucking him into the grit.
But it's also beautiful. A little kid is the most wonderful gift in the world.
There's a person in there! A person with opinions and humor and bravery and morals and now, before you go to sleep, you lie in the dark and think maybe, just maybe, you didn't fuck up this little person and that maybe he has a chance of being someone great. If you decided to throw another kid into the mix, let me say again, having a baby is the most wonderful gift in the world. But you just slid down the chute back to the beginning.
You are an amazing, crazy animal.
In a blink, your little kid becomes a big kid. There are more school milestones to meet. Food
allergies. Skin allergies. Bullies. Field trips. Stifling playground
rules. Safety. Conferences. More and more homework. Sports. Problems with friends. Questions about the opposite sex. Best friends. Questions about the meaning of life. Your car is a non-stop taxi. You are a marathon deed doer, racing from work to school to home to soccer to laundry to homework to the library to work again. You think you ate. You think you pooped. Your life becomes a series of "Just give me a second."
Your kid is 10.
Now you're REALLY enmeshed in the influence of other kids, other parents, THE WORLD. Your kid, thank God, can see the bad kids from the good. But he sees everything. He wants to know what 69ing is. Humping. Rape. Periods. Tampons. Boners. Herpes.
There's still Kim Kardashian's ass. Kim Kardashian's breasts. Some days you wish that's all there was because it's easier than talking about nuclear war, immigration, influenza, concert shootings, suicide bombers, endangered species, global warming, Trump, abortion, live streaming, murder, hazing, suicide, domestic violence, gang rape, school shootings.
You rant and rail against "the kid on the bus" — the one who has been filling your sweet child's head with all of the world's ugliness — but you know deep down that this is just part of being a parent. If it's not "that kid" it's social media. It's mainstream media. TV. New Year's Eve. Disney movies. Cell phones. Youtube. Tablets. Video games. Horrible, violent video games.
You can't keep it out — it's water gushing through holes in the wall. You have to have faith that you gave your child the tools to make good choices, pick good friends, choose a good career. Choose kindness. Choose love.
But it's also beautiful. A big kid is the most wonderful gift in the world.
You have real, actual conversations. You discover that some of the things your spouse doesn't like to do — like cook — is something your kid loves to do. You find yourself cutting vegetables and stir frying with your kid. There's laughter. Confiding. When he hurts you with his words he means it when he says I'm sorry. You're not stuck on 1-2-3 or A-B-C but rather, you're exchanging ideas.
Family vacations are actually fun. You can leave the house without bags of supplies. You can let your kid walk to the park with friends. Before you go to sleep, you lie in the dark and think maybe, just
maybe, you didn't fuck up this big person and that maybe he has a
chance of being someone great.
It's heart-wrenching. All of it. It's also fucking hard as hell.
And I didn't even mention trying to make your marriage work. Or keeping your boss happy. Or maintaining close friendships. Or having some outside interests like running or sleeping or sitting on the couch. And, perhaps the biggest caveat yet, Chuck and I haven't even gotten to the teenage years. At this rate, I'll be bald from stress and have had 10 heart attacks before my three kids arrive at that pit stop.
All I ask is that if you see me along the way, you'll do something nice, like buy me a beer or tell me I have a granola bar stuck to my shirt. Because this shit is hard. I promise I'll do the same.
Unless you're the asshole parent of that little jackass peckerhead on the bus.
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